The hiking shirt is one of the first things hikers overlook in their outdoor wardrobes. A good hiking shirt can be tough to find, and it’s easy to throw on an old cotton t-shirt. However, a vast range of options for a hiking shirt will keep hikers cool, comfortable, and dry while on the trail.
We spend most of our year hiking and exploring the great outdoors and have tested a ton of hiking shirts. Some have been great, some are okay, and others have just been awful. Finding the perfect hiking shirt can be tough, but many options exist.
To help you find the fitting hiking shirt, we’ve packed this handy little guide with some of our favorite hiking shirts from the best outdoor brands.
The Best Hiking Shirts
Outdoor Research Shirt Echo Series
MSRP: $46+ | Material: Airvent Polyester
- UV Protection
- Quick Drying
- Handles Heat
- Not Super Flexible
Outdoor Research Echo Hiking Shirts are a staple in our wardrobe. They are among the best lightweight hiking shirts with a great fit and durable material. The stand-out feature of these shirts is the huge range of cuts. They have UPF sun protection, AirVent™ moisture management, and ActiveFresh™ odor control technology.
Echo shirts use a synthetic polyester blend that’s soft to the skin and feels like you’re not wearing anything. It makes for super comfortable t-shirts and long sleeves that remain cool in hot weather. It is due to the shirt’s ultralight weight and ability to wick sweat away for fast evaporation. Flat seam construction ensures no seam irritation risk when carrying a backpack for hours.
The Echo Hoody is a real stand-out as it is cool enough to wear in the heat but provides excellent UV protection in highly reflective environments like the water or the alpine. It provides superior sun protection for many outdoor adventures like kayaking, mountaineering, or hiking in high UV environments.
The downside is that the fabric lacks stretch, making it less comfortable for everyday wear. It’s also the source of failure for the shirt as it tends to rip if it catches on something. We prefer wool hiking shirts over synthetic shirts, like the Echo, for multi-day backcountry trips as they are better at odor control.
Shop For Outdoor Research Echo Series
Smartwool Classic Shirt
MSRP: $80 | Material: Wool/Nylon
- Quick Drying
- Handles Heat
The Smartwool Classic All-Season Shirt is a great all-rounder that works in many situations. We love wool shirts, which make up most of our favorite hiking shirts, even though synthetic shirts are slightly more versatile.
This shirt from Smartwool stands out for its comfort, fit, and durability. We list a couple of other wool shirts on this list, but the Smartwool feels the most durable. Since wool tends to fall apart faster, they utilize a fabric that wraps wool around a nylon core to weave the shirt.
The downside is it is a petrochemical. However, you still get all the performance of wool with the durability of synthetics. While most think wool is warm, it handles the heat well and often feels better than a cotton shirt. It also has exceptional odor control, UV protection, and thermoregulation.
Fit is a nice blend between casual and athletic, so it works with many body types. It also utilizes raglan sleeves to avoid shoulder seams for comfort when carrying a backpack. Smartwool offers a long sleeve version for hiking in cold temperatures. We’ve never regretted wearing this shirt while hiking!
Shop For Smartwool Classic Shirt
Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily
MSRP: $39 | Material: Polyester
- Ultra Comfy
- Classic Tee Look
- Minimal Seams
- Quick Drying
- Fair Trade Certified
Patagonia’s Capilene Cool Daily is a good choice for a classic t-shirt look with technical performance. We love the shirt as it blends perfectly into daily life. It’s a shirt that feels as well suited for the gym or a run around the neighborhood as the hiking trail.
A Fair Trade Certified sewn short-sleeved shirt, the Capilene Cool Daily is super soft and feels great to wear. Adding to that unbeatable comfort are technical features in the fabric that allow the shirt to dry quickly and wick moisture from the body.
The HeiQ Fresh odor control is fantastic (and a lifesaver if you’re on a multiday hike). We also cannot help but love that the shirt has 50-100% recycled materials. It’s a comfortable shirt that feels very cool and comfortable to wear.
Capilene Cool shirts are similar to the Outdoor Research Echo but are heavier weight and offer more stretch. We prefer the Echo for hiking, but the Capilene Cool Shirts are far better for daily wear. They make for tremendous running or gym shirts.
Shop For Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily
Icebreaker Tech Lite Crewe
MSRP: $80 | Material: Merino Wool
- Quick Drying
- Handles Heat
The Icebreaker Tech Lite Crewe is a perfect hiking shirt that works well with everyday life. It utilizes an ultralight merino wool fabric that is soft to the touch and free of petrochemical synthetics. It’s perfect for everything, and we find it has much greater use in our wardrobe than the hiking trail.
Merino wool does a beautiful job at odor control and requires less washing. This makes it an excellent travel or multi-day backcountry shirt. Wool fabric is tremendous for hiking shirts because it can thermoregulate, keeping hikers comfortable no matter the weather.
Another benefit of wool is its ability to offer a higher UPF rating than cotton, and the Icebreaker Tech Lite offers a UPF rating of 35. An essential feature for hiking is the offset shoulder seams which prevent backpack straps from rubbing on the seams.
The lightweight fabric is less durable than other options and requires more care. However, we’ve had no issues with the hiking shirts on the trail. We’ve remarked on the fit of these shirts before but find them to be a perfect trim cut. Our only real complaint is the $80 price point, granted it is merino wool.
Shop For Icebreaker Tech Lite Crew T-Shirt
Patagonia Long Sleeve Sun Stretch Shirt
MSRP – $119 | Material – Recycled Nylon/Polyester
- Color Choice
- Quick Dry Capabilities
- Nice Mid-Weight Fabric
- Sun Protection
- Excellent Features For Safari
We love the Patagonia Long Sleeve Sun Stretch Shirt as it’s practical and comfortable. A collared shirt is an excellent choice for a hiking shirt with maximum UV protection. The material is soft and breathable so that the shirt can be worn in warm weather. In addition, the fabric has enough stretch to not limit mobility, despite its button-down style.
A nice fit and colorway options make for a very presentable shirt. While it is a shirt made for warm weather, it is not the lightest long-sleeve shirt option, and the fabric feels almost midweight. It’s not a shirt we’d want to wear on a hot or humid day.
The Patagonia Long Sleeve Sun Stretch Shirt also boasts handy western-inspired drop-in pockets ideal for carrying essentials. When it gets windy, collar snaps help keep the collar in pace, while a hidden lens cleaner keeps sunglasses clear.
There is no doubt the shirt has some nice features. However, our only complaint is the high price tag and the button-down shirt style. We don’t wear collar shirts when hiking and use these shirts for safari wear.
Shop For Long Sleeve Sun Stretch Shirt
Ibex 24-Hour Short Sleeve
MSRP: $88 | Material: Wool
- Wool Performance
- Very Comfortable
- Super Lightweight
The Ibex 24-Hour Short Sleeve is one of our favorite hiking shirts. Ibex makes another exceptional wool hiking shirt with reliable performance. Similar to Icebreaker and Smartwool, Ibex specializes in wool outdoor wear.
They offer several wool versions, including 100% merino wool and another with a nylon core fabric for better durability. We prefer the 24-Hour Short Sleeve Shirt, which is only merino wool, as we’re not as worried about longevity and prefer no petrochemical materials.
Like all wool shirts, it has excellent performance and comfort as it is naturally antimicrobial, handles moisture well, and is excellent at thermoregulation. The wool fabric weave feels soft to the skin, most impressive, without any itch or scratchiness. Ibex utilizes a MECool steaming process to create a super soft and cool material.
It has some smart features that work well for hiking, such as a curved hem, tagless design, and raglan sleeves. The downside is the price of the shirt. It’s the most expensive wool shirt on this list, and we’re not convinced it’s a better value than its competitors.
Shop For Ibex Short Sleeve
Columbia PFG Tamiami II Long Sleeve Shirt
MSRP: $45+ | Material: Polyester
- Quick Dry Capabilities
- Classic Collar Protection
- Back Panel
- Not As Comfortable
The Columbia PFG Tamiami II Long Sleeve Shirt is an outdoor staple beloved by many outdoors people. The shirt has excellent moisture management thanks to the polyester material. The lightweight fabric features Omni-Shade technology that provides UPF 40 sun protection.
The material is heavier and feels a bit crinkly than most hiking t-shirts; however, it is far more durable than many of the shirts on this list. We find that the weight of the shirt does not make it hot due to a vented back panel and shoulder panels. However, the panels are not very functional with a backpack.
It features multiple chest pockets that can hold all your trail essentials like lip balm or sunglasses. It’s an excellent option for the trail but something you don’t need to change immediately after a hike since it looks decent. Its relaxed fit makes it a sweet workwear or safari shirt.
A real strength of Tamiami II is value. It’s one of the most feature-rich hiking shirts but costs less than many competitors’ t-shirts. Columbia makes excellent hiking gear affordable, so we love them as an outdoor brand. The affordable price does mean you’re sacrificing some performance and quality.
Shop For Columbia PFG Tamiami II Long Sleeve Shirt
REI Co-op Sahara T-Shirt
MSRP: $29 | Material: Polyester/Spandex
- Very Comfortable
- Classic T-Shirt
- Minimal Seams
- Quick Drying
- Color Options
- Odor Control
The REI Co-op Sahara T-Shirt is a super comfortable hiking shirt for an affordable price. It’s best compared to the other synthetic shirt featured on this list, the Outdoor Research Echo. We love this shirt, and most hikers will find it more comfortable than the slick and synthetic feeling Echo material.
The Sahara’s polyester and spandex blend material resembles a cotton t-shirt as it is midweight. It’s still comfortable in hot weather and far better than a cotton t-shirt. However, it has noticeably more weight than the Outdoor Research Echo. This makes for a nicer feeling shirt, but it does mean it’s not as versatile for water sports.
The shirt does a great job of wicking away sweat, and the antimicrobial treatment keeps the shirt from getting funky. It’s not quite as good at keeping the funk away as a wool shirt, but it does better than the ultralight Echo shirts.
Fit is great, and the shirts come in a long-sleeve and hooded option for better sun protection, rated at 30 UPF. Rolled shoulder seams ensure there is no irritation under backpack straps. Our only complaint is the amount of stretch in the shirt does create some durability concerns over time.
Shop For REI Co-op Sahara T-Shirts
Outdoor Research Astroman
MSRP – $119 | Material – Polyester/Spandex
- Ultralight Collared Shirt
- Quick Dry Capabilities
- Super Comfortable
- Feature Rich
- Snap Collar Protection
If you want an ultralight collared shirt that offers supreme comfort, the Outdoor Research Astroman Long Sleeve is a solid choice. It’s a collared shirt with long sleeves that dumps heat better than most.
The excellent temperature management is due to the shirt’s ultralight weight. Its material is similar to the Echo series but has more weight. It gives the shirt a bit more structure and better durability. The spandex in the shirt gives it superb flexibility and does not hinder reach or movement.
The shirt’s fabric blend allows it to provide UPF 50+ sun protection. So it’s a tremendous option for hiking in high UV environments like the desert. It also has nifty features such as two breast pockets, snap closure for the collar (sun protection), a hidden security pocket, and roll-up sleeve tabs.
The only complaint about the shirt is due to its weight. It can feel a little sloppy. When we compare it to the other collared shirts, it’s easily the lightest. However, it doesn’t look as nice as the Patagonia shirt and is double the price of the Columbia shirt.
Shop For Outdoor Research Astroman
FAQ About Hiking Shirts
What type of shirt is best for hiking?
The best shirt for hiking is one that wicks away moisture. It allows the hiker to stay dry, keeping them warm in cold and hot weather. We recommend a shirt that uses either synthetic or wool fabric. You can choose from any shirt style, from t-shirts or button-downs to hoodies. Long sleeve shirts provide sun protection in high UV environments.
What is the best hiking shirt for smell?
The best hiking shirts for smell are wool hiking shirts, followed by synthetic shirts. Cotton shirts are not an option for reducing odor, as they are not anti-microbial.
Should hiking shirts be loose?
The best fit for a hiking shirt is a trim cut. The shirt should not be too tight to hinder movement, but excess fabric catches on backpack straps and branches.
Can I wear gym clothes to hike?
You can wear your gym clothes on a hike! Our favorite hiking clothes also double as gym clothes. However, hiking-specific clothes do come with some advantages. They offer greater durability and have features that work well on the trail. For example, hiking shirts often feature raglan sleeves or flat seams to reduce backpack chafing.
Can I wear a hoodie for hiking?
Yes, you can wear a traditional cotton hoodie for hiking. For mild weather and short hikes, it’s appropriate. Investing in proper hiking apparel for safety is a good idea as you take more remote hikes and get further away from emergency services.
Do hikers wear deodorant?
It all depends on the hiker! However, on a multi-day hike, most hikers ditch the deodorant as it’s unnecessary weight in the backpack.
How can I look cute while hiking?
Of course! Hiking clothes come in many styles these days, so it’s possible. Athleisure has exploded, and technical clothing is far from the drab stuff it used to be.
Why are hiking shirts so expensive?
Hiking shirts are expensive because they take longer to manufacture and utilize more expensive materials. Many outdoor apparel brands also take costly sustainable steps to reduce environmental impact to operate as good stewards.
Why You Should Wear A Hiking Shirt
Consider a hiking shirt an essential piece of outdoor gear. It’s vital for your health and safety for several reasons. Most important is a shirt’s ability to wick moisture away from the body and keep you dry. Sweat is the body’s vital tool in the maintenance of temperature.
Water or sweat pulls heat away from the body’s surface, transferring that temperature to the air as it evaporates. It is a great way to stay cool on a hot day but can pose a real risk in cold temperatures.
Our bodies can not predict temperature shifts, so the thermometer drops at higher elevations or the setting of sun sweat can be a liability. Hiking shirts are vital in any environment with temperature swings and cool weather.
Hiking shirts often have antimicrobial properties which stop bacteria from causing odor. It’s also more hygienic when you’re on a multiday hike and must wear a sweaty shirt multiple days.
Types of Hiking Shirts
Hiking shirts generally fall into a couple of categories. The best distinction is by material. Most hiking shirts use synthetic materials such as polyester, nylon, or both in construction. Another option for a hiking shirt is organic, such as wool or cotton. We do not recommend cotton hiking shirts unless you’re hiking in the desert.
On top of the material, you can separate shirts by cut or style. You have short sleeves, long sleeves, button-downs, and hoodies. They all have their advantages. Most shirt lines have several options to choose from for a shirt.
What Kind of Hiking Shirt Do You Need?
We spend most of our days scrambling and hiking in the Canadian Rockies. It has near-freezing temperatures at high altitudes and lots of UV exposure in alpine conditions. With that in mind, we hike mostly in long sleeve synthetic shirts that provide UV protection and keep us cool and dry at elevation. It’s incredible how much your body cools off at elevation due to sweat.
|Cotton||Comfortable, Cheap, Variety of Shirts,||Heavy, Slow Drying, Bacteria Growth|
|Wool||Anti-Microbial, Quick Drying, Strength||Expensive, Heaviest|
|Polyester||Lightweight, Stretch, Anti-Microbial, Cheap||Synthetic, Durability|
|Nylon||Lightweight, Strength, Durability, Anti-Microbial||Heavier and More Expensive Than Polyester, Synthetic|
|Short Sleeve||Comfort, Breathability||Lacks UV Protection|
|Long Sleeve||Great Protection||Warmer Than Short Sleeve|
|Button Down||Style, Superior Protection||Goofy|
|Hoody||Excellent UV Protection, Comfort||Hood Can Be A Burden|
|Jungle||Long Sleeve Synthetic|
|Desert||Cotton Shirt or Synthetic Long Sleeve|
|Alpine||Synthetic Long Sleeve or Button Down|
How to Choose the Best Hiking Shirt
Consider a few things before you start shopping for that hiking shirt you’re after. Here is what you should pay attention to when selecting a hiking shirt.
Fabric plays a big part in how helpful a shirt is for you. While all-natural materials feel soft next to the skin, they can lack the engineered specifications of synthetics. Nylon in its various forms can be breathable and possess wicking capabilities, which means quick drying – something you want on a hike in a hot country. Then again, natural materials like merino wool might be better suited to colder climates.
Some synthetic fabrics allow for a nice amount of stretch. So you get the freedom of movement you need when hiking. Another neat feature is the sun protection of various hiking shirts for men- some go as far as UPF 50, while others are lower. Some even have odor-control fabric!
Then there are the blends; for the best of both worlds, some hiking shirts for men use a mix of natural fibers – they can wrap wool around a nylon core. With this sort of fabric, you get both functionality and comfort.
Style isn’t just about the colors and prints of a hiking shirt. Though that does come into play – depending, obviously, on how much you care about looking the part when you’re out on a hike or traveling – another sort of “style” is the one that dictates what type of shirt it is.
There are button-up shirts for a more classic look. These can be short or long-sleeved; some shirts have roll-up sleeve systems in place, so they can be effective both long and short-sleeved, depending on what you want (and the temperature, of course).
Hiking shirts with buttons are versatile because they can slip seamlessly from the trail to the town. After that, there are tees, which are a little more casual and athletic – versatile in a different way since you can use them for activities other than hiking, such as jogging, yoga, working out, or simply hanging out at home.
A tee (short or long-sleeved) is a good idea for a base layer in terms of hiking. Button-up shirts have not worked well for us underneath two or more layers and tend to be our go-to for hikes in hotter climates. When hiking somewhere cold, a tee is preferable for layering up.
You will want to consider whether or not you can safely wash a hiking shirt. Especially if you are heading off on a long-term trip and will be away for months, the ability to wash a hiking shirt – in any way – is something you’ll want.
Months-long trips like these are where you cannot be too fussy about something delicate that needs ultra-specific cleaning conditions to stop it from getting ruined in the laundry.
However, if you plan on short day hiking trips or just hiking from home, you can probably manage a hiking shirt that is a little more demanding, which needs only warm, gentle washes and such. If you are on a multiday hike, you will want something odor-resistant or quick-drying that you can wash quickly overnight.