Last Updated on June 12, 2023

When you’re in the desert, it’s important to choose the right fabric for your clothes to ensure you stay cool and comfortable in the hot and dry climate.

Look for fabrics that allow your skin to breathe, pull away sweat to keep you dry, and are lightweight for added comfort.

Oh, and don’t forget about dressing in layers! Layering up or down lets you easily adapt to the ever-changing temperatures of the desert.

Choosing the appropriate clothes can make or break your experience in the desert, so it’s best to invest in some quality materials for your desert outfit.

Woman wearing long sleeve linen dress in the desert.

Best Fabrics for Desert Heat

Linen

Linen is the fabric of choice for desert wear due to its exceptional breathability, moisture-wicking capabilities, and durability.

Linen strikes the best compromise between performance and price, and it’s one of the most popular materials amongst those who live in desert areas.

The natural fibers of linen facilitate air circulation, keeping you cool in the heat. Its moisture-wicking properties help absorb perspiration, providing a comfortable experience in the arid climate.

Merino Wool

Merino wool is an excellent choice for desert clothing, offering superior temperature regulation. The higher the percentage of merino wool, the better its performance.

Merino wool keeps you warm during cold desert nights and cool in scorching days. Its moisture-wicking and odor-resistant properties make it a worthwhile investment for all-season desert outfit, despite being slightly pricier than other options.

Even if you decide not to cover yourself in Merino wool head to toe, investing in some Merino wool desert hiking socks is one of the best decisions you can make – your feet will thank you.

Synthetic Fabrics

Polyester, spandex, and polypropylene are the preferred synthetic fabrics for desert heat. These some of the most affordable options for desert clothing, that will provide adequate performance without breaking your wallet.

Polyester is lightweight, breathable, and quick-drying, making it ideal for the desert’s hot and dry conditions.

Spandex offers flexibility and comfort, allowing for ease of movement.

Polypropylene excels in moisture-wicking and odor resistance, ensuring you stay dry and fresh in the desert heat.

Cotton

Cotton, despite being a somewhat controversial choice, can still be suitable for desert clothing if selected thoughtfully. Its moisture-absorbing properties can aid in keeping cool by wicking away sweat from the body.

However, some desert hikers may find cotton leaves them feeling sweaty. To mitigate this, opt for lightweight and breathable cotton garments to enhance airflow and prevent excessive sweating.


Materials to Avoid

Wool

Wool should be avoided in desert wear due to its insulating properties. It can trap heat, causing discomfort and potential risk of heat stroke in extreme desert temperatures. Opt for lighter and more breathable fabrics instead.

Denim

Denim is not suitable for hot and dry desert climates as it is a heavyweight fabric with limited breathability. It retains heat, leading to discomfort. Choose lighter fabrics that allow for better air circulation.

Nylon

Nylon, commonly used in outdoor clothing, is not ideal for desert wear. It tends to be hot and less breathable, resulting in discomfort in the desert heat. Additionally, nylon does not absorb sweat well, leading to potential chafing.


Woman wearing a shemagh desert scarf around her head and face.
Woman wearing a shemagh desert headscarf.

Things to consider

Dressing in layers is essential in the desert as temperatures can fluctuate dramatically throughout the day.

Layering allows for easy adjustment, ensuring comfort in both scorching daytime heat and cooler evenings. Bring a jacket with you if you intend to camp in the desert.

Opting for long-sleeved shirts and pants in the desert provides added protection against the harsh sun, reducing the risk of sunburn and heat-related skin damage.

Long sleeves also help to shield your skin from sand, insects, and other desert elements, enhancing overall comfort during outdoor activities.

Choose light-colored fabrics that reflect heat instead of absorbing it. This helps to keep your body cooler in the desert climate and reduces the risk of overheating.

Opt for loose-fitting garments that allow air circulation. Loose clothing allows for better airflow, promoting ventilation and helping to regulate body temperature in the hot desert environment.

Look for fabrics with UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays. This ensures that you stay protected from excessive sun exposure, reducing the risk of sunburn and skin damage.

Consider clothing with built-in ventilation features, such as mesh panels or zippered vents, for enhanced airflow. These additional ventilation options allow for better air circulation, keeping you cooler and more comfortable in the desert heat.

Avoid heavy layers and opt for lightweight and breathable fabrics. Heavy layers can trap heat and cause discomfort in the desert climate, so choosing lightweight and breathable materials will help keep you cool and prevent excessive sweating.

Don’t forget to protect your head and neck with a wide-brimmed hat and a lightweight scarf or bandana. These accessories provide shade and protection from the sun, keeping you comfortable and safeguarding against sunburn.

Always prioritize comfort and functionality when selecting your desert clothing. Opt for clothing that allows for ease of movement, fits well, and suits the demands of desert activities. This ensures that you can fully enjoy your time in the desert while staying comfortable and protected.

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