In my opinion, the best hiking shirts are those that feel so comfortable you don’t notice them at all, just like the rest of your clothes for hiking. They should be made from fabric that minimises friction, feels wonderfully soft on the skin and doesn’t limit movement in any way. Hiking for hours in varying conditions also means that odour control, moisture management and temperature regulation are all key features of the best hiking shirt material. Not to mention the compatibility of the fabric and cut with the weight of a loaded backpack on your shoulders. Not much to ask from such a simple item of outdoor clothing, right?!
- The best hiking shirts for women
- The best hiking shirts for men
- Types of hiking shirts
- What to look for when choosing the best shirts for hiking
- Design features of the best shirts for hiking
Yes, we didn’t think choosing the best shirt for hiking would be so involved either. So, we’ve tried out a bunch of shirts to see which we love and which perform so well that we don’t notice them at all!
|Mammut Trovat Pro T-shirt||Women's||Polartec PowerWool and Polyester||$$|
|Inov8 AT/C Short Sleeve Base Layer||Women's||Polyester||$|
|Mountain Hardwear Mighty Stripe Tank Top||Women's||Polyester||$|
|EMS Techwick Traverse UPF Long-Sleeve Shirt||Women's||Polyester ripstop||$$|
|Showers Pass Hi Line Merino Tech T-shirt||Men's||Merino and polyester||$$$|
|Mountain Hardwear Metonic Short Sleeve Shirt||Men's||Polyester, tencel lycocell and elastane||$|
|Trew Weightless Nuyarn Merino T||Men's||Merino and nylon||$$|
|Columbia Zero Rules Short Sleeve T-Shirt||Men's||Polyester||$|
|Mission Workshop The Sector Merino Crew||Men's||Merino and nylon||$$$|
The best hiking shirts for women
The Mammut Trovat Pro T-shirt is one of the most technical hiking shirts on our list of the best hiking shirts. It excels at dealing with excess moisture due its unique combination of Polartec PowerWool and Polyester. The internal Polartec feels wonderfully soft and comfortable against the skin, wicking away moisture build up and regulating body temperature all at once! And because the outside of the shirt is made from synthetic fibres, it helps to move the moisture away from the shirt, preventing it from holding water.
The athletic cut is fitted but not tight and the design features seamless shoulders and armpits, and extra length at the back. These, together with flatlock seams throughout, makes it super comfortable when carrying a backpack.
This is an ideal option for hiking in cooler weather, and because of the next-to-skin wool, it takes a few wears for it to become stinky!
- Seamless shoulders and armpits
- Excellent moisture management
- Good odour control
- Too warm for hot conditions
Made from 100% Polyester, the Inov8 AT/C Short Sleeve Base Layer is one mega lightweight hiking shirt. At just 52g / 1.8oz this is by far the most lightweight option on our list making it an excellent choice for those wanting to save as much weight as possible when hiking. Long distance backpackers and hikers will also be interested in its excellent odour control — unusual for a synthetic hiking shirt. The fabric is treated with Polygiene whose anti microbial properties resists the build up of bacteria and therefore remains stick-free for days of wear.
This women’s hiking shirt features seamless shoulders, has armpit panels, and has seamless cuffs and hem for zero chafe potential. It is a superbly lightweight option for runners and hikers carrying backpacks or running packs. And a shirt that we barely notice when wearing it. Big thumbs up.
- Seamless shoulders and armpits
- Super lightweight
- Excellent odour control
- Still looking!
If you’re after a super airy top that is stylish enough for everyday wear as well as hiking, the Mountain Hardwear Mighty Stripe Tank Top is for you. The Dynama Stretch Slub fabric combines Polyester and Elastane to create an exceptionally soft and comfortable finish with plenty of stretch. Plus, the antimicrobial finish helps to keep the stink away and the WickQ does an excellent job at wicking away moisture. That said, the loose and airy fit means that airflow really helps to minimise sweat build up and there is very little skin to shirt contact around the armpits making it one of the best hiking shirts for hot weather. The racer back straps are wide enough to cover up a sports bra and the long back is flattering when wearing tights or leggings. The main downfall is that the excess fabric at the back can bunch underneath a backpack. This needs adjusting to ensure that no rubbing occurs.
- Excellent moisture wicking
- Lightweight and airy fit
- A little too baggy for comfortable wear with a backpack
The EMS Techwick Traverse UPF Long-Sleeve Shirt is a full-featured hiking shirt that is especially suitable for those who prefer to cover up on the trail. The UPF 50+ polyester ripstop fabric is super durable, lightweight and provides full protection from harmful UV rays. The fabric also features Techwick technology that deals with excess moisture with expert ease, whilst the antimicrobial properties help prevent bacteria growth.
Despite its full coverage, the shirt is designed to keep air flowing with its vented back and roll up sleeves. There is also a small zippered pocket on the side for valuable items, plus chest pockets. Highly technical, stylish and practical, the Traverse is up there with the best lightweight long sleeve hiking shirts for women.
- Excellent UV protection
- Good moisture wicking
- Can be a little restrictive due to lack of stretch in fabric
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The best hiking shirts for men
This super stylish merino short sleeve from Showers Pass seamlessly covers all your lifestyle needs. It’s as at home on the trail as it is at the office, making transitioning between the two a doddle! Although it is designed as the perfect cycle commuter shirt, we also love how well it deals with hiking adventures. The 18.5-micron merino / polyester blend creates an exceptionally soft finish that is lightweight, moisture wicking and naturally odour resistant. Plus, the even balance of wool and synthetic fabric on the sleeves and back means that the fabric doesn’t hold as much moisture as higher percentage merino fabrics — a well thought-through touch that manages sweat in all the right places.
The extra length at the back makes carrying a backpack more comfortable, and the popper buttons at the neck make for quick and easy ventilation when the going gets tough on the trail. A superb option for summer hiking, biking and living!
- Doesn’t hold water
- Good moisture wicking
- Not as technical as other options
At only 4 oz / 113 g, this mega lightweight hiking shirt provides exceptional comfort with zero restriction during dynamic movement. This is partly down to the extra panel insert at the armpits, which also help minimise chaffing in that area. But the super stretchy, temperature regulating Polartec Delta fabric is what makes this shirt really stand out. Combining polyester, tencel lycocell and elastane, the beehive structure of the fabric increased air flow, wicks away moisture, reduces friction and dissipates heat. It really is excellent at keeping you cool on the trail, especially when wearing a backpack, and is quite possibly the best hiking shirt material for hot conditions.
The shirt features flatlock seams throughout, and has a surprisingly useful chest pocket that holds a key or card securely. It also has a soft tape covering the internal seam at the neck for minimal friction against the skin.
- Keeps you very cool
- Superb moisture management
- Stretchy and unrestrictive
- Gets stinky after each wear
Long distance hikers and adventurers, your ideal shirt has arrived! This bad boy will go for miles and miles without smelling. We’ve worn it all day, everyday for a whole week of movement (including some high energy fun!), before it needed washing. Less washing means less deterioration of the fabric over time, not to mention the positive environmental implications. It also looks gorgeous, feels sumptuous and does all the things you’d expect from high percentage merino fabric. The 125 Superfine NuYarn Merino is combined with 15% nylon and performs significantly better than traditionally spun merino: loftier, stretchier, faster drying, warmer and stronger.
The Weightless Nuyarn T is slim fitting with extra length at the back hem. It also has flatlock seams and side seams that cut towards to the back for greater comfort, fit and movement.
An big thumbs up from us, and one of the best hiking shirts on our list that feels so good we hardly notice we’re wearing it!
- Exceptional odour control
- Stretchy and slim fitting
- Quick drying, for merino
- Seams at the shoulders
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Those that struggle with chafing or have sensitive skin will love the super silky finish of the Columbia Zero Rules Short Sleeve T-Shirt. Made from 100% polyester, the soft fabric isn’t just created for comfort. The Omni-Freeze ZERO technology of this new line of Columbia hiking shirts feature tiny blue rings on the inside of the shirt that concentrate a cooling agent close to your skin. It makes the most of your sweat to help keep your temperature low in hot conditions. Very cool indeed! The fabric also provides UPF 30 sun protection making this sporty-looking shirt ideal for hiking in hot conditions.
The cut of the shirt is fairly standard with an articulated panel on the sleeves for a greater range of movement. It also features flatlock seams throughout.
- Very good at keeping you cool
- Super soft finish
- Good UV protection
- Gets stinky after a couple of wears
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The Mission Workshop The Sector Merino Crew is another superb option for those after the best hiking shirt for odour control. Like the Trew Weightless T, the high percentage merino truly works its magic for multiple wears without getting stinky. The 18.9 micron 190g/sm merino is blended with 11% nylon core, making the Sector a little heavier and thicker than the Trew. However, it also provides a little extra warmth and cosiness when hiking and adventuring in cooler conditions.
Aside from the naturally moisture wicking, temperature regulating and odour controlling properties, the Sector is the least technical shirt on our list. It has a basic cut and lacks flatlock seams. However, like the Showers Pass shirt, we love that it feels and looks great during everyday wear, as well as on the trail.
- Exceptional odour control
- Good for everyday wear
- Holds moisture
- Not as technical as other shirts
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Types of hiking shirts
Everyone has their own preferences when it comes to the style, shape and fit of their clothing. In this article we cover three types of shirts for hiking.
Short sleeve t-shirts
These are ideal for summer hiking in areas where bugs aren’t a problem and are the best hiking shirts for hot weather. They are super comfortable and can be worn directly next to the skin or with a fitted base layer underneath.
Long sleeve shirts
If you need a little extra protection from the sun and/or nibbling bugs, long sleeve shirts are an excellent option. Some prefer a simple long sleeve t-shirt, whilst others enjoy the versatility of a button-up, collared shirt. These can be unbuttoned for greater airflow or done right up with a popped collar to really cover up.
For very hot conditions wearing a vest or tank top is the best way to feel cool on the trail. These are good options for those who don’t ming applying suncream constantly, and they allow good airflow and coolness. They also don’t get as sweating (and stinky!) as shirts with sleeves do. However, they offer little protection from the sun and from the pressure of backpacks on your shoulders.
What to look for when choosing the best shirts for hiking
Properties of the best hiking shirts
To provide optimal comfort on the trail, the best shirts for hiking should have the following properties:
- Quick drying
- Moisture wicking
- Odour resistant
- UV protective
In the ideal world, the best hiking shirt material should offer all of the above properties. Unfortunately this isn’t always case, although some shirt fabrics do a pretty great job at trying!
Good at: Moisture wicking, odour control, temperature regulation, providing warmth when wet, breathability, UV protection
Bad at: Drying quickly, rinsing your bank account!
Good at: Drying quickly, moisture wicking, not holding water, UV protection
Bad at: Odour control, providing warmth when wet
Most shirts for hiking are lightweight and fairly thin. This is to ensure that air flows through the fabric easily to help prevent you from sweating too much. However, some hiking shirts, like the Mammut Trovat, are a little thicker and provide extra warmth when hiking during those in between times.
It goes without saying that you need to choose a hiking shirt that is appropriate to your size. However, this can vary wildly, depending on your preference. Some people like their shirts to be super baggy, whilst other prefer a skin-tight fit.
The best hiking shirts should ideally not be either of these. To provide optimal comfort, a hiking shirt should be loose fitting but not baggy. There should be a little room for air to flow between the shirt and your body to help keep you cool.
A shirt that is overly baggy can cause chaffing. This is most often a problem when carrying a backpack. The excess fabric can end up bunching or riding up underneath your backpack causing pressure points and resulting in repeated rubbing of the skin. Not pleasant!
A shirt that is too tight can also cause rubbing and discomfort at the armpits. It can also ride up underneath a backpack if it is too short. But mostly, a tight-fitting shirt can prevent airflow from keeping you cool.
Design features of the best shirts for hiking
It’s important to have seams that are as discreet as possible to avoid any unnecessary rubbing. Flatlock seams prevent ensure that the fabric is not folded over where it is joined but stitched together on a flat overlap.
Some of the best hiking shirts position their shoulder seams so that they are not right on top of the shoulders. Or, the design of the shirt is such that there are no seams at the shoulders at all. The purpose of this is to prevent rubbing when wearing a loaded backpack.
Many hiking shirts have traditional armpit seams run up the side of the torso and join the arm of the shirt at the armpit. However, to avoid unnecessary rubbing, and to enable unrestricted arm movement, some shirts are designed with an additional panel inserted at the armpit. This eliminates the seams all meeting right in the armpit and can be much more comfortable for the wearer.
Whether you’re just out for a short day hike, or embarking upon a multi-day adventure, choosing the best hiking shirt for you will keep you comfortable and protected. And that equals more enjoyment on the trail and happy hikers everywhere!