Sun Protection For Hikers

Protecting your skin from the sun is especially important if you spend lots of time outdoors. Learn all about sun protection for hiking.

As someone who spends a lot of time outside, especially during the summer months, I have become adamant about protecting my skin from the sun. I wasn’t always this way, though. In my 20’s, I was a little careless about applying sunscreen and covering my skin up with UV protective clothing. As a result, I now have a lot of sunspots on my face that could have been prevented had I been more vigilant about sun protection.

What’s more, not that long ago, my mom had some skin cancer on her nose removed and I also had a friend in her 30s who experienced a melanoma scare. Suffice to say, all of this has been a wake-up call for me to take better care of my skin as I age.

Now, whenever I head out for a hike or spend a lot of time outdoors, I make sure to cover up with a UV protective shirt, a hat, and sunscreen and take other measures to protect my skin from sun damage.

Here is our complete guide to sun protection for hikers, including our favorite gear, clothing items, and tips for keeping your skin safe while outside

Hiking Shirts with Sun Protection

When choosing the best hiking sun shirt, opt for t-shirts that cover your chest, back, and shoulders rather than tank tops that expose more of your skin. Even better, a long sleeve shirt that protects your arms will provide even more UV protection. Look for lightweight materials that will keep the sun off of you while still keeping you relatively cool.

Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily Hoodie

This long-sleeved Patagonia tee is made out of fast-drying and moisture-wicking Capilene with built-in UPF 50+ sun protection. It’s super lightweight, so even though it’s long sleeve it will keep you cool in warm weather. This tee comes in both a hooded and non-hooded version.

Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily Hoodie // One of the best women's tops for sun protection while hiking

Check Price: Backcountry / Patagonia / REI

REI Co-op Sahara Button-Up Long-Sleeve Shirt

This long-sleeve REI button-up Sahara sun shirt is perfect for sunny day of hiking. With convertible sleeves that roll up to the elbows and UPF 35 sun protection, it is moisture-wicking and lightweight, making it a great UV sun protective option for the trail.

REI Co-op Sahara Button-Up Shirt // One of the best women's tops for sun protection while hiking

Check Price: REI

Columbia Silver Ridge Lite Shirt

The Columbia Silver Ridge Lite shirt provides UV sun protection and quickly wicks moisture away from the skin. The sleeves roll up to mid-arm for extra-warm, sunny days or you can choose the short-sleeve model.

Columbia Silver Ridge Lite Shirt // One of the best women's tops for sun protection while hiking

Check Price: Backcountry / REI / Moosejaw

Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily Shirt

A short-sleeve version of the long sleeve Patagonia sun shirt above, this Patagonia Cool Daily Shirt is super lightweight, moisture-wicking, and affordable. It dries fast and also provides 50+ UPF protection, making it a great option for sunny days on the trail.

Patagonia Cool Daily Shirt // One of the best women's tops for sun protection while hiking

Check Price: Backcountry / REI / Patagonia

Mountain Hardwear Crater Lake 3/4 Shirt

This super soft Mountain Hardwear Crater Lake Shirt has 3/4 length sleeves for added sun protection while you’re hiking. It’s UPF 50+ rated, wicks moisture, dries quickly, and gets rave reviews.

Check Price: Backcountry / Moosejaw / REI

Best Hats for Sun Protection

Sun hats are a great way to protect your face and neck from the sun while keeping your head cool. When choosing a sun hat, look for ones with a full brim that provides protection all around including the sides of your face and back of your neck.

The Wallaroo Sedona hat is my favorite wide-brimmed hat. It provides a good amount of sun protection and it’s cute too. It also has a drawstring in the brim that allows you to tighten the hat if it gets windy on the trail.

Protecting your skin from the sun is an important habit to form if you're an outdoor enthusiast. Learn more about sun protection for hiking.

*DISCOUNT CODE: get 20% off the Wallaroo Sedona hat with code BEARFOOT20

If you want something more packable, a good old bucket hat works great. Alternatively, a baseball-style cap works in a pinch and we especially like them for backpacking since there’s no back brim to rub up against your pack.

Shop our favorite hiking hats for sun protection

Best Sunscreen for Hiking

In addition to protecting your skin with clothing and a hat, it’s also important to apply sunscreen whenever you go outside. Look for sunscreens that are lightweight and waterproof so that you can easily reapply as need. Reef-safe sunscreens are also great options because they don’t contain harmful chemicals that destroy ocean reefs.

Shop our favorite sunscreens for hiking

Sun Protection Accessories for Hiking

Other options and accessories that offer sun protection include sunglasses to protect your eyes from harmful UV light, a Buff to cover your neck and double as a headband, and chapstick to prevent sunburned lips. I really like aviator-style glasses because they’re stylish while still providing 100% UV Protection.

Shop our favorite sun protection accessories for hiking

Additional Tips for Sun Protection While Hiking

To further protect your skin from the sun while hiking, here are a few additional tips:

Hike Early

Hike early in the morning or early in the evening to avoid peak sun intensity and heat.

Check the Weather

For long hikes, check ahead weather of time to see how hot it’s going to be so you can cover up appropriately. Also, research whether there is shade along the trail or whether you’ll be completely exposed so you can be prepared.

Pick a Shady Trail

If possible, pick a shady trail if you’re going to be hiking midday or if it’s going to be particularly hot.

Protecting your skin from the sun is especially important if you spend lots of time outdoors. Learn all about sun protection for hiking.

Take Breaks in the Shade

This sun protection tip is pretty obvious, but it really is helpful to take rest and water breaks in the shade. You’ll be surprised how much a few minutes in the shade will help you cool off.

Bring Sunscreen

If you’re going to be out for a while, bring sunscreen so you can reapply every two hours. It’s easy to find that you’ve been out the whole day and only put sunscreen on once in the morning, so remind yourself to reapply.

Stay Hydrated

Staying hydrated is always important but especially if you’re out hiking in the heat. Bring lots of water and electrolytes with you so you can sip as needed.

Protecting your skin from the sun is especially important if you spend lots of time outdoors. Learn all about sun protection for hiking.

Do you have any other suggestions or questions on sun protection for hikers or an experience you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments below!

For additional tips and resources, check out our guide on What To Wear Hiking.

Written by Kristen Bor

Hey there! My name is Kristen, and this is my outdoor blog. I discovered the power of the outdoors in my 20s, at the time I needed it most. Now 15 years later, prioritizing that critical connection with nature continues to improve my life. My goal at Bearfoot Theory is to empower you with the tools and advice you need to responsibly get outside.

4 comments on “Sun Protection For Hikers

    1. Hi Duan! The Patagonia cool capilene hiking shirts are our favorite. Both the long sleeve and short sleeve versions featured in this article come in men’s versions as well and are what Kristen’s partner, Ryan, wears. Happy hiking!

  1. Solumbra products are 100 SPF. I have skin cancer and have used them for many years. They are light weight and washable in cold water. I wear the large brim hat, the long sleeved shirt, and the gloves. I can spend the whole day outside and not worry about sun exposure. I am able to function out doors and no worry about UV exposure! These products enable me to hike and not be concerned about my skin cancer. Expensive but 100 percent effective!

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