11 Best Hiking Shirts of 2021

Are you looking for the perfect shirt for your next outdoor adventure? I've worn them all and compiled a list of the best hiking shirts I've found. Read on to find your perfect fit.
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on reddit
Share on email
Best Hiking Shirts

TravelFreak is reader supported. Your engagement on this site allows us to bring you this content for free. Because this website contains affiliate links, if you make a purchase through these links, we may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. This has absolutely no effect on our recommendations or evaluations. Thank you for supporting our mission!

While you might feel like throwing on a regular ‘ol t-shirt before a hike, it’s not your most ideal option. Even seasoned hikers like myself are guilty of this, but choosing the right gear is incredibly important.

This applies especially to shirts—wearing a dedicated hiking shirt will regulate your body temperature, wick sweat and provide protection from the sun.

There’s a reason some shirts are made specifically for hiking—they’re designed to meet the very specific needs of hikers and backpackers who are typically spending hours (or days!) outdoors.

But with so many different options available, finding the right hiking shirt can be daunting. To help make your search as easy as possible, I’ve put together this list of the best hiking shirts in a few different categories. 

Unsure of what else to get along with your hiking shirt? Take a look at this article on what to wear hiking

What to Know Before You Buy a Hiking Shirt

Before you begin your search for the perfect hiking shirt, there are a few things to consider. The first is how to prepare for different types of weather (hint: it’s more than just simple layering).

To ensure that you’re prepared for any weather or temperature changes, we recommend using the three-layer clothing system. This includes the base layer, the midlayer, and the outer layer. 

Base Layer

This is the layer that sits against your skin. It’s responsible for regulating your body temperature and wicking away moisture from your body. The materials used for this layer influence its ability to perform this function. 

Wool vs. Synthetic

A good base layer is generally made from wool or synthetic fibers. Wool is a great option because it’s smooth and does not lead to itching or chafing. It’s also lighter and naturally odor-resistant. Synthetic base layers are a good option as well; however, they tend to hold body odor. For multi-day hikes, I recommend going with wool. 

One of the best things about synthetic shirts is its ability to dry fast. This makes them a good choice for day hikes, especially if you get caught in the rain.

Why Not Cotton?

If you’re a new hiker, a cotton t-shirt may be your first quick-grab option before heading out on the mountain. While this may be okay for shorter hikes, a cotton shirt is just not ideal. 

Cotton tends to trap body heat and sweat. As you head higher up the mountain, and temperatures begin to fall, your sweat will attract the cold air. This will draw heat away from your body, leading to other complications like hypothermia. This may sound extreme but believe it or not, hypothermia can happen in even the mildest of temperatures. 

Midlayer

Moving outwards from the base layer is the midlayer. This layer’s key function is insulation, which it does by trapping body heat and allowing swear vapor to make its way through the layering system. 

A good midlayer fabric is fleece. The thicker the fabric, the more heat it traps. As such, whether you need a midweight or lightweight fleece will depend on the temperature and weather conditions. 

Outer Layer

Also known as the shell layer, the outer layer shields you from the wind and rain. It is also the final layer that the sweat vapor needs to pass through before exiting the layering system. 

Two types of fabric often used for the shell include Gortex and coated nylon. Gortex is ideal for adverse weather conditions and high-impact activities. Coated nylon is better for more passive activities like short walks. While cheaper, it’s not your best option if you plan on attempting a more strenuous trail, as it’s not as breathable as other membranes.

11 Best Shirts for Hiking of 2021

In a rush and trying to find the best shirt for hiking? These are my top picks. For additional information, each shirt is detailed in the sections to follow.

  1. Best Overall Hiking Shirt: Icebreaker Tech Lite 
  2. Best Hiking T-shirt: Patagonia Capilene Cool Trail Shirt 
  3. Best Lightweight Hiking Shirt: Ibex Journey Tee 
  4. Best Men’s Hiking Shirt: Arc’teryx Cormac Crew 
  5. Best Women’s Hiking Shirt: Athleta In Motion Tee 
  6. Best Budget Hiking T-Shirt: REI Co-Op Sahara T-Shirt 
  7. Best Button-Up Hiking Shirt: Columbia Silver Ridge Lite 
  8. Best Backpacking Shirt for Men: Vuori Strato Tech 
  9. Best Backpacking Shirt for Women: Vuori Mudra 
  10. Best Women’s Long Sleeve: Athleta Foresthill Merino Wool Ascent Top
  11. Best Men’s Long Sleeve: Unbound Merino Long Sleeve Crew

Overall Best Hiking Shirt 

1. Icebreaker Tech Lite

Icebreaker Tech Lite

The Icebreaker Tech Lite is a natural fiber tee made for the outdoors and your everyday life. 

The Tech Lite makes use of merino wool, resulting in a super lightweight shirt that is comfortable and breathable. It also has thermal regulation properties, keeping you warm in the cold and cool in the heat. This way, you can wear the shirt solo in the summer or layer it with another garment in cool temperatures. 

The Icebreaker Tech Lite, available to both men and women, is my overall best hiking shirt largely due to its versatility. Beyond being a functional performance tee, it also has a minimalist design. So whether it’s backpacking, a mid-winter ski trip, or a family picnic, this shirt suits almost all occasions.

Pros

  • Versatile design
  • Comfortable and soft 
  • UV protection
  • Naturally odor resistant

Cons

  • Seems around the neck can be itchy
  • Not very durable

Icebreaker Tech Lite Specs:

Best Use:Hiking, Casual
Shirt Type:T-shirt
Materials:Merino wool
Size:S, M, L, XL, XXL

Best Hiking T-shirt 

2. Patagonia Capilene Cool Trail Shirt

Patagonia Capilene Cool Trail

This men’s and women’s t-shirt from Patagonia is a technical top made with a fabric that is super soft to the touch. You’ll love wearing this one.

This shirt prioritizes comfortability with its moisture-wicking and quick-drying properties and lightweight structure. The smaller details like the tagless design and set-in sleeves do a great job of ensuring that you remain itch-free and chafe-free throughout your adventures. 

Personally, I like knowing the products I buy are sustainably and ethically produced. Made mostly from recycled polyester, the Capilene Cool Trail shirt is both Bluesign approved and Fair Trade Certified. 

The simple and timeless design is also a plus, making it a good option for both the trail and a Sunday barbeque. While this shirt looks great and performs well, it is worth noting that it does not offer sun protection. However, it does a great job at keeping you cool, so pack some sunscreen, and you’re good to go.

Pros

  • Soft and comfortable
  • Dries quickly
  • Tagless design for itch-free comfort

Cons

  • Not very durable
  • Has pilling issues

Patagonia Capilene Cool Trail Shirt Specs:

Best Use:Hiking, Casual
Shirt Type:T-shirt
Materials:Recycled polyester (bluesign approved)
Size:S, M, L, XL, XXL

Best Lightweight Hiking Shirt 

3. Ibex Journey Tee

Ibex Journey Tee

Ibex’s innovative activewear, including the Journey Tee, draws on the Ibex goat’s unique characteristics (they’re excellent sure-footed climbers!). This shirt will serve you well in a variety of temperatures and is ideal for exploring the great outdoors.  

The Ibex Journey Tee is my pick for best lightweight hiking shirt as it uses merino wool. This wool is a natural, high-performance fiber that comes from merino sheep. 

In nature, this fiber keeps sheep warm in temperatures as low as -4ºF and cool in temperatures as high as 95ºF. Similarly, the Ibex Journey Tee regulates your body temperature as you migrate from highrise to mountain top. 

The Ibex Journey Tee is also soft, breathable, and naturally odor-resistant, which makes it great for minimal washing and is ideal for lengthier hikes. With its stylish design, the shirt doubles up as a great everyday t-shirt as well. It’s available for both men and women.

Pros

  • Breathable for optimal layering
  • Soft and comfortable
  • Stylish

Cons

  • Pricey
  • Short lifespan

Ibex Journey Tee Specs:

Best Use:Hiking, Backpacking
Shirt Type:T-shirt
Materials:89% Merino Wool, 11% Nylon
Size:S, M, L, XL, XXL

Best Men’s Hiking Shirt 

4. Arc’teryx Cormac Crew

Arc'Teryx Cormac Crew

The Arc’teryx Cormac Crew was originally designed for runners and later refined to handle a broad range of high-output outdoor activities like hiking. If you’re the kind of guy who’s always on the go, this shirt is perfect for you. Made with lightweight gridded fabric, the shirt breathes well, is comfortable, and dries quickly. 

The shirt has a clean design and a comfortable fit that allows air to flow freely and moves with your body. As such, this shirt is ideal for both the trail and everyday use. 

To add to this shirt’s functionality, it also features UPF 50+ fabric. I especially love this feature as the sun can be quite brutal on some trails. Note that the Cormac Crew is short-sleeved, so don’t overlook applying sunscreen. 

We have rated the Cormac Crew as our best hiking t-shirt for men as it has the features needed to tackle the challenges posed by most trails. From sun protection to wicking away moisture, this shirt covers all your bases. 

Pros

  • Versatile design
  • Breathes well
  • UPF 50+ fabric ensures optimal sun protection

Cons

  • Color inconsistencies 
  • Short torso

Arc’teryx Cormac Crew Specs:

Best Use:Hiking, Trail running
Shirt Type:T-shirt
Materials:Ostria polyester
Size:S, M, L, XL, XXL

Best Women’s Hiking Shirt

5. Athleta In Motion Tee

Athleta In Motion Tee

I love brands that have a strong focus on being active, and Athleta believes in the benefits of getting your heart pumping.

The Athleta In Motion Tee is a short-sleeved shirt made for high-output activities. The seamless construction is a nice touch as it ensures itch-free comfort. Other features that make this a great hiking top are the antimicrobial, moisture-wicking, and quick-drying properties. The shirt also allows for adequate airflow, keeping you cool throughout the day. 

The Athleta In Motion Tee is one of the best hiking t-shirts for women as it is both functional and stylish (although its color options are limited). I do love that the brand aims to empower women, and puts both people and the planet at the forefront of everything they do.

Pros

  • Breathable design allows adequate airflow
  • Sustainably produced
  • Seamless construction ensures a comfortable fit

Cons

  • Limited color options
  • Not very durable

Athleta In Motion Tee Specs:

Best Use:Hiking, Fitness
Shirt Type:T-shirt
Materials:Recycled nylon
Size:XXS, XS, S, M, L, XL

Best Budget Hiking T-shirt

6. REI Co-Op Sahara T-Shirt

REI Co-op Sahara

They might look like regular shirts, but some hiking t-shirts are very pricey. I often struggle to find a high quality shirt that fits my budget, but this Sahara t-shirt is affordable without skimping on quality. If you’re not super active and only hike occasionally, a shirt that’s more budget-friendly makes a lot of sense.

The Sahara T-shirt is durable and can withstand high-impact outdoor activities. It also wicks away sweat, dries quickly, and offers adequate sun protection. 

As a budget alternative, this shirt does lack in some areas. It does not breathe well and tends to get hot. But, at an affordable price, this top covers all the basics. It’s also versatile and can be easily layered with other garments in cooler temperatures. They’re available in men’s and women’s.

Pros

  • Comfortable and soft
  • Dries quickly
  • Durable
  • UPF 30+ sun protection

Cons

  • Thick material
  • Too loose fitting
  • Does not breathe well

REI Co-Op Sahara T-shirt:

Best Use:Hiking, Travel
Shirt Type:T-shirt
Materials:92% polyester, 8% spandex
Size:XS, S, M, L, XL

Best Button-up Hiking Shirt 

7. Columbia Silver Ridge Lite

Columbia Silver Ridge Lite

If you prefer button-up shirts over t-shirts, the Silver Ridge Lite is a great option. With its UPF 40-rated Omni-Shade fabric, this outdoor button-up shirt will protect you from the sun’s harmful UV rays. I find that the added protection provided by the long sleeves is great, especially on those long summer hikes. 

The Silver Ridge Lite has a loose fit, which may not be ideal in cooler temperatures. But, the fit does provide adequate ventilation, ensuring you keep feeling cool throughout your journey. The roll-up tabs are also a great feature, keeping your sleeves out of the way where necessary. 

Available to both men and women, the Silver Ridge Lite offers a variety of modern color options. This way, you can dress this shirt up for date night or down for the trails. 

Pros

  • Lightweight 
  • Breathes well
  • Wicks away sweat
  • UPF 40 sun protection

Cons

  • Runs large
  • Stains easily

Columbia Silver Ridge Lite Specs:

Best Use:Hiking, Travel, Casual
Shirt Type:Button-up, Long-sleeve
Materials:Polyester
Size:S, M, L, XL, XXL

Best Backpacking Shirt for Men

8. Vuori Strato Tech

Vuori Strato Tech

If you’re planning a longer trip outdoors, then you will need a shirt that is comfortable, durable, and odor-resistant. I’ve found the Vuori Strato Tech to be a versatile t-shirt with soft, stretchy, and quick-drying fabric. It also layers well with other pieces— something I find especially useful when backpacking. 

The Vuori Strato Tech t-shirt is also rated UPF 30, providing your skin with protection from the sun’s rays. Note that it is a short-sleeved t-shirt and provides minimal coverage, so be sure to pack in your sunscreen. 

The Strato Tech t-shirt has a modern, athletic fit and is suitable for running, training, yoga, and other sporting activities. It can also double up as your everyday go-to t-shirt. 

Pros

  • Comfortable and soft
  • Can be easily layered
  • Versatile design
  • UPF 30+ sun protection

Cons

  • Small sizing
  • Not very durable

Vuori Strato Tech Specs:

Best Use:Hiking, Fitness
Shirt Type:T-shirt
Materials:94% polyester, 6% spandex
Size:S, M, L, XL, XXL

Best Backpacking Shirt for Women

9. Vuori Mudra

Vuori Mudra

The Vuori Mudra is, in the opinion of our female TravelFreak staff members, one of the best backpacking shirts for women. The t-shirt has a slim and effortless high-hip fit, ideal for layering. This is useful when backpacking as you can easily layer up during colder nights. And during the day, remove the layers, and you’re left with a comfortable t-shirt. 

The Vuori Mudra is ideal for most high-performance activities as it wicks away moisture and dries quickly. Made with sustainable and stretchy Modal fabric, the top sits comfortably and does not ride up. 

While there are few color options available, the cropped t-shirt can be easily styled. I’d recommend this shirt for hiking, backpacking, or even hitting the gym.

Pros

  • Layers easily
  • UPF 30 sun protection
  • Comfortable fit

Cons

  • Limited color options
  • Some may not prefer the cropped fit

Icebreaker Tech Lite Specs:

Best Use:Hiking, Fitness
Shirt Type:T-shirt, Cropped
Materials:87% model, 13% elastane
Size:XXS, XS, S, M, L, XL, XXL

Best Hiking Long Sleeve Shirt for Women

10. Athleta Foresthill Merino Wool Ascent Top

Athleta Foresthill Ascent Top

If you would prefer something that provides extra coverage, whether to protect you from the sun or the cold, I’d recommend the Athleta Foresthill. With thumbhole cuffs, this shirt extends coverage all the way to your hands. 

Made from high-quality merino wool, the Athleta Foresthill is light and moves well with your body. One thing I like about merino wool is that it regulates your body temperature in all weather conditions. 

The Athleta Foresthill gets our best lightweight long-sleeve hiking shirt title as it is functional and looks good too. The top is also well-ventilated, ensuring you stay feeling cool and fresh throughout your adventures. 

Pros

  • Breathes well
  • Comfortable, stretchy fit
  • Dries quickly

Cons

  • Not very durable
  • Limited color options

Athleta Foresthill Merino Wool Ascent Top Specs:

Best Use:Hiking
Shirt Type:Long-sleeve
Materials:Merino wool, nylon
Size:XXS, XS, S, M, L, XL

Best Long Sleeve Hiking Shirt for Men

11. Unbound Merino Long Sleeve Crew

Unbound Merino Longsleeve Crew

The Unbound Merino is a classic long-sleeve crew designed for your everyday wear, including traveling and hiking. 

Made from merino wool, the shirt wicks moisture away from your body and is naturally odor-resistant. This way, your top stays breathable and dry while ensuring you stay nice and fresh. 

The Unbound Merino is also able to regulate your body temperature, so you won’t feel too hot or too cold. I especially love the minimalist design as it suits multiple occasions. It is also wrinkle-resistant, so it stuffs easily into a backpack and comes out looking like new. 

Pros

  • Lightweight 
  • Wrinkle-resistant
  • Prevents odors and smells
  • Regulates body temperature

Cons

  • Limited color options
  • Inconsistencies with sizing and fit

Unbound Merino Long Sleeve Crew Specs:

Best Use:Hiking, Travel
Shirt Type:Sweatshirt, Long-sleeve
Materials:Merino wool
Size:S, M, L, XL, XXL

Why Should You Invest in a Hiking Shirt? 

Hiking shirts are no regular tops—they’re shirts specifically designed to meet the rigorous demands of hikers and backpackers. While they are generally great for outdoor adventures, many are also well-suited for general wear. 

So whether you plan on hiking in Asheville, North Carolina, or enjoying a family barbeque, a hiking shirt will have you looking and feeling good.

Dedicated hiking shirts have a number of benefits which make them better suited for hikes than regular cotton t-shirts. Here are some key benefits:

Lightweight and Packable

Hiking shirts are generally much lighter than cotton shirts. Moreover, because of the materials used, they generally pack easily and take up considerably less space inside your suitcase or bag. They’re typically ideal for light backpacking. Hiking shirts are also highly versatile, and are well-suited to day hikes, overnight backpacking, and traveling. 

Keeps You Cool and Dry 

Most dedicated hiking shirts offer you good ventilation and breathability. This is important as it allows heat and perspiration to escape. These shirts do a great job at keeping you cool for longer periods, even when engaging in strenuous activities. 

Many hiking shirts feature a vented panel along the back which keeps your back dry, even when you’re carrying a backpack. 

No Odors or Smells 

As hiking shirts generally wick away moisture and sweat, they prevent odors and smells from developing. Some shirts also feature antimicrobial properties, which prevents the development of bacteria in the clothing, and subsequently, the build up of any smells. 

For longer trips, hiking shirts are great as they can often are useable for multiple days between washes. 

Durable

Unlike regular cotton t-shirts, hiking shirts have a high capacity to withstand the intensity of the environment. Made from high-quality materials, they tend to last for quite some time, while enduring the tough conditions of the outdoors. No need to worry about your shirt ripping on a rogue branch or rock. 

In addition to being able to withstand Mother Nature, good-quality hiking shirts also fare well in washing machines. Generally, they are able to maintain their properties after regular washing. While these shirts are durable, they still uphold their promise of providing premium comfort, as well as freedom of movement.  

Versatile 

An often overlooked benefit of hiking shirts is versatility. Being able to serve you on the most strenuous of adventures, but also on a relaxing weekend picnic, is truly a wonderful feature. 

With the versatile design of most hiking shirts, you can head to a coffee shop following your hike without feeling underdressed. In addition to being versatile in terms of fashion, some hiking shirts are also ideal for multiple climates, serving well in both hot and cold weather conditions. 

Hiking Shirt Buyers Guide: Things to Consider

The primary purpose of a hiking shirt is to keep you cool and dry throughout your trek. Along with this, it is super soft and lasts a long time. 

Whether you’re a beginner or a veteran, a quality hiking shirt is a must-have. While throwing on old clothes may sometimes fit the bill, this is seldom the case for longer hikes. Below are several factors to consider when selecting the right apparel for your next hike. 

Materials 

If you’re a new hiker, a cotton t-shirt may be the first option before heading out on the mountain. While these may be okay for shorter hikes, they’re not ideal. 

Cotton tends to trap body heat and sweat. As you head higher up the mountain, and temperatures begin to fall, your sweat will attract the cold air. This is not fun as you may spend the rest of your hike shivering. For this reason, hiking shirts made from good quality materials are best. 

Most hiking shirts are made from ripstop nylon. Unlike the ripstop nylon used in backpacks and tents, the material used in hiking shirts is thin and soft. Also, this material does not retain water and dries quickly. 

Other great materials for hiking shirts are polyester and merino wool. Polyester releases heat so you will not sweat too much, keeping you warm as temperatures drop. Apparel made from polyester is much more durable than similar items made from cotton. 

The same applies to merino wool. In addition to being durable, merino wool is also effective at regulating your body temperature, as well as eliminating odors. 

Overall, good quality hiking shirts ensure a comfortable journey and can last a long time without needing to be replaced. 

Comfort

Along with good quality materials comes high levels of comfort. Fabrics such as nylon, polyester and merino wool generally feel soft and smooth against your skin. 

In addition to the materials used, the overall comfort of the shirt will depend on the overall fit, style and stretchiness. Even the more minor details such as the way in which the seams were sewn together makes a difference. 

The majority of good quality hiking shirts feature a flatlock seam. The seams don’t overlap, which reduces friction, preventing chafing and blisters. Seams taped at the shoulder are also great for improved comfort when carrying a backpack. 

The best fit will depend on your personal preference. Fitted shirts generally stick closer to your body and can be easily layered. Looser fitting tops, on the other hand, allow for improved ventilation and breathability. 

Sun Protection

While most shirts come with some level of inherent sun blocking, hiking shirts go the extra mile, often featuring higher than average UPF ratings. If your skin is very sensitive to the sun, or if you’re planning to tackle a hot, sunny trail, a quality hiking shirt is highly recommended. 

If you’re unfamiliar with UPF ratings in clothing, these are similar to that which exists in sunscreen. It suggests how effective your product is at blocking out the sun’s harmful UV rays. The higher the UPF rating, the better the product is at protecting your skin. Note that a rating of less than 15 is not considered to be effective. 

Factors which influence the UPF rating in your clothing are the color, overall construction and fiber makeup. With regards to color, lighter colors are better as they reflect white light, absorbing less heat. In terms of materials, nylon and polyester are best at blocking out UV rays. 

Shirt Type 

There is a wide variety of hiking shirts to choose from. Long sleeve, short sleeve, button-ups, t-shirts, v-necks, crewnecks and many more. All have their pros and cons; however, what is best will come down mostly to personal preference. 

When deciding between long sleeves and short sleeves, the most influential factor is temperature. Be sure to take into account the height of the mountain you’re planning to climb as temperatures tend to fall the higher up you go. 

Even on the warmer summer days, a short sleeve shirt may not be ideal for higher elevations. Moreover, for those who are more prone to sunburn, I recommend a long sleeve as it provides extra coverage. 

For longer hikes, button-ups are best as they are durable, comfortable and the fabrics used generally do not require frequent washing. On the other hand, t-shirts are better for trail runs, day hikes and other sporting activities. 

Additional Features

Lastly, you will want to look for any additional features, from pockets to antimicrobial properties. 

Pockets can be really useful as you’ll be able to hold your smaller valuables. In some cases, large pockets may take away from the shirt’s appearance for everyday use. The number and size of pockets comes down to personal preference—there is not necessarily a right or wrong. 

If you’re headed on a longer hike, or a backpacking adventure, look for a hiking shirt with strong antimicrobial properties. This will prevent bacteria accumulation, smells and odor, as well as keep you feeling fresh throughout your journey. 

Other useful features include roll-up tabs and built-in vents. Roll-up tabs do a great job at keeping your sleeves out of the way, should you need the extra mobility. Built-in vents provide adequate airflow, keeping you cool and refreshed while hiking. 

Final Thoughts on Best Hiking Shirt 

With a dedicated, quality hiking shirt, you will be able to enjoy every outdoor adventure to the fullest. No worrying about sunburn, skin damage, smell or chafing as these functional shirts cater for each problem, and more. 

With so many different options to choose from, finding the perfect hiking shirt can be a challenge. Hopefully, this detailed buyers’ guide helps you find the best option for you and your needs.

Whether you opt for a long sleeve, short sleeve, button-up or t-shirt, a good quality hiking shirt will have you looking and feeling good throughout your journey. If you’re interested in other gear, check out the informative articles below.

READ MORE:

Jeremy Scott Foster
Jeremy Scott Foster
Jeremy Scott Foster is an adventure-junkie, gear expert and travel photographer based in Southern California. Previously nomadic, he’s been to ~50 countries and loves spending time outdoors. You can usually find him on the trail, on the road, jumping from bridges or hustling on his laptop working to produce the best travel and outdoors content today. You can read more about Jeremy at his bio.

On A Similar Note...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Adventure. Better.

Sign up now and get the best gear, travel tips, deals and destinations, straight to your inbox.