Best Men's Hiking Shirts: Our Top Picks for 2021
Scroll down for the full reviews of our top men's hiking shirts...
Summer is finally here and lockdown is saying its (painstakingly slow) goodbyes, so it’s time to head out to the hills for some fun. Summer hiking can be hot work though, yes, even in the UK! There are few things worse than walking for miles with your back wet through with sweat and having to wring your shirt out every time you stop.
Or walking into the pub for the PWP (post-walk pint), fully aware that you’re giving off a bar-clearing odour. You’ll need a shirt that’s comfy and that’ll keep you cool and dry - the best shirts are quick drying, breathable and lightweight.
We’ve done our outdoor research on some of the best hiking shirts out there for your summer adventures. Don’t just keep them for warm weather - they’re so good they make cracking base layers for winter trips too.
OK, so which is the Best Men's Hiking Shirt?
Best for: multi- activities - Icebreaker Men’s Merino 150
Best for: extremely hot environments - Columbia Silver Ridge
Best for: trail runners - Patagonia Capilene Cool
Best for: long distance walkers and backpackers- Icebreaker Tech Lite Merino
Best for: moisture control - Columbia Zero Rules
Best for: ultralight hikers - Arc’teryx Motus Crew
Best for: those on a budget - Salomon Agile SS
Best for: comfort - Black Diamond Rhythm Tee
Best for: odour control- Outdoor Research Echo
Best Hiking Shirts for Men - Things to Consider
What's the best material for a hiking shirt?
Merino is used in many hiking shirts as it’s super soft yet breathable. It’s naturally antimicrobial meaning it’s great at reducing odours and keeping those pongy pits at bay - a merino shirt can be worn for days on the trail without being washed.
They’re quick drying so if some sweat does leak through it’ll dry before you’re even aware of it., whereas fabrics like cotton will absorb water instead of wicking it away from the body. However merino hiking shirts can be on the pricy side and can also be less durable. Some products with a high merino content can only be washed in cold water.
Many manufacturers get around this by adding nylon fibres to make them harder wearing. Now, you might think wearing wool in the summer is just plain wrong - we tend to associate merino wool products with warmth after all.
However, merino wool can actually make a great summer product as it can be knit very thinly – you’d be best choosing a hiking shirt with 150gsm – 200gsm (grams per square metre). The merino wool fibres also give a great natural protection against UV radiation – what can’t it do!
A lot of hiking shirts use core spun merino wool. This involves spinning the wool around a super-thin nylon core which creates something that’s stronger and more durable than traditional merino, but still keeps its qualities. Shirts with core spun merino tend to last longer and stand up much better to repeated washing.
Most synthetic shirts are made from polyester - it dries fast and absorbs less sweat than other fabrics. They’re not as soft as merino shirts, so may not be quite as comfy, but are generally cheaper. They are usually machine washable and can be washed more frequently than merino shirts.
Polyester shirts are often treated with an antimicrobial agent to give some defence against sweaty odours, but this can start to disappear after several washes.
Nylon is sometimes combined with polyester and merino to give a shirt the ability to stretch and to strengthen fabrics.
Some of the best hiking shirts have sun protection built in and the UPF rating indicates how much UV radiation it’ll protect against. The UPF rating can be affected by certain factors such as the type of fibre and the looseness of the weave. Sun protection can become less effective over time with repeated wear and washing.
Your shirt needs to feel comfortable from the moment you put it on. The best hiking shirts are those you don’t even know you’re wearing. Anything that doesn’t feel quite right in the comfort of your lounge will be amplified ten times when out on the trail. Check the fit – is it too tight? Too restrictive? Too loose? Having loads of spare material flapping around can be worse than not being able to move freely.
Nobody loves that chafing sensation of a raised seam rubbing your skin raw, so the best men's hiking shirts will have flat seams. The most popular type is a Flatlock seam, which has no layers underneath to irritate skin.
Types of hiking shirts
These are versatile, lightweight and generally wick away sweat. Made from both merino wool and synthetics, some have extra features such as pockets, mesh for extra ventilation and reflector panels.
Their downside is that they don’t protect your arms and neck from the sun or bitey insects.
These provide better protection for your arms, but they’re mostly either crew or V-neck so they won’t protect your neck. It’s also difficult to roll the sleeves back if you get really hot.
They may be more suited to slightly cooler weather, however many long sleeve T-shirts are breathable and have odour control built in. They're also a natural insect repellent, as they cover more of your skin (this will protect you from the sun, too)
A button-up hiking shirt has the advantage of letting you choose to let more air in by partially unbuttoning them. They usually come with long sleeves and a collar, which gives better protection from the sun and from insects.
Sleeves can usually be rolled back if desired and they often have other features such as a chest pocket or mesh panels.
The best hiking shirt for you will largely be a matter of personal choice and what you’ll be using the shirt for. If you’re going somewhere hot, or you’ll be doing lots of high-intensity stuff such as trail running, you’ll need a shirt that sucks the sweat from your body, like the Patagonia Caprilene Cool.
If you’re back-packing along a long trail, you’ll want a shirt you can wear for days without washing, so the Icebreaker Tech Lite may fit the bill nicely. Going to be camping? Check out our best tent brands and shelters for a good night's kip.
Walking somewhere slightly cooler or feel the cold? You’ll appreciate the extra warmth of the Salomon Agile.
You’ll also need to think about the fit of your shirt. Some are designed to cling to the body, whereas others give a much looser fit for greater freedom of movement. It depends on what feels best for you. You also need to consider whether you prefer a short or longer sleeve shirt.
How do I wash my hiking shirt?
If it's made from merino, you’ll need to handle it with slightly more care than a synthetic shirt. Merino shirts are best washed on cooler cycles with a medium spin. Try not to put them in a drier – excessive temperatures can shrink them faster than lockdown shrank the rest of our wardrobe.
Due to the antimicrobial properties of merino wool they don’t need washing as often as synthetic shirts. Washing them only when they really need it will extend their life.
Don’t use fabric softeners to wash hiking gear, they block the tiny pores which give them their wicking properties. It’s a good idea to wash your sweaty hiking gear as soon as possible instead of leaving it to fester at the bottom of the laundry basket – the odour will fester and be much more difficult to get out. If you can’t wash your gear straight away, hang it up to let it dry out.
Synthetic shirts can generally be washed on a normal cycle, ideally around 40C. Again, avoid putting them into the drier if you don’t want them to shrink. Both Merino and synthetic shirts are pretty quick drying – don’t hang them up if they’re wet from the machine though as they could stretch out of shape. Lie them out somewhere flat instead.
Check out the washing instructions for each shirt on the label to be on the safe side.
Should I go for a long-sleeve or short-sleeve hiking shirt?
Obviously, it's completely up to you, but if you're somewhere with lots of bugs, a long-sleeve hiking shirt will act as a natural insect repellent. Shirt-sleeves would be cooler in hotter weather, but would protect your arms less from the sun and of course, don't forget the farmer tan lines.
Can't I just wear a normal shirt?
Of course you can! But if you're going on a long distance walk or just do a lot of backpacking trips, it might get to the point where you think it's worth investing. A normal shirt will do the trick just fine, but it won't necessarily be the best at temperature regulation, odor resistance or drying quickly.
What's the best material to look for in a hiking shirt?
The best material in our opinion is merino wool. Polyester and other synthetics do the trick just as well, but merino wins our vote for a being a lot more sustainable and kind to the environment, and a lot more durable too.