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How to Choose a Hiking Jacket for Summer

Hiking Jacket for Summer

There's no time like summer to get outside to explore new trails and mountains. But even on the most picturesque summer days, the weather can change in an instant and having the right gear can be the difference between a fun hike and a miserable one. So, let's look at the key features of a quality summer hiking jacket, the different types of jackets available, and tips on how to select the best one for your hiking needs.

Key Features to Look for in a Summer Hiking Jacket

Summer is arguably the most popular time of year for hiking, with experienced hikers and beginners hitting the trails from the Great Lakes to the Grand Canyon. And while shorts and a t-shirt may be suitable for some summer hikes, it's important to bring a good hiking jacket along, too. When choosing a hiking jacket, there are some key features you'll need to ensure comfort, safety and functionality.

Lightweight and Breathable Material

Summer temperatures can be scorching hot and wearing a bulky jacket can be uncomfortable and you can overheat quickly. So, a jacket made from lightweight and breathable materials is ideal for summer hiking. A breathable jacket ensures that you stay cool and comfortable throughout your hike. Some of the best lightweight materials to look for in a summer jacket include polyester, nylon and merino wool.

Water Resistance and Quick Drying

Summer weather can be unpredictable. The sun might be shining one minute and torrential downpours might be soaking you the next. So, water resistant and quick-drying summer hiking jackets are crucial to have. A jacket with water-resistant fabric ensures that you stay dry even in light rain conditions, while quick-drying fabric guarantees you stay comfortable even when the jacket gets wet from rain or sweat.

UPF Sun Protection

When hiking in the summer, you'll be exposed to direct sunlight, which can be harmful to your skin. Make sure to choose a hiking jacket that provides adequate sun protection. The UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) rating is the measure of how well a fabric protects against harmful UV rays. The higher the UPF rating, the better the fabric is at blocking harmful rays.

Types of Summer Hiking Jackets

There are several different types of summer hiking jackets available, including softshell jackets, rain jackets and windbreakers. Each serves a specific purpose and is designed to offer different levels of protection and comfort.

Softshell Jackets

When it comes to hiking in the summer, it can be tricky to decide what to wear. The temperature can fluctuate, and being exposed to the elements for an extended period can lead to problems like sunburn, heatstroke, or even hypothermia. That's where a softshell hiking jacket comes in.

A softshell jacket provides the perfect balance between protection and breathability. These jackets are made from synthetic materials that are lightweight, breathable and water-resistant. They are designed to offer protection from wind, light rain and mild temperatures, but still, remain comfortable enough to wear during strenuous activities like hiking. They are also versatile, allowing for layering in case of colder temperatures.

One of the main advantages of softshell jackets is their breathability. Softshell and ultralight shell jackets are made from breathable materials that allow moisture to escape from the inside and prevent overheating. This feature is especially important during prolonged physical activities like hiking, as sweat can build up and lead to discomfort, chafing, or even skin irritation.

Another reason why you should choose softshells or ultralight shells for summer hiking is their durability. They're designed to withstand the wear and tear of outdoor activities and can last for years with proper care. Some models also feature reinforced seams, water-resistant zippers and adjustable hoods or cuffs, providing additional protection from the elements.

Rain Jackets

A rain jacket provides protection from unpredictable summer precipitation. A reliable rain shell can keep you dry in a sudden downpour and even prevent hypothermia in colder climates. It also helps to regulate body temperature by reducing the amount of moisture near the skin surface. This is especially important in the summer when a sudden increase in temperature can lead to heat exhaustion.

Rain jackets can also protect you from wind and insects. Wind chill can make temperatures feel significantly colder and increase the risk of hypothermia, especially if you've been working up a sweat. A well-designed rain jacket will provide wind resistance and help maintain body heat. And since many types of insects are attracted to wet environments, a rain jacket can prevent bugs from getting in contact with your skin.

Windbreakers

Windbreakers and ultralight wind shells are lightweight and compact, allowing you to easily pack them in your hiking bag. Not only that, but windbreaks are also highly versatile, providing protection against wind gusts and light rains. They are also great for layering, keeping you warm when the temperature drops on cooler mornings and evenings.

A good quality windbreaker will provide you with the breathability you need to stay comfortable during a hike. Most are made with moisture-wicking materials that keep sweat away from your skin and move it to the outer surface of the jacket. This not only keeps you dry but prevents you from getting chilled when you stop to rest.

Tips on Choosing the Best Summer Hiking Jacket

Summer is the perfect season to enjoy the great outdoors. The warm weather provides an excellent opportunity to traverse various trails and enjoy nature’s beauty without worrying about cold temperatures. However, it’s essential to have the right clothing, especially a hiking jacket, to ensure maximum comfort throughout the trip. Here are some tips on choosing the best one:

Considering the Weather and Terrain

The weather and terrain are the first things that should influence your decision when selecting a summer hiking jacket. For instance, if you’re hiking in hot and humid weather, you may need a jacket made of breathable material that provides adequate ventilation. On the other hand, if you’re hiking in the mountains or where the temperatures tend to be lower, you may need a jacket that provides enough insulation to keep you warm.

Similarly, the terrain can affect your choice of a hiking jacket. A trail that’s rocky and steep may require a jacket made of sturdy and durable material that can withstand scrapes and jabs from the rough terrain. Yet a trail that’s smooth and even may not require a jacket with such features.

Proper Fit and Comfort

It’s essential to choose a hiking jacket that fits well and provides maximum comfort throughout the hike. A jacket that’s too tight or too loose can cause discomfort and prevent you from enjoying your hike fully.

When selecting a hiking jacket, consider trying them on and testing them out with different base layers. This process will allow you to determine the best fit for you while also ensuring that you don't overheat or feel constricted while wearing your jacket for long periods.

Additional Features and Functionality

A hiking jacket that provides extra features and functionality can significantly improve your hiking experience. For instance, a jacket with a zippered chest pocket can provide convenience when storing smaller items like your phone or car keys. Additionally, if you prefer running trails, consider a jacket with an adjustable hem to keep the jacket in place while running.

Another essential feature to consider in a hiking jacket is whether it’s packable and easily portable. Ultralight jackets can easily be packed away in your hiking backpack and taken on overnight hikes.

Importance of Investing in the Right Summer Hiking Jacket

Investing in the right summer hiking jacket is essential for several reasons. A quality jacket not only provides the necessary protection from the elements but also makes for a more comfortable hiking experience. Moreover, a jacket made from durable materials can last longer, lasting for mile after mile, and hike after hike.

Your hiking jacket should be seen as an investment, and you should be willing to spend some time and money to ensure that you get the best jacket that will meet your hiking needs adequately.

Things to Consider Before Hiking This Summer

Now that you've got the right summer hiking jacket, you're ready for whatever the trails may take you. But before you head out for your next adventure, there are a few important things you should keep in mind.

Don’t Hike in Cotton

When it comes to hiking in the summer heat, wearing cotton clothing might seem like a good idea. However, it is not the best choice for hiking. Cotton absorbs moisture and sweat, and when it gets wet, it loses its insulating properties. This, in turn, creates a cooling effect that can cause the body to lose heat rapidly, potentially leading to hypothermia on cool summer nights.

Cotton materials also cause chafing and friction when wet, which can cause blisters, rashes and discomfort to the wearer. Additionally, cotton is not quick-drying. It retains sweat, and once it becomes damp, it takes a long time to dry. This can be dangerous in situations where there is a likelihood of sudden temperature changes or when hiking in the shade. Moisture can also breed bacteria and other microorganisms, which can cause unpleasant odors to develop.

It's best to avoid wearing cotton clothing when hiking in the summer. Instead, choose lightweight, moisture-wicking fabrics that keep you cool and dry. Materials such as synthetic fibers, wool and silk are great options, since they absorb sweat and dry quickly. When choosing hiking clothes, also consider the fit, breathability, sun protection and comfort since the right gear can make the difference between a fun-filled adventure and a miserable experience.

Layer Up

While it may be hot and humid on your hike, summer weather conditions can change quickly. Temperature can drop as one climbs to higher elevations or when clouds roll in. Not to mention, cool mornings and evenings require warmer clothing. So, layering allows hikers to adjust their body temperature to stay comfortable and safe on the trail.

Your base layer should be made of moisture-wicking materials that help draw sweat away from the skin. This layer helps regulate body temperature while keeping the skin dry, which is crucial for avoiding chafing and irritation. A lightweight shirt with short sleeves or a tank top works well in most summer conditions. Next, a mid-layer shirt or sweater provides insulation and helps keep the body warm during a cool morning or a sudden drop in temperature. A lightweight packable jacket works well as an insulated mid-layer. Finally, the outer layer provides protection against wind, rain and sun. A light and breathable rain jacket can work well in the summer, as it offers protection from unexpected rain showers and wind.

Prepare for Nasty Weather

Sudden rain and storms can pose a serious threat to hikers, causing discomfort or possibly injury if the right precautions are not taken. So, it's important to prepare for sudden weather changes before heading out on a summer hike.

First and foremost, being caught in a sudden downpour or storm can be dangerous due to the risk of hypothermia. Be sure to bring appropriate clothing and equipment such as rain jackets, tarps and waterproof hiking boots. Additionally, carrying a weather radio or phone with the ability to check forecasts can help anticipate and avoid dangerous weather conditions.

It's also important to plan for shelter in case of a sudden storm. Whether it be finding a nearby cave or rock overhang or setting up a tent, having a safe haven from the elements can make all the difference in keeping you safe and dry.

Furthermore, flash flooding can occur quickly in mountainous or desert areas, and hikers should be aware of the potential danger. It is always wise to stay aware of your surroundings and prepare an escape plan in case of emergency.

By packing appropriate gear, staying alert to weather conditions and having a plan for shelter, hikers can explore the wonders of nature while staying protected from the unpredictable elements.

Protect Yourself from Bugs

As a hiker, exploring the great outdoors in the summer can be an exhilarating experience. But the warm weather also brings out a host of insects and pests that can put a damper on your hike and even threaten your health. Mosquitoes and ticks are two of the most common and pesky insects to watch out for on the trail that can transmit diseases to humans and pets. Protecting yourself from these insects is crucial when hiking in the summer.

First, mosquito bites can cause a range of health issues, including allergic reactions, rashes and the risk of contracting mosquito-borne illnesses like West Nile virus, dengue fever and Zika virus. Ticks, on the other hand, can transmit Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and other serious illnesses with long-term health effects like chronic fatigue, arthritis and neurological issues.

To avoid the potential risks of these insects, hikers should wear long-sleeved clothing, long pants and hats, as well as apply insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus. It's also essential to regularly check your clothing and skin for ticks and quickly remove them with tweezers if found.

Stay Hydrated

Hiking is a great form of exercise, but it's even more challenging during the summer months because of hot temperatures. When hiking in hot weather, staying hydrated is absolutely important. When we sweat, we lose water and electrolytes, which are essential for our body to function properly. As we continue hiking, this loss of fluid can lead to dehydration, which can cause an array of health problems. Dehydration can lead to muscle cramps, dizziness, confusion and even heat exhaustion or stroke in severe cases. So it's vital to replace these lost fluids by drinking plenty of water before, during and after the hike.

Make sure to bring along plenty of water throughout the hike. Take a few sips at regular intervals, even if you don't feel thirsty, as thirst is a sign that you are already dehydrated. You should try to drink about one liter of water every hour of hiking. Lightweight, portable hydration systems are great for carrying water hands-free on the trail.

Additionally, consuming a sports drink containing sodium, potassium and other electrolytes helps replace the ions lost through sweat, aiding in maintaining the body's fluid balance. You can even find hydration packets, which add the necessary electrolytes to your water. They are lightweight and packable, perfect for stashing in your emergency kit. Try to limit the intake of caffeinated or sugary beverages, which can lead to further dehydration.

About Stio

Stio connects you with the outdoors through quality products infused with a mountain soul. Proudly operating from Jackson Hole, WY, we take inspiration from our natural surroundings and put it into every piece of apparel we make. From technical performance to aesthetics, Stio outfits you with exceptional products for unforgettable outdoor experiences.

FAQs

What should I look for in a summer hiking jacket?

When looking for a summer hiking jacket, you should consider a few things. First, it should be lightweight and breathable. Hiking can be tiring, so you don't want a jacket that's going to weigh you down or make you too hot. Secondly, it should provide good weather protection. Even in the summer, it can rain, so you want a jacket that will keep you dry and protect you from the wind. Lastly, you should look for a jacket with a good feature set. Zippered pockets, adjustable hoods and hems and ventilation are all features that can improve your experience on the trail.

What's the difference between a rain jacket and a windbreaker?

Rain jackets and windbreakers are both types of hiking jackets, but they serve different purposes. Rain jackets are designed to protect you from the rain, while windbreakers are designed to protect you from the wind. Rain jackets are usually made of a fully waterproof and breathable shell fabric, while windbreakers are often made of a lighter, more breathable fabric. If you're expecting light rain, a windbreaker may be enough to keep you dry. However, if you're expecting hard rain, a rain jacket is the way to go.

Can I wear a summer hiking jacket for other outdoor activities?

Yes, you can wear a summer hiking jacket for other outdoor activities like trail running or cycling. Just make sure you choose a jacket that's appropriate for the activity you're doing. For example, if you're going trail running, you'll want a jacket that's lightweight and breathable.

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