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Clothing for Dessert Hiking
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Bob Gabbart
(bobg) - F
Clothing for Desert Hiking on 04/19/2006 12:53:36 MDT Print View

I was wondering what sort of clothing people generally wore for desert hiking (Grand Canyon in mid May.) Do you prefer sun pants like the Solumbra Active pants as in Carol Crooker's article or do you prefer shorts?

Also, what do you think of the Solumbra Active pants vs. the Solumbra Ultra Athlete pants? (The Ultra Athlete pants are the ones with the vents running up the sides.)


Edited by bobg on 04/19/2006 12:54:46 MDT.

John Witt
(johnbrown2005) - F

Locale: Portland, OR
desert clothes on 04/19/2006 14:18:29 MDT Print View

I wear long baggy shorts that go just past my knees. I'm fairly dark skinned, so my calves don't seem to burn.

Also wear silkweight capilene, or equivelent, but will be trying out a loose cotton white dress shirt on my next trip, mostly for the collar.

And a straw cowboy hat.

Vick Hines
(vickrhines) - F

Locale: Central Texas
Re: Clothing for Desert Hiking on 04/19/2006 15:18:43 MDT Print View

Can't comment on Solumbra stuff.

These are just the observations of a desert rat. For what it's worth, for true desert southwest hiking I prefer loose cotton. Yeah, I know, cotton kills. But that's in the cold. In the heat, the very thing that makes cotton dangerous in the cold is an advantage... it wicks and it absorbs sweat, and I've heard that it is several times cooler than bare skin in the shade. Some synthetics as well are made to wick, but cotton seems to do a better job of evaporating sweat in a cooling way. I don't know why.

Loose fit is important. It keeps air circulating within the garment. Cotton tends not to cling, but tight garments sort of cling naturally. So go baggy.

I have tended toward darker colors, despite the theoretical reflective action of light colors. Native desert dwellers seem to agree.

David Bonn
(david_bonn) - F

Locale: North Cascades
Re: Re: Clothing for Desert Hiking on 04/19/2006 15:46:42 MDT Print View

> I have tended toward darker colors, despite the theoretical reflective action of light colors. Native desert dwellers seem to agree.

... except for Bedouins and Berbers in the Sahara Desert who I've seen wearing white out in the big sandy.

Curtis Presson
(Obdewla_X) - F
Clothing for Dessert Hiking on 04/19/2006 18:07:53 MDT Print View

I would recommend an ultralight umbrella over anything else. My son and I used Golite's 9 oz. dome umbrella during a 3 day loop trip in Big Bend and it made a tremendous difference. It's like walking around with your own personal space in the shade whenever you want or need it. When we met people along the trail if they didn't say they wish they had one, the look on their faces said they did. Well worth the investment and reasonably priced too. Check for the regular dome version and their "chrome" dome version.

Montbell makes a 5 oz one too.

Edited by Obdewla_X on 04/19/2006 20:19:11 MDT.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Clothing for Dessert Hiking on 04/19/2006 21:25:32 MDT Print View

I checked out the Montbell umbrella in their Boulder store and you have to manually straighten every rib to open it and manually break it down (every rib) before closing. I would never buy an umbrella like that.

Curtis Presson
(Obdewla_X) - F
Clothing for Dessert Hiking on 04/19/2006 21:45:14 MDT Print View

Did not know that... I've only seen it on Montbell's website. I mentioned the Montbell only because of weight and by your observation sounds very inconvenient and a big hassle.

The Golite is like a traditional umbrella and when closed fits nicely in a side pocket of your pack held in place by a side compression strap. Nice & light with plenty of coverage.

Phil Barton
(flyfast) - MLife

Locale: Oklahoma
Re: Clothing for Desert Hiking on 04/19/2006 22:36:58 MDT Print View

My late May 2002 trip to the Grand Canyon taught me that there are cooler, more pleasant seasons to be in the Canyon. I am extremely fair skinned. I was able to avoid sun burn with a lightweight, nylon Rail Riders shirt and pants. I wore these during the intense sunshine along with a broad brimmed hat.

My current RR favorites are the Adventure shirt and Adventure Khaki pants. The Adventure shirt is like the Eco-Mesh shirt except it has buttons on the cuff and the front. It's much more comfortable to roll up the sleeves on the Adventure shirt than on the Eco-Mesh with its tight elastic cuffs.

My hiking buddy could tolerate more sun and wore synthetic T-shirts with nylon zip-off pants.

There are a lot of good desert clothing options depending on how much sun exposure you can endure. Cotton would indeed be a good choice for evaporative cooling in the hot, bone dry air of the Grand Canyon.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Clothing for Dessert Hiking on 04/20/2006 08:18:12 MDT Print View

Jim Woods recommended the Raines Skinni Mini, 4.9 ounces after removing the raines label and wrist strap, so far only seen at Staples office supply. I bought one but have not used it yet. The canopy is a little smaller.

Edited by jshann on 04/20/2006 08:29:00 MDT.

Erich Foster
(erichlf) - F
Re: Clothing for Dessert Hiking on 04/20/2006 09:20:55 MDT Print View

A few important things to bring;
Hat with a brim
bandana (of course)

As far as what items should be worn...
Well, I believe that is a matter of preference. I myself have not come up with a final decision on what I wear in the desert, and I have lived in the desert for about 12yrs (off and on).

Bob Gabbart
(bobg) - F
pants or shorts ... 'err both on 04/20/2006 11:49:14 MDT Print View

Thanks for all the feedback...

Well, I think what I've come up with is this:

For the shirt I'm going to bring the Rail Riders Adventure shirt - oversized because the fabric does not stretch.

For the lower half I'm just going to end up bringing both short and light pants. As I have little experience hiking in this sort of weather I figure bringing the 6oz for a pair of shorts will be worth it if I'm wanting them out there.


Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: pants or shorts ... 'err both on 04/20/2006 11:57:24 MDT Print View

Columbia, REI and Ex Officio all handle some very light pants with good features. Price goes in that ordere too :)

Tell me what size you wear and I may run across some. I picked up REI and MEC mediums the other day for $5-6 each used :)

Bob Gabbart
(bobg) - F
$5 pants on 04/20/2006 12:23:02 MDT Print View

Wow, that's a great price. I'm planning on heading up to REI tonight, I'll have a look around myself...

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: $5 pants on 04/20/2006 13:42:34 MDT Print View

Bob said, "Wow, that's a great price. I'm planning on heading up to REI tonight, I'll have a look around myself..."

Nooooooo, I said used! I find REI, Columbia, TNF, and Ex Officio pants in thrift stores all the time for $3-$12. My best snag was a pair of Mountain Hardwear Pack Pants for $12-- a cool $100 at you local MH dealer new. They were XL's and marked as mediums by the store-- it pays to really look. In one evening in one store I got a Columbia hooded windshirt, a pair of MEC nylon hiking pants, a pair of REI "Adventure" pants, and a Gerry high loft down vest for $24 with tax :) The vest needed to be cleaned but everything was in great shape. I can't wait for the yard sale season to kick in :)

Do check the "garage sale" area at REI, where they sell off returned stuff. You will find some stuff with minor damage and a lot of items that are next to new and were returned becuase they didn't fit or some really whiny excuse and there's nothing wrong.

Mandy Tea
(MandyTea) - F
California Desert Hiking on 02/26/2012 15:06:59 MST Print View

Thanks for the suggestions about clothing.

Has anyone hiked or backpacked in California Desert Heat in the Spring or Summer, specifically in Death Valley, Joshua Tree, or Mojave National Preserve. I would love to hear your opinions or recommendations? I have hiked in parks in Utah and Arizona in spring but not during the most intense months.

I am most familiar with hiking in the pacific northwest.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: California Desert Hiking on 02/26/2012 15:16:34 MST Print View

I'm not sure what the question is.

I've hiked lots in Death Valley, some in Joshua Tree, and some in Anza-Borrego. The best hiking is in the springtime, maybe March 15. After that, you can do it, but it can be intensely hot. If I find myself there in the hot months, I will still hike, but I do it early in the morning, like before dawn until 9 a.m.

I've always found the secret to beating excess heat is to go to higher elevation. Some parks have that, and some don't.

I always wear very thin nylon hiking trousers, a thin synthetic t-shirt, a thin long-sleeve shirt over that, and a baseball cap with a bandana.


Paul Magnanti
(PaulMags) - MLife

Locale: People's Republic of Boulder
Desert hiking on 02/26/2012 23:19:51 MST Print View

Same clothing I use for high altitude hiking here in CO:

Boonie Hat
Long sleeve thrift store dress shirt
Running shorts

(and olive oil in the blood stream courtesy of some ancestors..... )

Keep It Simple... :)

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: California Desert Hiking on 02/27/2012 15:48:00 MST Print View

I have hiked in all those areas. In spring temperatures can go over 100F. In summer, over 120F. Water is king, and finding it in those 3 deserts is difficult at best.

For temperatures below 100F I usually hike in shorts and a mesh tank top, but I am acclimated to it. Sometimes I hike in Rail Riders EcoMesh clothing when it gets close to 100F and I will be in higher elevations part of the time. But in really hot weather it is cotton or a cotton blend. Long sleeves and long pants and big brimmed breathable hat. Protection against sunburn even with my dark complexion and usually summer tan. Synthetics accelerate evaporation, so cotton can be better -- taking longer to dry.

As Bob said, hike in morning and night. During the heat of the day stay in the shade and if possible off the ground. Ground temps can go above 150F. You may need up to 2 gallons of water per day, maybe more. To be honest, best not to go to these places in summer at all unless you are acclimated and skilled in hiking them. Almost every year someone in my neck of the sand ("woods?") dies from heat stroke while being out for less than 24 hours. These are healthy people who were not prepared/skilled in desert hiking.

Also, I have seen temperature swings well about 50F in a day, so you may need something warmer at night.