The Well-Outfitted Hot-Weather Hiker

Mar 11, 2002
Outside Magazine

RailRider's Eco-Mesh Shirt Pants, and Patagonia's Tropical Flat Shorts

Ex Officio Long-Sleev AirStrip Shirt and Mountain Hardwear's Mountain Kilt (his), The North Face's Backwater (hers)

Five Ten's Cesium

When outfitting yourself for desert or tropics, you no longer need to choose between protecting your epidermis and sweltering or going skimpy and inviting melanoma. New togs of tightly woven, highly sun-protective fabrics combined with built-in screen doors now reconcile coverage and comfort.

Many an adventure racer has slogged through Borneo swamps and similar hellholes wearing the Eco-Mesh Shirt and Eco-Mesh Pants from RailRiders. The shirt, which also comes in a new Leaf Print style ($59), is made of fast-drying Supplex nylon and places flow-through mesh all the way down the arms, sides, chest pocket, and back. The pants ($69) use thigh-to-ankle mesh down the outside of each leg that can be zipped open or closed as conditions dictate—the airiest full-leg sun protection available. Just seal them up if the bugs get bad. L.L. Bean's Ripstop Convertible Pant ($79) is my hot-weather convertible of choice. The SPF-30 Cordura fabric is stronger than the usual Supplex, and the shorts have an au-courant knee-length cut, versus the shorter, so-1998, hemline of other convertibles. The naturist in you will love Patagonia's Tropical Flats Shorts ($50), made of a nylon-poly blend so fine it scarcely feels present—nice and baggy, too, with mesh strips in the pocket that cool your nether bits. Of course, if airflow en bas is really a priority, try Mountain Hardwear's Mountain Kilt ($85)—aye, a Scottish skirt for lads and lasses, techified with Supplex fabric, microchamois waist lining, and security pockets. Switching cultures, the company's Guayabera Shirt ($75), styled after Mexican wedding shirts, runs a pair of vents down both chest and back. The fabric is rated to SPF 30 (compared to the SPF 5 of wet cotton T-shirts), and the collar extends to protect the neck. But the real standard for sun protection and airflow is the SPF-30 Ex Officio Long-Sleeve AirStrip Shirt ($78), with a protective collar, a large back cape, and side vents. Finally, for just kicking around sultry climes, I like the loosely woven (no SPF claims here), with unbelievably quick-drying Powerdry fabric used to stylish effect in Prana's Dri Force Crew ($40).

On Your Feet
You can't forgo foot support and cushioning in hot weather; in fact, thin soles and socks invite trip-ruining blisters. Oakley's Chainsaw ($95) and Five Ten's Cesium ($95) both cool your tootsies with strategic use of mesh, while sturdy treaded outsoles insulate against hotfoot. The midcut Chainsaw has the coolest open-mesh tongue in the business, and it's superbly engineered for a comfortable and stable stride. The Cesium features Five Ten's sticky Stealth rubber and a half-dozen mesh panels around the perimeter, ideal for commuting between top-rope stints in J-Tree. As for socks, believe it or not, wool's the best stuff for heat. Whether humid or dry, its natural wicking and insulating properties really kick in when it's warm. I like SmartWool's Trail Runner II socks ($13) for their low cut and insulative padding.

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