Best Hiking Shirts and Tops

Best Hiking Shirts

Learn about our top picks for hiking shirts and tops for your next hiking or backpacking adventure!

When it comes to finding the best hiking shirts on the market, there seem to be near-infinite choices to wade through. So how are you supposed to make a decision? Since essentially all USA hiking vacations need at least one good shirt, it’s not the sort of decision you want to overlook. We all want a top that’s durable enough for rugged hiking yet light enough for good ventilation. Or maybe you prefer a button-up, or perhaps a hoodie? Don’t worry! We’ve done the research, completed the field testing, and now it’s time to share our top recommendations for the best hiking shirts and tops for your next adventure.

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Honorable Mentions

KEY CONSIDERATIONS for the best hiking shirts


There are so many shirt options to choose from that it may seem a little daunting. Let’s narrow down the best hiking shirts by first separating them by material. In this regard, we’ll most often see 100% merino wool, a wool blend, or fully synthetic shirts.

Wool hiking shirts offer an excellent balance between comfort and performance. Merino wool is naturally odor-fighting and moisture-wicking, two crucial characteristics that we love to see on the trail. However, wool tends to be less durable than synthetic materials and has a tendency to feel baggy when very wet – which can certainly happen on burly ascents or while hiking in tropical and humid environments. It’s for these reasons that you’ll often find wool blended with synthetic materials to try and negate these drawbacks.

Wool Pros: 

  • Odor Control
  • Moisture Wicking
  • Very comfortable
  • Great temperature regulation

Wool Cons: 

  • Lower durability
  • Can stretch and feel saggy/clingy when wet
  • Expensive

As expected, synthetic hiking shirts tend to offer the inverse of wool blend options. We most often see polyester and nylon (or a blend of the two) in this category, and they offer a tough garment that can take a beating on the trail as you rack up those miles. They also tend to dry exceptionally fast and are better at holding their shape when wet. However, synthetic shirts aren’t as effective as combating foul smells and can develop a perma-funk as time goes by. Of course, specialized detergents and targeted washing can counter this drawback, but it’s certainly worth noting while making your decision.

Synthetic Pros: 

  • Budget-friendly
  • Very durable
  • Quick-drying
  • Holds its shape

Synthetic Cons: 

  • Not naturally odor resistant
  • May have a slightly rougher feel than wool blends

It’s worth noting that we are intentionally avoiding cotton materials while searching for the best hiking shirt. This is due to the fact that cotton is a traditionally poor choice for hiking as it retains moisture, dries slowly, and can lower your body temperature dangerously fast. In fact, the National Park Service’s Safety Tips specifically call out cotton as a poor material choice. Now, we appreciate that cotton shirts can be incredibly soft and comfortable, and they may be a good choice for a camp or sleep shirt, but avoid them for hiking.

Long or Short-Sleeves

Your choice in this category depends on a number of factors, and it’s important to lay them out before making your decision. First and foremost, think about the climate where you’ll be hiking. If you’re hiking in chilly temperatures or facing long, exposed days in full sun (especially at higher altitudes), then it may well be worth exploring long-sleeved options for their improved warmth and sun protection. Now add to this question your own personal preferences for hiking. If you’re the type that runs hot on the trail and the thought of hiking with long sleeves fills you with dread, then you may want to opt for a t-shirt or tank top!

Additionally, keep in mind that it’s best practice to hike with a layering system. Meaning that you’ll have your base hiking shirt, a sun hoodie or mid-layer to put on if it’s chilly, and a rain jacket or shell to complete the system for weather protection.


When it comes to the best hiking shirts and tops, we’ll often see prices range from $40 to around $100. We typically see basic synthetic layers at the lower end of the spectrum, and wool or highly technical shirts on the upper end. As with most hiking gear purchases, think of what you want your investment to yield. If you’re expecting to hike regularly and want reliable and bombproof shirts that will stick with you for multiple seasons, then a higher-end shirt may well be worth the price. Conversely, if you’re an infrequent hiker or only have one big trip on the books, then a more budget-friendly option may be worth exploring.

Smartwool Classic All-Season

Best Wool Blend Hiking Shirt 

PROS: Good odor protection – Incredibly comfortable – Durable

CONS: Gets a little baggy when wet – High Price

LOOKING CLOSER: We tested the Smartwool Classic shirt on a 25-day hike along the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal, and it performed beautifully. Zero snags or pilling, comfortable all day long from humid forests to cool alpine, and impressive odor protection. We were often hiking for many days on end before getting a chance to wash clothes, and the Smartwool Classic held its own against funky smells. The slightly heavier design also adds to this shirt’s appeal for both hiking or as a camp/sleeping layer. As with many wool blends, this shirt becomes a little baggy when the sweat adds up, or a rain storm catches you in the open. But overall, its performance in the field is outstanding, and the Smartwool Classic All-Season is easily one of the best hiking shirts on the market.

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Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily

Best Synthetic Hiking Shirt

PROS: Exceptional breathability – Quick-drying – Lower cost than wool – Minimal stitching and seams to lessen chaffing

CONS: Polygiene® odor control is good but not as effective as wool

LOOKING CLOSER: Patagonia commands a rock-solid reputation in the outdoor space for producing quality gear, and their Capilene line of adventure shirts maintains that high-performance prestige. These shirts are rugged and should easily last season after season. What’s more, they’re designed to be versatile and function well for almost any outdoor activity – especially hiking – while still looking good as a casual around-town shirt. Patagonia also incorporated several subtle but thoughtful features, including chaff-free seams and a specialized shoulder design to promote ease of movement. We do trade merino wool’s plush comfort and odor control for the Capilene’s bombproof build, but if you’re looking for a shirt that can keep up with you and take everything the outdoors has to offer, then the Patagonia Capilene Daily may be the best hiking shirt for you.

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Outdoor Research Astroman

Best Button-Up Hiking Shirt

PROS: Stretchy material moves with you – UPF 30+ sun protection – Very soft material

CONS: Buttons may feel restrictive for some – Expensive

LOOKING CLOSER: Button-up shirts for hiking may not be for everyone, but for the adventurers who like cutting a dash in the backcountry, the Outdoor Research Astroman is for you. The nylon-spandex blend is delightfully stretchy, matching your movements for everything from backpacking to rock climbing, and also very soft to the touch. This shirt also offers UPF 30+ sun protection, making it an ideal layer for exposed sunny days on the trail. Apart from a button design being an acquired taste, the Astroman also comes with a noticeably high price tag. However, an impeccable design that’s constantly getting updated along with tried-and-true field performance may well be worth it for hikers looking for the best button-up hiking shirts.

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MEN’S Short Sleeve WOMEN’S Short Sleeve 

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PROS: Very comfy – UPF 50+ sun protection – Handy stash pocket – Good Price

CONS: Runs warm – Prone to pilling

LOOKING CLOSER: Cotopaxi has been refining and dialing in their outdoor apparel over the years, and the latest iteration of the Sombra hoodie reflects that continuing effort. At an approachable $70 for a rugged sun hoodie, the Sombra offers extreme comfort and sun protection on the trail. The hood stays put, and the seams are strategically placed to minimize chafing (especially under a backpacking pack). However, the Sombra may be a little overkill for exceptionally hot destinations – such as desert hiking – as the material tends to run a little warm. But for keeping you comfortable, warm, and protected on temperate trips or cooler shoulder season excursions, the Sombra is one of the best hiking hoodies out there.

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REI Co-op Sahara

Best Budget Hiking Shirt

PROS: Very accessible price – Solid performance – Durable build – Stretchy material for good mobility

CONS: Material not as comfortable as other options – Fit feels slightly boxy

LOOKING CLOSER: REI’s gear brand has come a long way over the years, and the Sahara line – in particular – has become a solid budget clothing option for almost any standard hiking adventure. In this case, the Sahara T-shirts and Tanks offer a good blend of durability and stretch to be comfortable and reliable in the backcountry. However, the overall fit isn’t the specialized/tailored feel we get from other higher-end options while the material doesn’t quite offer the same level of plushness. But for a budget, entry-level, shirt to get you on the trail without agonizing over more expensive choices, the REI Sahara is a fantastic option.

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MEN’S T-Shirt WOMEN’S T-Shirt

MEN’S Long SleeveWOMEN’S Tank Top

Honorable Mentions

Best Hiking Shirts

Smartwool Ultralite

PROS: Very lightweight – Highly breathable – Odor protection

CONS: Fewer purchasing options (no long sleeve)

LOOKING CLOSER: Smartwool reimagined their lightweight wool lineup for this year, and we were very impressed with the resulting Active Ultralite shirts. These tops are noticeably lightweight and breathable, making them ideal for when you’re working hard. The added breathability also allows the Ultralite to dry fairly quickly, another important feature for the trail. With a 47% synthetic fiber blend, the Active Ultralite also strikes a great balance between robust durability (thanks to the synthetics) and odor protection (thanks to the wool), and we definitely noticed both of these positives on the trail. Truly, our only critique is that we wish Smartwool produced a long-sleeve option in addition to the t-shirts and tanks – hopefully, that comes next!

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IBex Journey TEE

PROS: Very soft material – Odor protection – Fast drying for wool

CONS: Very expensive

STRAIGHT TALK: We’ve been enjoying Ibex’s hiking clothing lately, and the Journey Tee is another addition to that successful lineup. Here, we have merino wool’s classic odor protection and temperature regulation blended into a surprisingly quick-drying garment for a wool shirt. However, the Ibex Journey Tee comes with a steep price tag, but if you’re looking for a high-quality t-shirt that carries that premium feel into the backcountry, then this may be one of the best hiking shirts for you.

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MEN’S T-Shirt WOMEN’S T-Shirt


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More Information About Hiking Shirts

Keeping Your Shirt Fresh While Hiking

Multiple days of hiking can truly endow even the best hiking shirts with some serious funk. Therefore, it’s worth talking about some tips and tricks for making your shirts last in the backcountry.

Firstly, we recommend having a dedicated non-hiking sleep shirt. Going to bed in a scuzzy hiking shirt that you sweated in all day isn’t going to be relaxing or comfortable at all, so establish a “sacred shirt” that’s just for sleeping or around camp. Changing shirts for sleeping will also give you a chance to hang up your hiking shirt at night to allow it to dry and air out. Letting your hiking shirt dry completely will help prevent odor-causing bacteria from taking hold.

Additionally, if the opportunity arises at camp or at the end of the day, give your shirt a rinse in some fresh water and hang it up to dry all night. This will revitalize the shirt and help you eke out several more hiking days before the shirt needs a proper wash.

Why Trust Us?

Choosing the right outdoor gear and apparel can be difficult. But at Wildland Trekking, we live and work with hiking gear every single day. It’s an integral part of what we do, and we understand better than anyone how important it is to have the right equipment. In addition to our vast knowledge of backpacking gear, we also offer:

  • Independence – our recommendations are not influenced by partnerships or sponsorships with outdoor gear and apparel manufacturers.
  • Experience – as one of America’s top guide companies, we take 8,000-10,000 people on hiking and backpacking tours annually. Since our inception in 2005, we have guided more than 75,000 people into the wilderness.
  • Cutting Edge Knowledge – we regularly attend trade shows and pay close attention to the leading edge of new developments.
  • Up To Date Recommendations – we update our recommendations regularly as new products are developed and released.
  • Dedication to our Readers – we know that the gear we select as our top picks will end up in the field with our readers, and we take that responsibility very seriously. We view our readers as guests on our guided trips, just without the guides. We are committed to helping you be as well-outfitted and prepared as possible for your adventures.

*Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links. At no cost to you, we earn a commission on any products purchased through these links. Any proceeds go to supporting our blog and operations. These affiliate links do not influence the products that we include in our gear round-ups. We only recommend products that we 100% support and that we have used in the field.