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Need Grand Canyon Clothing Recommendations
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John G
(JohnG10) - F

Locale: Mid-Atlantic via Upstate NY
Need Grand Canyon Clothing Recommendations on 05/31/2011 09:13:51 MDT Print View

I need some clothing recommendations for backpacking and hiking in the Grand Canyon in mid June for a week.

In the hot & humid east coast, I typically wear a booney hat (3" brim, mesh sides), knee length nylon shorts, loose polyester t-shirts, and use sunscreen on the back of my neck, lower arms and lower thighs and am fine (although most areas have intermittent tree cover).

I hear that I may need long pants, and a long sleeve collared shirt for hiking in Grand Canyon due to the elevation, longer sunshine hours, and no tree cover.

Is this the case ? If so, how much hotter is it to hike in REI Sahara (or similar) long pants & long sleeve shirts than shorts & t-shirts ? ie: 20% hotter, or 50% hotter, or three times as hot ?

Also, I tend to burn most easily on the back of my neck. How much hotter are the Sunday Afternoon (or similar) hats with the neck drape, compared to booney hats with mesh sides? Does the neck drape block the breezes a lot ?


Edited by JohnG10 on 05/31/2011 10:14:50 MDT.

Sumi Wada
(DetroitTigerFan) - F

Locale: Ann Arbor
Re: Need Grand Canyon Clothing Recommendations on 05/31/2011 10:28:03 MDT Print View

I would personally wear lightweight loose shorts and t-shirts, a wide-brimmed hat and wrap a wet bandana around my neck and slather on sunscreen, but then I don't burn all that easily. If I did, I would wear long pants and a long-sleeved t-shirt, and wouldn't expect to be much hotter at all.

I think the most effective things against the heat in the Grand Canyon is water and shade. Wet down your hat, a wet bandana around your neck, soak your t-shirt, etc. If I were hiking a trail with access to water, I would just periodically soak myself, clothes and all. I know a few people who hike with an umbrella for shade.

I wouldn't count on any breezes.

Scott Truong

Locale: Vancouver, BC
RE: Need Grand Canyon Clothing Recommendations on 05/31/2011 15:28:18 MDT Print View

I just did the Escalante Route the end of April. We had perfect weather. I did it with a pair of quicksilver board shorts and a 150 gr. icebreaker merino short sleeve t-shirt,
ankle socks and NB 876 trail runners. Trucker style (mesh) baseball cap.

Came back with quite the farmers tan.

The other six people we came across down there were wearing long pants and shirt. Sumi gave great advice. If you're going long I'd make sure it's as thin and loose as possible. Definitely a hat (breezier the better).

and.. definitely concur, two thumbs up on the bandanna idea. I tried it for the first time, to protect my neck and it worked great (soaking, tie around neck etc). I can see now why the cowboys I saw in western movies always sported bandannas.

I love the canyon. Enjoy.


The REI Sahara pants are way too thick. If you normally hike in shorts, I'd just go with that. Maybe slap some sunscreen on to see how you do the first few days. Go with something that has proven to breathe really well; something like the Mountain Hardwear Canyon or Mesa pants.

I prefer the lightest weight merino (150g). People always claim wool isn't good in the heat, but I actually find it's very comfortable with the sun blaring down on it (even dark blue). I don't know how you guys hike in polyester.

As Sumi said, it's likely not much hotter. A nice dry hot anyway. It's wide open, so the breeze is nice. No humidity, so cooling down in whatever shade you find is possible.

Edited by elf773 on 05/31/2011 15:46:15 MDT.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
GC clothing on 05/31/2011 18:51:29 MDT Print View

In summer I always went with shorts, a long sleeve shirt (poly cotton blend, light as possible), and a sun hat. Bandana and a baseball cap works. Sunscreen on backs of hands.

Ken Bennett
(ken_bennett) - F

Locale: southeastern usa
Re: Need Grand Canyon Clothing Recommendations on 05/31/2011 19:18:49 MDT Print View

Much less hot, really. The lack of humidity makes a huge difference in comfort, and keeping the direct sun off your skin is cooler. In June of 06 I wore light long pants and a l/s nylon shirt, with a hemp Tilley hat and was very comfortable. Wetting my hat cooled my head -- my wife had a nylon Tilley and that didn't work for her. I also slathered on the sunscreen on exposed areas several times per day -- the sun will beat down on you all day long. I should have had some sort of light gloves -- the backs of my hands burned, and I couldn't seem to keep sunscreen on them. But my neck was okay, though it often burns at home.

When we were there, it was 37-F at the trailhead on the north rim, and 105-F at the bottom.

John Julyan-Gudgeon
(Cyanide) - F

Locale: Red Deer, Alberta, Canada
Clothes for Grand Canyon on 05/31/2011 19:49:12 MDT Print View

I just got back from the Grand Canyon too. Hiked the first week of May.

I wore some fairly heavy long pants (some type of nylon that breathes and acts cotton...actually not that heavy), and a t-shirt. I wore military liner socks with military oversocks (at least Canadian Military). Heavy leather boots. An Outdoor Research Sun Hat.

The sun was intense, but there was occasional breeze. Absolutely no shade and the ground has a tendency to bounce the sunlight all back up at you.

I found my sunscreen stopped working (sun too intense or maybe sunscreen expired, it was UPF 60). My arms were starting to burn by the end of the first day. As the forecast was for brighter, warmer weather, was getting worried. So, I took a pair of the long linger socks (black, thin, synthetic), cut the tips off them and wore them as arm coverings. I anticipated that they would be ovens, but protect my skin. In the end, I discovered a new clothing item that will come with me at all times. Not only did it protect my skin from the sun, it distributed and retained my sweat long enough to control how it evapourated for maximal benefit. My arms, covered in black socks became the coolest part of my body. They were downright chilly at times. Further, I could dump some non-purified water on the socks, and they would stay wet and slowly dry over the length of about 30-60 minutes (combined with sweat additions) to keep my arms chilly in the 90 degree heat.

As for the pants: the different between pants and shorts is the difference between being afraid and cautious (slow walking near) of cactus or being appreciative of cactus beauty without needing to slow down to gingerly avoid it.

After that, I carried a bunch of clothes that I just did not use. Well, not true. I used the two pairs of underwear I brought as extra and did make use of my extra full set of socks. And, I used my low-profile rainjacket and toque for warmth and bug protection at night.

Oh, and I made use of some biking gloves, which saved my skin and nails from sunburn (sunburn on the nails is torture)

My extra shirt, down vest, long sleeve undershirt, shorts, long johns were absolutely unused (hey don't laugh at me, I am from Canada, where it is bred into the genes that every hiking trip will have snow).



Steven Paris
(saparisor) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Need Grand Canyon Clothing Recommendations on 05/31/2011 19:59:02 MDT Print View

One option you might want to consider:

Pearl Izumi Sunsleeves with whatever t-shirt you normally wear.

I wore these on my arms recently in Bolivia, although I still burned just a little bit -- but we were at almost 13,000 ft on an island with no tree cover and very strong sun. Generally, I was happy with them, but I don't mind skin-tight sleeves.

It might be a trade-off: loose sleeves might feel more comfortable, but sleeves like this can be pulled down a little at the upper arm and breezes can get up the sleeves of a t-shirt. Also, they can be pulled down over the tops of your hands if you are starting to burn there.

Richard Barish
(rdbarish) - F

Locale: New Mexico
Re: Grand Canyon Clothing Recommendations on 05/31/2011 21:39:04 MDT Print View

I've done plenty of hiking in canyon country in shorts/tee-shirt/hat/sunscreen without burning. YMMV of course. On the other hand, when I asked a friend who is a dermatologist to recommend a sunscreen, she said: "Oh, it's too late for you, Richard!" I recently bought a Chrome Dome that I am looking forward to trying on my next trip to canyon country to keep things a bit cooler.

Ryan C
(radio_guy) - MLife

Locale: Alaska
Re: Need Grand Canyon Clothing Recommendations on 05/31/2011 22:54:43 MDT Print View

Everyone is different. I wear long pants, a L/S shirt, and a wide brim cotton hat (everything khaki colored) when in the desert. It served me very well in the Grand Canyon. Other people were roasting like lobsters in shorts/t-shirts but I was cooler due to having a layer of sweat on my skin under the L/S shirt. Some people actually thought I was a park ranger. Never got sunburn once out there. It was mid May and the temp at the rim was 32*F. Four hours later at the bottom near the Colorado river it was 106*F.

One thing I would change is to take trekking poles next time. Your knees will thank you.

EDIT: My photo in the left was taken in Death Valley in 110*F temps. Similar clothing combo to above.

Edited by radio_guy on 05/31/2011 22:56:45 MDT.