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Clothing for desert hiking
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Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Clothing for desert hiking on 05/13/2014 23:50:25 MDT Print View

I have lived in the lower desert for over 30 years and have a dark complexion. For me I wear a loose knit t-shirt (or no shirt so I can work on my tan) and Patagonia Baggies with the liner cut out. I wear a wide brimmed Tilley hat, but it is often tied to my pack.

For most people a cotton/poly L/S shirt is probably best and cheap too. You need some sort of hat with ventilation. Pants or shorts is probably pretty much up to the individual. Windshirts are valuable commodities. There can be huge temperature swings between night and day too.

100F is hot. Above 105F is really hot -- if you've never hiked in this kind of temperature then you need to really do some serious thinking about any trip where this might happen. Most important is plenty of water and you must CONFIRM any water sources on your route ahead of time!!

Flash floods can originate miles and miles, far, far away from your location. There is no quick and easy recommendations on this subject.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Clothing for desert hiking on 05/14/2014 00:21:27 MDT Print View

Polycotton is the bees knees/cats meow for warm weather.

Mark Fowler
(KramRelwof) - MLife

Locale: Namadgi
White on 05/14/2014 05:31:57 MDT Print View

+ 1 on the poly cotton business shirt. Buy white and size up. You will be amazed by the difference clothing colour makes to your comfort. While this has been referred to in earlier posts, I think it needs to be said in a more explicit manner - All white (or very light) shirt, pants and hat.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: White on 05/14/2014 05:37:25 MDT Print View

> Buy white and size up. You will be amazed by the difference clothing colour makes to your comfort.

So why do the Bedouin wear black in the desert?


David Olsen
( - M

Locale: Channeled Scablands
So it doesn't show dirt on 05/14/2014 05:44:28 MDT Print View

Black lets less sunlight through. If there is enough insulation underneath, then black would be cooler?

Woubeir (from Europe)
(Woubeir) - F - MLife
Re: Re: White on 05/14/2014 05:51:31 MDT Print View

"Buy white and size up."

"So why do the Bedouin wear black in the desert?"

Interesting points. I did search for this and both for white and black there's an explanation, but no single explanation that does put the arguments for white and black against eachother and explains which is the most important one. So, anybody ?

One thing that I already can make up: choose something loose and airy.

jeffrey armbruster
(book) - M

Locale: Northern California
"Clothing for desert hiking" on 05/14/2014 10:37:52 MDT Print View

Sun Precautions--I think I have that right--makes clothing from Solumbra; lightweight and 100% spf. They make a great drape hat that works terrific for mosquitoes as well. It's larger than the usual drape hat and can be easily adjusted on the go to cover more or less of your face--that's why it's great for skeeters, you can cover up over your nose if you enter a cloud and then 'unzip' it completely off of your face if you want. Again, 100% spf. And loose and airy.

Cotton alone--like a bandana--isn't that good for keeping sun off; it pretty much just penetrates. But this last is a surprisingly controversial assertion. So YMMV.

Edited by book on 05/14/2014 10:38:54 MDT.

Just In Time
(ArcturusBear1) - F
Re: Re: White on 05/14/2014 11:52:23 MDT Print View

"So why do the Bedouin wear black in the desert?"

Not all wear black, some wear lighter colors. Perhaps it's more a matter of social/tribal distinction, rather than sheer practicality?

Humans in general are not known for sheer, or holistic practicality in all things we do or don't do. You can see this in many different cultures in many different ways.

Our western culture is filled with such examples, like high heels for women. Why on Source's earth, would any one subject themselves to such a convention that causes damage and discomfort to the body? Not practical in the least bit.

What i do know is that, there has been a HUGE difference when i've worn very dark and very light colors in the Sun during a hot day. Perhaps you would feel it less with more insulation underneath, but no thanks either way. What i could see as being more practical in the desert is to wear a thin, breathable black layer next to the body out of cotton that hugs same, and then over same some white or light colored, loose, flowing linen clothes. This would provide a lot of Solar UV and heat protection, as well as minimize moisture loss.

Many modern day Islamic men whose ancestors come from more desert like conditions, tend to wear a lot of linen or cotton that is long, flowing and loose, and often lighter colored. Just check out one of these online clothing stores that cater solely to people of the Islamic faith.

Linen use to be popular among ancient Egyptians, as well as ancient Hebrews. Sure the latter like other Middle Easterners wore wool often, but linen was especially commonly used by royalty, the wealthy, and the priesthood.

If we look at only one section, we get a limited view.

Edited by ArcturusBear1 on 05/14/2014 12:06:35 MDT.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Re: White on 05/14/2014 11:54:58 MDT Print View

"So why do the Bedouin wear black in the desert?"

Who knows, and why would we assume it is for weather protection. Might be tradition, ancient beliefs, the only dye available, doesn't show dirt, easy to locate lost people in the desert, etc. Why do Americans drive on the right side of the road and many other countries on the left?

Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Missed it it one on 05/14/2014 12:58:02 MDT Print View

With all due respect, its not why they "all" wear black. Which they do not. The question was why anyone would EVER wear black under those conditions. Which they DO. Apparently under the right circumstances (loose black robes) it works, contrary to what you might think on first blush since black should be a bit more efficient in converting the solar to local heat. I merely pointed out, as an interesting aside, that some nutty physicists had actually analyzed the problem and come to some physics-based conclusions. They could be all wrong, but a set of trite observations about cultural differences doesn't begin to address their conclusions - namely that the whole point might be the heat differentials created in these garments, under the right conditions could suck air flow up the wazoo like a chimney. Or at the very least cause some pleasant convection.

Could very well turn ou to be one of those "birds in a van" type myths however as far as efficacy goes. I mean I read Dune, and that is NOT how stillsuits work! Also can you imagine how much Patagonia would charge for a set of black "desert trekking" robes?

Edited by millonas on 05/14/2014 13:23:10 MDT.

David Olsen
( - M

Locale: Channeled Scablands
black tarps are cooler on 05/14/2014 14:35:00 MDT Print View

Tested this one. Black plastic tarps, given a 3 ft air gap, are cooler than white plastic or the thin space blankets. They make darker shade. However, wearing it near the body wouldn't allow that insulation of air.

Woubeir (from Europe)
(Woubeir) - F - MLife
Re: black tarps are cooler on 05/14/2014 14:50:48 MDT Print View

that air gap is crucial ... and at least a 3 m/s wind

Michael L
(mpl_35) - MLife

Locale: The Palouse
Re: Re: Re: Re: White on 05/14/2014 14:55:34 MDT Print View

"Why do Engligh and some of their former colonies drive on the right side of the road and nearly everybody else on the left?"


On the desert clothing. I prefer long sleeves/pants for sun protection. But then I hate sun block. Offers more protection from bugs/thorns too.

Edited by mpl_35 on 05/14/2014 15:06:55 MDT.

. .
(RogerDodger) - F

Locale: (...)
... on 05/14/2014 14:59:31 MDT Print View


Edited by RogerDodger on 06/29/2015 13:50:11 MDT.

d k
(dkramalc) - MLife
Re: "So why do the Bedouin wear black in the desert?" on 05/14/2014 15:15:40 MDT Print View

I found to my surprise when trekking in Nepal that a black umbrella blocked WAY more of the sun's rays than a light colored umbrella of similar construction, and was much more comfortable in the sun. I would guess that the loose fitting black robes may work in a similar fashion.

Woubeir (from Europe)
(Woubeir) - F - MLife
Re: Re: "So why do the Bedouin wear black in the desert?" on 05/14/2014 15:25:06 MDT Print View

Well, no actually. Black absorbs the heat of the sun ... but also that of your body. That heat is then carried away by the wind and that's also the reason why black clothes should be loose and airy.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Re: Re: "So why do the Bedouin wear black in the desert?" on 05/14/2014 15:37:10 MDT Print View

My physicist BIL pondered my Chrome Dome which is silvered on top and black on the inside. While the silvering on top helps keep the umbrella temperature down, the black underneath radiants more of that umbrella's heat to the human than a silver liner would.

It is at this point that everyone starts arguing which factors dominate and tries to apply different heat-exchange formulas to the situation. When really what is needed is a field test of different configurations. My best guess is that the Ray Jardine's space-blanket loose liner in a standard umbrella is the best solution for being cool, although more it's fragile.

I'm happy with my Chrome Dome. It is reasonably light, packable, and it feels noticeably cooler underneath in full sun at 8,000 feet. I'd order another when they next go on sale, but they want more for S&H than for the umbrella.

Jeremy and Angela
(requiem) - F

Locale: Northern California
Bedouin robe choice on 05/14/2014 15:37:31 MDT Print View

A test of desert garb was done back in 1980 and published in Nature. The result was "it doesn't matter". While the black robes had triple the heat gain of the white, the air temperature underneath the robes remained the same. It was thought that there might be greater convection (bellows/chimney effect) under the black robes to balance out the numbers, and also mentioned that if so this might increase a feeling of comfort as well.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Re: Re: "So why do the Bedouin wear black in the desert?" on 05/14/2014 15:42:39 MDT Print View

"Black absorbs the heat of the sun ... but also that of your body"

It does absorb the heat of sun, because most of it is in visible wavelength, which makes it seem black to us.

The heat of the body is mostly in IR, because the body is much colder than the sun. Fabric that is white or black in visible wavelengths actually both absorb IR about the same.

I like Greg's theory though, about black fabric absorbing sunlight, so getting warmer, which then causes more air currents, which could also carry away some body heat. You have to have an air space between fabric and body though.

Dark colored fabric tends to provide better sun protection. The dye absorbs UV so it doesn't reach your body. But white zinc or titanium dioxide absorbs UV good so it just depends.

Woubeir (from Europe)
(Woubeir) - F - MLife
Re: Bedouin robe choice on 05/14/2014 16:10:07 MDT Print View

I know that study but it was almost directly critised. And apparantly they asked the wrong question. Black can be a slight disadvantage in heat but, more importantly,is much better in preserving heat e.g. at night or in the winter which can be crucial to survive.