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Wearing the proper clothing is essential to enjoying your hiking experience.

Especially in a place as humid and warm as the desert, you want to find clothes that will work well to keep you protected and cool.

The shirt should also fit well and have a nice look.

Finding the best shirt for desert hiking can feel like challenging sometimes though, so we have created a list of features and characteristics your shirt should have.

Your Shirt’s Purpose

When looking for the right shirt to wear for a hiking trip through the desert, you may think you can simply grab a random T-Shirt from your closet.

While this may work is cooler, more shaded terrain, desert hiking requires a little more thought into what you will wear.

Like any shirt worn for hiking, a desert hiking shirt needs to protect you.

This protection is focused on keeping you from being negatively affected by the difficult terrain of the desert, including harmful occurrences like bugs, vegetation, rough terrain, sand, and most importantly the sun.

One of the biggest issues with traveling in a desert region is the how the terrain will leave you extremely exposed to the sun’s harmful UV rays.

These rays can cause serious damage to your skin, leaving your skin red, blistered, and sunburnt.

Wearing the right clothing can help prevent this damage and help protect against other minor issues that might occur.

Taking this safety precaution can help keep you healthy and safe, while also guaranteeing a more enjoyable hike.

What to avoid

When looking for your best shirt, remember to avoid certain features.

One material to consider avoid is cotton due to its ability to absorb moisture and inability to dry quickly.

While many people argue that cotton is a good material to use in your hiking clothes as it is durable, padded, and comfortable, the fact is that the material will not release moisture the way other materials would.

Cotton shirts will easily become damp and uncomfortable to wear.

Another thing to watch out for would be stretched or low necklines, as these will not properly protect your skin as your shirt needs to.

Look for shirts with light colors rather than dark, as dark colors do not work well at keeping you cool.


When most people think of the desert, they think of hot, humid climates with little to no rain or water.

However, this is actually not entirely true.

While most hot deserts do see little precipitation, there are some deserts, known as cold deserts, that can experience snow due to lower temperatures.

The average desert can see temperatures around 100 to 25 degrees Fahrenheit depending on the season and time of day.

Mornings and late evenings are usually a cool, average temperature, making them great times of day to go hiking.

Mid-day and other times when the sun is fully visible are going to be the hottest times of day for your hike.

If you hike at later hours and reach nightfall, you will see a serious drop in temperature and very possibly become cold.

This extreme temperature change is caused by the lack of moisture in the atmosphere of the desert.

When the sun has set then, there is no way to trap the heat generated during the day.

This leads to temperatures dropping as the desert’s heat source is gone.

This makes it more challenging to plan a proper outfit for hiking.

One of the best ways to prepare for this changing temperature is to plan ahead.

Plan a time to hike and see what the temperature will be during that time.

If you are going to be out when temperature shifts are bound to happen, pack extra clothing to use for layers.

Types of shirts

There are several different styles of shirts but not many for outdoor hiking.

These types of shirts are usually made from the same material, with a loose comfortable fit.

One major difference you may see in your shirts is the sleeve length.

There are three main sleeves lengths for shirts: full length or long sleeves, mid-length or short sleeves, and tank tops.

Starting with the shortest sleeve length, tank tops are not the best recommendation for a desert hiking shirt.

This is due to the lack of coverage provided by the shirt’s design.

This design leaves your arms vulnerable and exposed with no protection from the sun or other terrain issues.

Instead consider a short or long sleeve shirt.

Short sleeve shirts can work well to keep you cool and allow you to move more easily without material covering your full arm.

However, this shirt, like the tank top design, can leave your arms bare and vulnerable.

Long sleeves provide a good layer of coverage for your arms and with the proper material can still provide you with a cool experience.


One important piece of advice to remember when planning your hiking trip is to pack layers.

This is one of the easiest ways to guarantee you will have the proper clothing during your hike, no matter the weather.

When planning out the shirts to bring, remember you do not want a heavy shirt as your base layer.

While it is easy to add layers and shirts, you can not easily remove layers.

So, leaving your base shirt as the lightest layer is key.

Layering is also a great way to balance between short and long sleeve shirts.

Wearing a short sleeve shirt during your hikes coolest and limited sun exposed moments and then switching to a longer shirt can help keep you cooler and more readily prepared for the desert conditions.


When looking at the fit of your shirt, remember you will want a light, breathable, and loose fit.

This is important not only for when you need to add layers comfortably, but also it will allow your body to better adjust and react to the humid conditions.

Loose fitting shirt allow more movement and flexibility.

They also allow a more breathable experience which helps keep you cool.


The major of your shirts best features and abilities will be reliant on the material your shirt is composed of.

The material should work to help make your shirt durable, flexible, water resistant, and provide protection from the sun.

Two of the best materials used to create this effect are polyester and nylon.

These two materials work well to dry quickly, resist abrasions, are easy to wash, and are durable.

Adding other fabric fibers like spandex or elastic can help as well, as they add a more flexible and breathable fit to your shirt.

Sun Protection and Moisture-Wicking

Two other important features your shirt’s polyester or nylon material should do is provide ample UV ray protection and wick moisture.

Like using sunscreen or sunblock, your shirt’s UV ray protection is used to prevent both your shirt and your skin from being damaged and broken down by the harsh sunlight.

The materials work by absorbing the harmful rays before they can affect your skin.

Your shirt will be labeled with an Ultraviolet Protective Factor, or UPF, to show that it is designed to absorb the UV rays.

The UPF will also be partnered with a number that represents how many of the rays are being absorbed by your materials.

The highest number is UPF 50+ which absorbs 98% of the UV rays.

Your shirt’s ability to wick moisture is equally important as this will keep moisture from building up and dampening your shirt.

When your shirt becomes wet, it can be uncomfortable and ruin a good hike.

With moisture wicking features, your shirt’s material will be able to resist absorbing the water.

Instead, it will transfer the sweat on to the outside of your shirt where the air and heat can easily evaporate it.


Watching what kind of seams your shirt has can help improve the shirt’s comfort and durability.

As far as comfort goes, looking for shirts with flatlock or no seams can help reduce chafing or other discomforts.

A wide variety of shirts are also being made with no tags as well to help reduce the irritation caused by tags.

Your shirts seams can also feature strong or layered seaming on areas of the shirt that can be labeled as stress points, such as the shirt’s armpit seams or the seams along the arm.

Best Shirt for Desert Hiking

While all of these features and points may feel like there is a narrow list of shirt options to choose from, there are still several different shirts you can purchase.

To help with your search, we have listed three products that meet our desert hiking shirt requirements.

Vapor Apparel Men’s UPF 50+ UV Sun Protection Performance Long Sleeve T-Shirt

This shirt apparel is by Vapor. As a men’s long sleeve T-Shirt, there are several size options.

The shirts also come in a wide variety of colors, though there are some darker color options that may prove problematic when in warmer weather.

As a long sleeve shirt, there is full coverage for your arms. This will help ensure that your arms stay safe and protected during your hike.

The shirt has a loose fit as well so the sleeve length will not be uncomfortable or too warm.

This shirt is made from synthetic microfibers, which is made from a type of polyester material.

This material is not only lightweight and breathable, but it is designed to work well in desert conditions.

This is due to the shirt’s ability to wick moisture and prevent your shirt from becoming wet or damp.

The synthetic microfiber material is also quick drying and has an anti-odor features.

The shirt has a UV ray protection set at the highest level, UPF 50+.

This not only makes the shirt more durable to the sun’s damaging effects, but it also means the shirt will absorb nearly all of the UV rays before they can affect your skin.

View at Amazon for more information on how this shirt might work for you.

Columbia Solar Chill 2.0 Short Sleeve Hiking-Shirts

This shirt is by Columbia and is made to be a short sleeve shirt in men’s sizing.

This short sleeve comes in a wide variety of color options, all light colors, that will work well to keep you cool, unlike darker colors will absorb heat.

As a short sleeve shirt, you will be cool and comfortable in the shirt’s design.

However, remember that a portion of your arms will be open to UV rays due to the shorter sleeve length.

The shirt also has a loose fit so you can layer up during colder times of your hike and even add a shirt layer with longer sleeves.

The short sleeve shirt is made from polyester material. This means the shirt is durable and flexible with your movements.

The material is also made in a way to give the shirt an extremely stretchable feel so you have a full range of motion.

The shirt’s polyester material means it is able to wick moisture from the shirts material and transfer the moisture out so it can be evaporated.

This shirt as an interesting solar chill design built into its structure. This design is represented by small dots built within the shirt’s fabric.

These small dots are used to deflect sun rays to keep you cooler in the desert climate.

The short sleeve shirt also has a UV ray protection of UPF 50 so it absorbs nearly all the UV rays that you will be exposed to during your hike.

View at Amazon for more information on how this product might work for you.

BALEAF Women’s UPF 50+ Sun Protection T-Shirt SPF Long/Short Sleeve Outdoor Performance Hiking Shirt

This T-Shirt is by Baleaf and it comes in women’s sizes.

As a long sleeve shirt, there is full coverage for your arms, leaving them fully protected from the sunburn or other ailments.

The shirt comes in a variety of lighter colors options for you to choose from that will allow you to be cooler during your hike.

The polyester material featured in this shirt is not only lightweight, breathable, and flexible, but also incredibly soft.

While this soft material is gives you a greater, more comfortable fit, it can make the shirt less durable and more prone to damage or abrasion.

The long sleeve shirt’s polyester material is a moisture wicking material that helps keep you cool and dry during a long hike.

This is important for any hike as moisture can become uncomfortable or irritating. The material is also quick drying, despite its soft nature.

The shirt is a known UPF 50+ level, blocking nearly all of the UV rays that you will encounter during your hike.

This works well to protect your fabric and your health.

With a flatlock seam and no tag construction, this shirt is better able to prevent chafing that might be caused by a tag or rougher seams.

This design also adds comfort to your shirt.

View at Amazon for more information on how this shirt might work for you.

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