Shopping for a hiking shirt isn’t as research-intensive as looking for the best hiking boot or backpack, but the next-to-skin layer is nevertheless a very important part of a trail kit. First to consider is the shirt’s fabric—polyester offers the best in durability and moisture-wicking, although some might prefer the softer feel of natural fibers like merino (we recommend against cotton). Next up, you’ll want to consider what style best suits your needs: a tank or t-shirt, a button-up short- or long-sleeve, or a sun hoody. We’ve surveyed the field and tested extensively to provide our breakdown of the best women’s hiking shirts of 2023. To learn more, see our comparison table and buying advice below the picks.
 


Our Team's Women's Hiking Shirt Picks



Best Overall Women’s Hiking Shirt

1. Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily ($39)

Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily Shirt (women's hiking shirt)Materials: 100% polyester
Weight: 3.7 oz.
Styles: Tank, SS, LS, hoody
What we like: An affordable yet durable shirt that wicks moisture, dries quickly, and feels great next to skin.
What we don’t: Has a techy look and feel; we can detect some lingering stink after heavy use.

Choosing a hiking shirt isn’t rocket science: Most trail-goers will want a short-sleeve design that looks good and is lightweight and airy, breathable and moisture-wicking, and comfortable under a backpack. The Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily delivers in all these categories. We’ve worn the classic summer-weight shirt for everything from week-long backpacking trips to 100-mile running races, and have been impressed with its soft, flowy feel and quick-drying nature (significantly better than merino tops in our testing). And for just $39, it’s notably durable and long-lasting—our shirt has yet to show wear despite a lot of hard use. There aren’t a ton of features to mention (a good thing, in our opinion), but we do appreciate the Daily’s thin cord loop at the nape for drying, in addition to its sleek seams that minimize chafing underneath a backpack. 

Polyester’s primary downside is its tendency to retain odor, but modern odor control technologies are very effective. Patagonia’s HeiQ Pure doesn’t fully eliminate stink (a sniff test on our recently laundered Capilene Cool Daily reveals this), but it's a big improvement from untreated polyester. It’s also worth noting that the shirt has a fairly techy look and feel and is not particularly form-fitting; you can go a lot softer or classier with some of the merino or button-up designs below (or check out the Capilene Cool Lightweight, which features thinner fabric and a trimmer fit). But for function above all else, the Daily is still our top choice for everything from sweaty summer hiking to mild-weather running, biking, spring ski touring, and more. For a softer, cotton-like alternative, check out the Capilene Cool Trail Shirt (featuring 30% natural fibers), but be prepared for a less durable and more water-absorbent fabric, along with a slightly different fit.
See the Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily

 

Best Merino Wool Hiking Shirt

2. Smartwool Active Ultralite Short Sleeve ($50)

Smartwool Active Ultralite (women's hiking shirt)Materials: 53% merino, 47% tencel lyocell
Weight: 3.1 oz.
Styles: Tank, SS, LS, hoody
What we like: All the benefits of merino in a lightweight, airy, and durable design.
What we don’t: Absorbs moisture much more than polyester; slightly boxy fit.

Merino wool is far and away our favorite material for cold-weather baselayers and socks, thanks to its warm yet breathable, soft, and odor-resistant nature. But for summer or active use, the added insulation can be too much. Going with a thinner merino can often result in a host of durability issues, so our favorite workaround for mild weather is a blended material. The Smartwool Active Ultralite is our headliner for this category, featuring a mix of 53% merino and 47% lyocell, a fiber made in part from wood pulp. We tested the hybrid shirt side by side with Smartwool’s Merino SS (88% merino), and the differences were palpable: While the thick Merino caused us to overheat on a number of occasions, the Active Ultralite felt light and smooth, kept air flowing, and was overall a great match for summer backpacking in the Cascades.

Pilling and other durability issues (such as little holes) can be one of the biggest downsides of lightweight merino shirts—we’ve experienced this with the Patagonia Capilene Cool Merino (65%) and Icebreaker Merino Tech Lite II (100%)—but the Active Ultralite has yet to show signs of wear despite a lot of hard use. It’s certainly not our first choice for particularly sweaty days or use around water, as lyocell and merino both have more absorbent qualities than polyester. And the fit of the Smartwool is slightly more boxy and relaxed than we hope for in a hiking shirt, although we’ll take it over the skin-tight look of many merino designs. All told, we love the look and feel (and smell) of merino for everything from multi-day treks to casual day hikes, and the Active Ultralite pulls it off better than most.
See the Smartwool Active Ultralite Short Sleeve

 

Best Button-up Hiking Shirt 

3. Rabbit High Country SS ($75)

Rabbit High Country Short Sleeve  (women's hiking shirt)Materials: 88% polyester, 12% spandex
Weight: 3.6 oz.
Styles: SS, LS
What we like: Classy style meets high-end comfort and performance.
What we don’t: Not great for layering or sleeping.

Button-up hiking shirts offer a boost in style compared to standard t-shirt designs, and are just as at home on the trail as they are during après at the local brewery. They’re also noticeably ventilated, which has its benefits in hot weather or if you’re building heat while hiking fast. Among the options, the Rabbit High Country SS is our team’s runaway favorite. Don’t be fooled by the plaid: The High Country is fully a performance piece. The stretchy polyester/spandex fabric feels noticeably premium and is highly mobile, lightweight (on our scale, it checks in just 0.3 oz. heavier than the Capilene Cool Daily), and a joy to wear, and Rabbit even included a subtly perforated back for increased venting.

Rabbit’s apparel is geared toward runners, but the High Country is durable enough to hold up to all manner of trail abuse. And while the ventilated backpanel was initially eyebrow-raising, it didn’t pose any issues under a full backpacking pack. What’s more, the metal snaps are well-executed, hard wearing, and much quicker to operate than buttons, and they’re spaced enough for air to flow through the gaps, which creates a really nice cooling effect. Do keep in mind that the button-up design isn't very versatile for activities like layering and sleeping, and is thus not our first choice for extended backcountry trips. But if you like the style or are intrigued by the added ventilation, the High Country’s lightweight, stretchy, and airy personality makes it our favorite button-up hiking shirt of the year.
See the Rabbit High Country SS

 

Best Sun Hoody for Hiking

4. Mountain Hardwear Crater Lake Active Hoody ($72)

Mountain Hardwear Crater Lake Active Hoody (women's hiking shirt)Materials: 88% polyester, 12% elastane
Styles: Tank, LS, ¼-zip, hoody
What we like: Buttery soft and stretchy fabric; offers UV protection with minimal added warmth.
What we don’t: You might want a thinner sun hoody for particularly hot weather.

Ah, the sun hoody. We love this small but mighty piece of gear, which provides nearly complete protection from the sun without adding too much in the way of warmth. Among the options, we keep coming back to the Mountain Hardwear Crater Lake for its buttery soft and stretchy fabric, nicely fitting scuba hood, and trim yet airy fit. Although the fabric rides fairly close to the skin (particularly around our arms), the polyester and elastane blend has a just-right amount of stretch and offers a cooling effect that we just can’t get enough of. We’ve worn this hoody everywhere from Washington’s Glacier Peak Wilderness to the Teton Range in Wyoming, and have yet to find fault with the design.

We found the Crater Lake Active to be perfectly serviceable for hot-weather hiking, but those prone to overheating might want a thinner, looser-fitting, or better-ventilated alternative like the Outdoor Research Echo Hoody or Rabbit UPF Deflector below. However, the Mountain Hardwear is the most durable and comfortable of the bunch, and its 50+ UPF rating beats out the Echo’s 15-20 by a large margin. It’s worth noting that the standard Crater Lake Hoody features a hem drawcord and zippered hip pocket, both of which pair poorly with a backpack hipbelt (the “Active” version here has a simple hem design). All told, for hikers trying to avoid sun exposure, a sun hoody like the Mountain Hardwear Crater Lake Active is strongly worth considering.
See the Mountain Hardwear Crater Lake Active Hoody

 

Best Hiking Tank Top

5. Outdoor Research Essential Tank ($44)

Outdoor Research Essential Tank (women's hiking shirt)Materials: Polyester, spandex
Styles: Tank, SS
What we like: Flattering shape and fit with enough coverage for wearing with a pack.
What we don’t: Not an ideal match for a weighted down backpacking pack.

We don’t always recommend tank tops for hiking, especially when you’re schlepping a heavy backpack. Most don’t offer the coverage you need across the back and shoulders, which can lead to chafing, pressure points, fabric bunching, and more. But if you’re dead set on freeing your arms, the Outdoor Research Essential is a great option. Built with a buttery soft fabric not dissimilar to the Crater Lake above, the Essential Tank offers generous shoulder, back, and hem coverage. And it looks good doing it—we’ve received a lot of compliments when wearing the OR, namely by women on a similar hunt for an under-the-backpack tank.

All that said, we still don’t recommend pairing the Essential Tank with too large of an overnight load. While decently wide, the fabric doesn’t extend all the way across the shoulders, which isn’t great news for hefty backpacking packs with beefy shoulder straps (Arc’teryx's Lana Merino Wool Tank offers a bit more coverage). A tank top can also be a risky choice for sunny days, as shoulders are a UV magnet, particularly at higher elevations. But if you’re not worried about sun exposure and are carrying a lighter and more minimalist day-hiking pack, the Essential Tank is a really fun and flattering option, and we especially love the drop-tail hem for added coverage at the back. Within this category, it’s also worth checking out Oiselle’s Flyout Trail Tank, which was made specifically for pairing with a running hydration pack.
See the Outdoor Research Essential Tank

 

Best Traditional Long-Sleeve Button-up

6. REI Co-op Sahara Solid LS Shirt ($65)

REI Co-op Sahara Solid LS (women's hiking shirt)Materials: 94% nylon, 6% spandex
Weight: 6.8 oz.
Style: LS
What we like: Great feature set and sun protection.
What we don’t: Nylon fabric is thicker and more rigid than most hiking shirts.

If you’re in the market for a traditional long-sleeved hiking shirt, the REI Co-op Sahara Solid is a classic go-to. With a design that’s equally at home for travel, going on safari, or hiking, the Sahara Solid features a full button-up closure at the front, collared neck, and a host of useful features. Storage is great for both on- and off-trail commutes, including two chest pockets with hook and loop closure, a secure zip pocket at the lower back, and a hang loop for sunglasses at the left chest. And when the mercury rises, a mesh-lined back vent keeps air flowing, and rolled-up sleeves secure with button tabs. Finally, the Sahara Solid touts a 50+ UPF rating, which pairs well with its high-coverage design.

Unlike most of the synthetic shirts here, the Sahara Solid is built with nylon, which offers a boost in durability and water resistance compared to polyester. But while nylon is ideal for items like tents and hardshells, it’s a tougher sell in a shirt—the Sahara Solid has a sturdier feel than we’re used to and might cause overheating on particularly hot days. It also has a tendency to wrinkle, which we’d rather not deal with in a hiking shirt. Finally, we wish that REI had chosen a different placement for the zippered pocket—it lies right underneath a backpack’s hipbelt, and also makes the shirt difficult to tuck in (if that’s your style). But for day hikers and cool summer conditions, the Sahara Solid still has a lot going for it, and availability in seven sizes and four colorways will boost its appeal for many.
See the REI Co-op Sahara Solid LS Shirt

 

Best of the Rest

7. Outdoor Research Echo T-Shirt ($46)

Outdoor Research Echo T-Shirt (women's hiking shirt)Materials: 100% polyester
Weight: 2.3 oz.
Styles: Tank, SS, LS, ¼-zip, hoody
What we like: Incredibly lightweight and quick-drying; trim fit and shallow scoop neck offers a bit of style.
What we don’t: Fabric has a tendency to pill and snag; lacks the free-flowing feel of the Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily.

Outdoor Research’s Echo collection has been around for long enough to gain a loyal following, and is home to an array of offerings, including a tank top, sun hoody, and the short-sleeve shirt here. The 100% recycled polyester fabric is remarkably lightweight, breathable, and quick-drying, which makes the T-Shirt a great match for hot days or when sweat or water (trail-side dip, anyone?) are part of the equation. And with a trim fit and flat-seam construction, it rides well under a backpack and is a fantastic layering piece in cooler conditions. Finally, OR uses ActiveFresh technology to manage odors, which we’ve found to perform on par with Patagonia’s comparable treatment. 

So how does the Echo differ from the Capilene Cool Daily above? The “trim fit” rides closer to the body than the Patagonia’s boxier “regular fit,” and the scoop neck adds a nice feminine flair without exposing too much skin. And with a thinner fabric, it’s noticeably lighter and quicker to dry. However, the Echo’s fabric is prone to snagging and pilling and lacks the smooth, free-flowing feel of the Capilene, and only gets a 15-20 UPF rating (granted, this should get the job done for most). But it’s nevertheless a really nice option for summertime adventures, and we love that it comes in 10 sizes (including four plus sizes) and nine colorways at the time of publishing. Finally, for a comparable shirt from Patagonia, check out the Capilene Cool Lightweight ($49), which also features a slim fit, scoop neck, and thin fabric.
See the Outdoor Research Echo T-Shirt

 

8. Icebreaker Tech Lite II Short Sleeve ($80)

Icebreaker Tech Lite II Short Sleeve (women's hiking shirt)Materials: 100% merino
Weight: 4.2 oz.
Style: SS, SS scoop
What we like: A cozy and odor-free shirt, great for multi-day trips and around-town use.
What we don’t: Absorbs moisture; insulative properties; will grow fuzzy over time.

Icebreaker goes old school with their Tech Lite II, which features 100% merino construction. That’s right: no polyester, no lyocell, no cotton—this one’s all wool. That said, the fabric is delightfully stretchy, and the 150-gram weight is thin and relatively airy. We grabbed the Tech Lite II for a summer backpacking trip in Washington’s Alpine Lakes Wilderness, and found the merino’s soft touch and odor resistance to be a great match for the multi-day adventure. Since then, we’ve kept reaching for the cozy, high-performance, and never-stinky shirt for everything from daily runs, gym workouts, and even casual use. In essence, it offers most of the performance of polyester, but without the techy look and feel—a combination we love.

It wouldn’t be merino without some insulative properties; despite its thin build, the Tech Lite II does provide a little extra warmth. It was perfectly serviceable up to the mid-70s Fahrenheit throughout our testing, but we wouldn't want to push it in warmer weather. And while the shirt will do a great job absorbing your sweat (merino excels at moisture-wicking), it will also hang onto it—if you’re looking for a quick-drying shirt, this isn’t it. Finally, 150-gram merino will always have durability issues, and our shirt has grown fairly fuzzy across the back after about six months of use. But for the right applications (we love the odor-resistance of merino for multi-day adventures), the Tech Lite II is a great looking and feeling merino shirt. Icebreaker also offers their Sphere II, which features a more lightweight and flowy 60% lyocell, 40% merino build.
See the Icebreaker Tech Lite II Short Sleeve

 

9. REI Co-op Sahara Shade Hoodie ($50)

REI Co-op Sahara Shade Hoodie (women's hiking shirt)Materials: 92% polyester, 8% spandex
Weight: 7 oz.
Styles: SS, LS, hoody
What we like: Casual vibes with full-on sun protection.
What we don’t: Not everyone will love the roomy fit and shaped hem.

REI’s Sahara collection goes in a different direction from the Sahara Solid above, with a buttery soft and stretchy polyester/spandex blend and simple t-shirt design (available in short sleeve, long sleeve, and hoody styles). All three variations are worth trying, but the hoody has quickly become one of our favorite hiking tops. The bluesign-approved fabric feels super high quality, holds its shape between washings, and even offers a nice cooling effect in the hot sun. And unlike many performance-driven pieces, the Sahara Shade has a decently roomy fit, and the flowy drape is complemented by a scoop hem and subdued, Easter-egg-like colorways. Some hikers might want a more technical vibe (the sleek Crater Lake above offers a trimmer fit and straight hem), but we think the Sahara Shade hits a nice balance for use both on and off the trail.

Compared to other sun hoodies, the Sahara Shade’s hood design is one of the best we’ve seen, with a hidden cinch that stays out of the way but still allows you to batten down the hatches in windy conditions. You also get well-designed low-profile thumbholes, along with an effective antimicrobial treatment and a UPF 50+ rating. Finally, reflecting REI’s push toward more inclusive sizing, the hoody is available in a great range of sizes, including women’s plus options. All told, for a calm, cool, and relaxed sun hoody, the Sahara Shade is a very well-rounded and affordable pick.
See the REI Co-op Sahara Shade Hoodie

 

10. Arc’teryx Taema Crew Neck ($70)

Arc'teryx Taema Crew (women's hiking shirt)Materials: 100% polyester
Weight: 3 oz.
Styles: Tank, SS, LS, hoody
What we like: A premium hiking shirt for hot-weather adventures.
What we don’t: Expensive for a polyester design.

This wouldn’t be a hiking gear list without at least one Arc’teryx offering. Based in the lush Coast Range of British Columbia, Arc’teryx knows a thing or two about proper layering for changing mountain weather. The Taema is a 100% polyester shirt that features the brand’s Phasic LT fabric, a relatively thin material with a good bit of mechanical stretch. In many ways it feels like a softer and better-made Echo (above), with a corresponding price bump to boot. All told, the Taema is a great match for high-output use and true summer-time temperatures, and one of the most premium hiking shirts here.

Arc’teryx recently revised the fit of the Taema, and reviews have been mixed. We love the long cut (nothing’s worse than a too-short hiking shirt poking out over your backpack’s hipbelt) and roominess of the regular fit, but some women will want a trimmer, more shapely design. If that’s you, the OR Echo T-Shirt or Patagonia Capilene Cool Lightweight might be better hot-weather options. But as with everything Arc’teryx, the Taema is extremely well executed from the construction to the material—we’ve used various blends of their Phasic fabric over the years, and have always been impressed with how it holds up over time. If the $70 price tag doesn’t put you off, the Taema is a solid choice for everything from hiking to running, climbing, biking, and more.
See the Arc’teryx Taema Crew Neck

 

11. Columbia Silver Ridge Utility Short Sleeve ($55)

Columbia Silver Ridge Utility Short Sleeve (women's hiking shirt)Materials: 100% polyester
Styles: SS, LS
What we like: A lightweight button-up with subdued vibes and great ventilation.
What we don’t: A bit short and boxy; we prefer snaps over buttons.

After trying the Rabbit High Country above, we truly have no need for any other button-up hiking shirt—it’s just that good. That said, we respect that the trendy plaid vibe, perforated backpanel, and $75 price tag aren’t for everyone. If you’re looking for a more subdued button-up, check out the Columbia Silver Ridge Utility, which starts with the similar foundation of a stretchy polyester fabric. Columbia thought through the details of this one, placing two easy-to-operate snaps near the neck (the rest of the front panel uses buttons) and employing large shoulder vents to keep air flowing. The venting doesn’t work perfectly while wearing a backpacking pack, but the Silver Ridge is nevertheless a very breezy shirt and good for hot-weather hiking.

The Silver Ridge Utility also comes in a long-sleeve version, which offers a great alternative to the Sahara Solid above. The Columbia’s polyester fabric is noticeably thinner and more pliable than the REI’s nylon, but you still get UPF 50 sun protection. Overall, we think it’s a better match for warm temperatures, while the Sahara Solid gets the edge for cooler and wetter weather. It’s worth noting that both versions of the Silver Ridge Utility are short and boxy and run a bit large, which won’t work for everyone. For Columbia’s take on a simple tee, check out the polyester/cotton Sun Trek T-Shirt ($35). 
See the Columbia Silver Ridge Utility Short Sleeve

 

12. Fjallraven Abisko Cool T ($60)

Fjallraven Abisko Cool T (women's hiking shirt)Materials: 47% lyocell, 23% viscose, 15% cotton, 15% polyester
Weight: 3.2 oz.
Style: SS
What we like: A soft and stylish hiking shirt with great moisture-wicking properties.
What we don’t: Absorbs water and isn’t super quick to dry.

If techy hiking clothing isn’t your thing, Fjallraven is a brand to have on your radar. The Swedish company is known for mixing high-end performance with classy colorways and styles, and has a distinct look that’s earned some trail cachet over the years. We’re big fans of their Abisko Cool T, which features a flattering neckline and trim fit, and comes in a variety of fun, striped colorways. This shirt would look right at home around town—from the coffee shop to the brewery and everything in between—but it’s also a great performer on the trail.

The Abisko Cool has a really interesting fabric list, including a mix of lyocell and viscose (both derived from tree pulp), cotton, and polyester all woven together with a good bit of mechanical stretch. The result is a shirt that’s very soft, lightweight, and effective at wicking moisture, which makes it a great match for warm conditions (if you don’t mind the snug fit). However, with more absorbent materials under the hood than your standard polyester shirt, all that wicked moisture sticks around—the Cool T is notably not quick to dry, and thus not our first choice for inclement weather or time spent around water. Fjallraven does make the 100% polyester Day Hike, but the fabric has a super techy feel that’s rougher against the skin and prone to snagging and pilling.
See the Fjallraven Abisko Cool T

 

13. Ridge Merino Wander Crew Neck ($60)

Ridge Merino Wander Crew Neck (women's hiking shirt)Materials: 87% merino, 13% nylon
Style: Crew, v-neck
What we like: A thin yet durable merino shirt.
What we don’t: The Active Ultralite above is $10 cheaper.

At this point, you know our gripes about merino hiking shirts: they can run warm, aren’t as durable as synthetics, and hold onto moisture, which isn’t great news for drenching conditions and sweaty hikers. But despite the downsides, we still love this miracle fabric for its soft and natural feel and odor-wicking properties, and reach for it often for low-output activities and around-town use. If you too are a fan of merino, it’s worth checking out Ridge Merino, a California-based company with a small lineup of offerings that are priced very competitively.

The Ridge Merino Wander is available in both crew- and v-neck versions, both of which feature a relaxed fit with a bit of shape at the waist. We love the V-Neck for casual wear, but the Crew Neck provides more coverage along the shoulders for use with a backpack. All told, the Wander splits the difference nicely between the Smartwool Active Ultralite and Icebreaker Tech Lite II above: 13% nylon adds some durability without detracting from the merino look and feel, and the price is right at $60 (although still $10 more than the Smartwool). We’ve also found it to be a touch thinner than the Tech Lite II, which is great news for warm conditions. For an even higher nylon content, we love the Patagonia Capilene Cool Merino ($69), but expect thinner fabric and some pilling issues.
See the Ridge Merino Wander Crew Neck

 

14. Outdoor Research Astroman Sun Shirt ($99)

Outdoor Research Astroman Sun Shirt (women's hiking shirt)Materials: 85% nylon, 15% spandex
Weight: 5.3 oz.
Style: SS, LS
What we like: A fun and flowy button-up with a lightweight yet technical fabric.
What we don’t: Fit won’t be ideal for everyone.

If you’re searching for that easy, breezy button-up that will keep air flowing and the sun off your shoulders, take a look at the OR Astroman Sun Shirt. With cuffed sleeves, pleating at the front shoulders and center back, and a drop tail hem, the Astroman has a light and playful look that belies its technical prowess. Under the hood it’s ready for action, with OR's Astroman fabric that’s lightweight, stretchy, and durable (picture a very, very lightweight softshell) and offers UPF 50+ sun protection. OR also hid a zippered pocket at the right hip, which is a fun feature that will almost certainly come in handy.

Many women will like the Astroman’s roomy and free-flowing style, but it’s not particularly ideal for use underneath a backpack. OR claims that the shirt was built to pair well with a hipbelt or harness, but we’d love a little more length for some extra assurance. And finally, after experiencing the user friendliness of a snap closure on the Rabbit High Country above, we wish every button up used metal snaps rather than traditional buttons. Gripes aside, the Astroman Sun Shirt is a great mix of form and function and a particularly fun option for adventures that don’t involve a ton of time wearing a backpack, including paddling, biking, and climbing.
See the Outdoor Research Astroman Sun Shirt

 

15. Jolly Gear Triple Crown Button Down ($95)

Jolly Gear Triple Crown Button Down (women's hiking shirt)Materials: 86% polyester, 14% spandex
Weight: 8.5 oz.
Styles: SS, LS
What we like: Best of both worlds combo of sun protection and ventilation.
What we don’t: Not everyone will love the thru-hiking personality.

If you’ve spent any time on long-distance trails like the PCT, CDT, or AT, chances are high you’ve seen the Jolly Gear Triple Crown Button Down. Designed and built by a thru-hiker named Jolly who knows firsthand the need for breathable sun protection, the Triple Crown Button Down combines the hood of a standard sun hoody with the button-up ventilation of a hiking shirt. Aside from the brilliant Frankensteined design, our favorite thing about the Triple Crown is the variety of fun patterns, all of which are built with stretchy, antimicrobial (read: odor-resistant) polyester. The shirt is made in both long- and short-sleeved versions, and Jolly Gear also offers sun sleeves (a $35 add-on) for those who choose the latter. 

Standard sun shirts can offer some amount of cooling, but the effect is limited on truly hot days; with no way to ventilate, the long-sleeve design can grow too warm (especially if you’re also generating your own heat). And while button-up hiking shirts are a dime a dozen, they don’t offer the complete protection of a hooded design. For this reason, the Triple Crown Button Down is an outstanding hybrid and truly the best of both worlds for serious hikers who care about sun protection—if you can handle its distinct thru-hiker personality and decidedly flashy looks.
See the Jolly Gear Triple Crown Button Down

 

16. REI Co-op Active Pursuits T-Shirt ($30)

REI Co-op Active Pursuits T-Shirt (women's hiking shirt)Materials: 98% polyester, 2% spandex
Styles: SS, LS, ¼-zip
What we like: Great performance and flattering fit for just $30.
What we don’t: Those with particular needs might need to spend up for other fabrics, fabric weights, or features.

Our top-ranked Capilene Cool Daily is very affordable at $39, but budget shoppers can do even better with the REI Active Pursuits here. For just $30—and we've seen it on sale a number of times during the year—the Active Pursuits has a lot to offer: It’s quite soft and offers the performance characteristics we’ve come to expect from polyester (lightweight, breathable, moisture-wicking, and quick-drying). And unlike many offerings from REI, the Active Pursuits actually has a really nice shape, which is relaxed without being too boxy (although some might want to size down), and features a curved hem for a nice combination of style and coverage. 

What do you give up with such an affordable hiking shirt? Some women will want a trimmer fit or lighter fabric, like what you might find with the Patagonia Capilene Cool Lightweight or Fjallraven Abisko Cool. And don't expect merino levels of softness and odor resistance (all expected compromises at this price point). In the end, don't let the last-place ranking deceive you: Most casual hikers will love what the Active Pursuits has to offer; and like most REI branded clothing, the t-shirt is available in a large array of sizes (including three plus sizes), which is more than most shirts here can claim.
See the REI Co-op Active Pursuits T-Shirt

 

Women's Hiking Shirt Comparison Table

Hiking Shirt Price Materials Weight Styles
Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily $39 100% polyester 3.7 oz. Tank, SS, LS, hoody
Smartwool Active Ultralite SS $50 53% merino, 47% lyocell 3.1 oz. Tank, SS, LS, hoody
Rabbit High Country SS $75 88% polyester, 12% spandex 3.6 oz. SS, LS
MH Crater Lake Active Hoody $72 88% polyester, 12% elastane Unavail. Tank, LS, ¼-zip, hoody
Outdoor Research Essential Tank $44 Polyester, spandex Unavail. Tank, SS
REI Co-op Sahara Solid LS Shirt $65 94% nylon, 6% spandex 6.8 oz. LS
Outdoor Research Echo T-Shirt $46 100% polyester 2.3 oz. Tank, SS, LS, ¼-zip, hoody
Icebreaker Tech Lite II Short Sleeve $80 100% merino 4.2 oz. SS, SS scoop
REI Co-op Sahara Shade Hoodie $50 92% polyester, 8% spandex 7 oz. SS, LS, hoody
Arc’teryx Taema Crew Neck $70 100% polyester 3 oz. Tank, SS, LS, hoody
Columbia Silver Ridge Utility SS $55 100% polyester Unavail. SS, LS
Fjallraven Abisko Cool T $60 47% lyocell, 23% viscose, 15% cotton, 15% polyester 3.2 oz. SS
Ridge Merino Wander Crew Neck $60 87% merino, 13% nylon Unavail. Crew, v-neck
OR Astroman Sun Shirt $99 85% nylon, 15% spandex 5.3 oz. SS, LS
Jolly Gear Triple Crown Button Down $95 86% polyester, 14% spandex 8.5 oz. SS, LS
REI Co-op Active Pursuits T-Shirt $30 98% polyester, 2% spandex Unavail. SS, LS, ¼-zip

 

Women's Hiking Shirt Buying Advice


Hiking Shirt Materials

Synthetics (Polyester and Nylon)
The vast majority of hiking shirts are made with polyester, which is soft and comfortable, lightweight and breathable, moisture-wicking and quick to dry, and impressively abrasion resistant for the thickness. Polyester is also robust enough to keep most UV radiation at bay. Some shirts, like the traditional button-up REI Co-op Sahara Solid or climbing-ready Outdoor Research Astroman Sun Shirt, use nylon, which is another synthetic that’s generally a bit stiffer and more durable but not as comfortable or moisture-wicking as polyester. The primary downfall of both polyester and nylon is that these materials can really hold a stink, although most shirts now include fairly effective odor-resistant treatments. All told, for the vast majority of use cases, and particularly for warm weather and activities around water, synthetic hiking shirts are our top choice.

Stack of women's hiking shirts
Most hiking shirts are made with synthetic materials

Merino Wool
Merino is far and away our favorite material for cold-weather baselayers and socks, thanks to its warm yet breathable, soft, and antimicrobial nature. We also love it as the key material in our hiking shirts, with a few caveats.

First off, merino's insulating properties can be a bit too much for warm temperatures, and you'll want to take care in selecting a thin enough variety. This can be difficult to discern online; in general, a lower fabric weight (often measured in grams per square meter) will be lighter, in addition to a blend (with polyester, nylon, or a fiber like lyocell). The second caveat is that merino absorbs moisture far more than synthetic materials, which means it can grow heavy and be slow to dry—not great for drenching or sweaty conditions (although if you need it, merino continues to insulate when wet). And finally, it's not particularly durable, although blended fabrics can fare better than pure merino. Caveats aside, we find ourselves reaching for our merino hiking shirts at least half the time, and especially for multi-day trips or crossover use. They have a nice casual vibe compared to techy synthetics, are delightfully soft, and their odor resistance is unmatched.

Smartwool Merino SS women's hiking shirt (sitting on granite)
We overheated while hiking in the 88% merino Smartwool Merino

Cotton
We don't often see cotton used in outdoor clothing, and hiking shirts are no exception. In fact, there's even an old adage that reads, "cotton kills." The reason is this: Cotton absorbs moisture and doesn't dry quickly, and—unlike merino—does not continue to insulate when wet. This can be a dangerous combination for backpacking, especially in alpine zones or during shoulder seasons when things can cool down quickly. However, you can get away with cotton for day trips in dry and sunny areas like the Utah desert—in fact, some actually prefer it for its cooling abilities (just get it wet and you'll have natural AC all day). And as we all know, cotton is soft and comfortable, and is decently breathable too (especially thinner varieties). We don't have any dedicated cotton shirts on our list above (the Fjallraven Abisko Cool T has 15% cotton), but they're a dime a dozen and even available from brands like Patagonia, REI Co-op, and more.

Hiking in cotton t-shirt in Castle Valley
Wearing cotton while hiking in Utah's Castle Valley

Other Natural Fibers
A few hiking shirts above use viscose and lyocell, which are two very similar fibers derived from wood pulp. Both materials are incredibly soft, offer a cooling effect, and are highly breathable. They're also very water absorbent—lyocell is said to be 50% more absorbent than cotton—which means they're great for wicking moisture away from the skin (but like merino, they can grow heavy with water and don't dry out particularly quickly). These fibers are often blended with merino (as seen in the Smartwool Active Ultralite and Fjallraven Abisko Cool T) to add durability and softness and relax the fabric for a nicer drape. It's worth noting that lyocell, viscose, and merino require extra care when it comes to laundering, and won’t hold up to heavy use as well as comparable synthetics (those that are blended with polyester generally fare best). Regardless of their downsides, fibers like lyocell and viscose are well worth checking out, particularly for the comfort they offer.

Smartwool Active Ultralite women's hiking shirt (backpacking in PNW forest)
The Smartwool Active Ultralite contains 53% merino and 47% lyocell

Hiking Shirt Styles

Many of the shirts above come in multiple styles, including tank top, short-sleeve (SS), long-sleeve (LS), and hoody variations. In most cases, a short-sleeve t-shirt is the most versatile form of hiking shirt—it’s airy enough to keep you cool on warm days, yet with enough coverage to avoid sunburned shoulders or chafing from pack-on-skin contact. However, there are some merits to the other varieties. Tank tops can be a great choice for those who need a lot of ventilation (and don’t mind the sun exposure), and many varieties, like the Outdoor Research Essential Tank, are designed to offer coverage underneath a backpack. On the other hand, long sleeves and hoodies boost sun protection, and many feature roomy designs that keep air flowing. 

Wearing REI Co-op Sahara Shade Sun Hoodie in forest (putting hood on)
Sun hoodies boost sun protection and can add a bit of warmth

Some hikers will opt for a button-up shirt, which come in both short- and long-sleeve varieties. Aside from style, one of the clear benefits of a button-up is its built-in ventilation. To pair with the front venting (the gaps between the buttons/snaps), many shirts incorporate venting at the rear: The Rabbit High Country has a perforated back, while the Sahara Solid has a horizontal vent across the back with mesh underlay. Button-ups aren’t our top choice for layering (the front panel of snaps is bulky underneath a snug baselayer) and they’re not super comfortable to sleep in, so they do have their limitations compared to standard t-shirt designs. But for great sun protection (especially in the long-sleeved varieties) alongside natural cooling, they’re a really nice option.

Rabbit High Country women's hiking shirt (sitting on granite)
The Rabbit High Country has a perforated backpanel for extra ventilation

Breathability and Ventilation

No matter what time of year you’re hitting the trail, you’ll want a hiking shirt that can wick moisture, keep air flowing, and move with you. Thin polyester designs like the Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily are the best for venturing out in real-deal heat: They’re breathable, lightweight and free-flowing, and their hydrophobic nature means they’re much quicker to dry than merino wool, lyocell, or thicker nylon. Natural fibers are very skilled at wicking moisture, but they absorb moisture and take some time to dry out (and merino actually has insulative properties, which are unwelcome on hot days). Nylon sits at the bottom of the list in terms of both breathability and ventilation, making it best suited for mild conditions and when durability matters most.

Sweat collecting on the Smartwool Merino short sleeve (women's hiking shirt)
Merino is highly breathable but absorbs moisture and does not dry quickly

It's also worth thinking about how a shirt's fit and features can help with ventilation. Free-flowing shirts can feel a lot better in warm temperatures than snug-fitting designs; it's for this reason that most of the shirts on our list are fairly loose fitting (even the trim fitting designs are not skin-tight). Button-up shirts also boost air flow with built-in ventilation at the front (in between the buttons/snaps) and a neckline that can be lowered to allow more air in. And as mentioned above, most also feature venting at the back.

Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily women's hiking shirt (crossing stream)
The Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily is quick-drying and great for use around water

Warmth: Materials and Weight

Most of us aren't buying hiking shirts for their warmth—in this category, it's generally about coverage and breathability. That said, all fabric insulates at least a little, which should be an important consideration in the purchasing process. In general, synthetics and natural fibers like lyocall add as little warmth as possible, and might even have some inherent cooling properties (we've experienced this in many a sun hoody). On the other hand, merino is naturally insulative and provides a noticeable amount of warmth even in the thinner varieties—especially if you're generating some of your own heat (we've experienced this first hand with a shirt like the Icebreaker Tech Lite II). As a result, we recommend against merino for warm and sunny conditions; but in mild weather, it can provide a nice first barrier against the chill while also promoting breathability.

Hiking in Iceland in women's sun hoody
Using a sun hoody for added warmth and sun protection

A fabric's weight can also be an important spec to consider, especially when discerning between similar designs. This is often given in grams per square meter (g/m2, or gsm) or ounces per square yard. For example, the Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily uses 3.7-ounce polyester, while the Capilene Cool Lightweight uses 2.3-ounce polyester. In terms of merino, Icebreaker gives their Tech Lite II a 150-gram designation, while the Sphere II uses 125-gram merino. In looking at these apples-to-apples comparisons, it's clear which shirt is heavier (and thus, warmer) than the other. Unfortunately, this isn't a foolproof strategy: Not every shirt specifies a fabric weight, nor does it perfectly align with warmth due to variations in fit and material (especially when it comes to blended materials).

Crossing stream in Patagonia
Make sure to pay attention to the weight of merino when selecting a hiking shirt

Odor Resistance

Synthetic fabrics are known to build stink, which isn’t a great characteristic when sweat is practically a given. To help keep B.O. at bay, most modern synthetic sun shirts incorporate some sort of anti-odor treatment—Patagonia uses a technology called HeiQ Pure on their Capilene Cool Daily, for example, while Outdoor Research’s Echo features their ActiveFresh tech. Surprisingly, these technologies generally work quite well, which is good news for everyone. And if you prefer to keep your clothing natural and chemical-free, the good news is that natural fibers like wool are impressively odor resistant.

Lounging around backpacking gear
If you're trying to avoid stink build-up, merino or lyocell are your best bet

UPF Ratings

Most hiking shirts have a UPF rating, which gives an estimate of how much UV radiation the fabric allows to pass through. A UPF rating of 50 means that just 1/50th (or 2%) of the available UV rays are able to make their way to the other side of the fabric, while a UPF rating of 30 denotes that 1/30th of rays will pass through. For reference, a UPF of 15 is the lowest possible rating, and 50+ is the highest (of note: UPF 30 is the minimum rating that qualifies for the Skin Cancer Foundation’s official recommendation). And of course, if you’re wearing more than one layer, you get more sun protection. We have yet to meet anyone who’s been burned through a hiking shirt, but if your priority is maximizing sun protection, it’s worth aiming for the higher numbers.

Applying sunscreen with short-sleeve hiking shirt
Of course, a hiking shirt can only guarantee protection for the skin it covers

Several factors contribute to a hiking shirt’s UPF rating, including the fabric thickness and color, fiber type (polyester and nylon are more effective than wool and cotton), and whether or not the material has been treated with a UV-resistant chemical or dye. In general, darker fabrics offer better sun protection than lighter-colored fabrics (Outdoor Research’s white-toned Echo Hoodie gets a 15 UPF rating, while all other colorways are 20). And to boost protection, one technique (used by Patagonia) is to apply a titanium dioxide additive to the yarn, similar to the active ingredient in many reef-safe sunscreen products. This allows manufacturers to use lightweight (read: breathable) fabrics while still maximizing UV resistance.

Backpacking in Outdoor Research Active Ice sun protection shirt
Most sun protection shirts are made with buttery soft material that provides a cooling effect

Hiking Shirt Durability

Hiking shirts can vary a great deal in terms of durability: Some are built to handle the rigors of bushwacking and hard use, while others are so thin they’re prone to ripping and snagging. Nylon is particularly hardwearing—seen in designs like the REI Co-op Sahara Solid LS and Outdoor Research Astroman—and polyester is next in line; merino wool, on the other hand, will not hold up well to sustained wear and tear. Natural fibers like lyocell, bamboo, and modal are somewhere in the middle, and when blended with a bit of polyester or spandex, we've found them to be fully sufficient for activities like hiking and backpacking. Finally, thicker fabrics generally offer better tear resistance than thinner designs, although fabrics of any weight can be prone to pilling and snagging.

Patagonia Capilene Merino women's hiking shirt (durability)
Early pilling on our Patagonia Capilene Merino 

Hiking Shirt Features

Hiking shirts are incredibly simple pieces of gear, many of which have very few features to speak of. Take the Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily, for example: it’s just a t-shirt, nothing less and nothing more. Under the hood, these simple shirts will have a few features we love to see, including streamlined stitching or offset seams, both of which help to reduce chafing when worn underneath a pack. On the other hand, a shirt like the Rabbit High Country has a more feature-rich design, including a front metal snap closure and perforated vents at the back. Some shirts will also add a small chest pocket or zippered pocket at the hip, and long-sleeve shirts can often tack on thumb loops (helpful for maintaining coverage down the arm) and hoods.

Buttoning up the Rabbit High Country women's hiking shirt
Rabbit's high-end High Country shirt uses snaps rather than buttons

There are a few factors worth considering when looking at hoods. Size is the first: You’ll want to think about whether or not you want to wear the hood over your bare head, a ball cap, or a climbing helmet. Further, some hoods incorporate a drawcord, which can be a nice feature in the wind, although we rarely find ourselves using it. If you opt for this style, we’d recommend a sleek system like that on the REI Co-op Sahara Shade Hoodie or Jolly Gear Triple Crown over a design with a long drawcord (like we’ve seen on the Ridge Merino Solstice Hoody). These can get in the way and are largely impractical. A hat can be an excellent way to tame an unruly hood—not only does it keep it off your face, but it also provides friction to secure it in place in the wind or while hiking briskly.

Eating huckleberries in field (sun shirt)
We often like to pair our sun protection shirt hood with a ball cap

Hiking Shirt Fit

The two most common fits we see among hiking shirts are regular (or relaxed) and trim (or slim). Regular shirts might feature a bit of shape at the waist, but in general they’re meant to drape in a relaxed manner and not cling tightly to the skin. Trim-fitting shirts, on the other hand, are usually made with decently stretchy material and are built to fit snug. They’re usually not skin tight, but they do follow the contours of the body. This distinction is apparent in Patagonia’s Capilene Cool line—the Daily features a regular fit, while the Lightweight is a slim fit. Button-ups are generally relaxed, but there’s still some variation within the category. For example, the Rabbit High Country is fairly svelte (Rabbit advertises it as semi-relaxed), while the Outdoor Research Astroman Sun Shirt has particularly roomy dimensions.

Hiking shirt coverage under backpack hipbelt
A long hem is nice for coverage and pairing with a backpack hipbelt

Hiking Shirts With Stretch

Shirts with built-in stretch are a popular choice for hiking, and for good reason: They feel great and the extra “give” in the fabric is appreciated both on the trail (for freedom of movement while hiking and scrambling) and at camp (for bending down to cook, setting up a backpacking tent, etc.).

In terms of construction, stretchy shirts fall into two camps: designs with an elastane (spandex) blend and those that are woven with mechanical stretch. The former type gets you the most elasticity, and we particularly love the extra-stretchy feel of a shirt like the Rabbit High Country (12% spandex). But a 100% merino or polyester shirt can still have quite a bit of give and certainly enough for most intended uses (one of our favorites is the all-merino Icebreaker Tech Lite II). Even if manufacturers don’t advertise it, we’ve found that most hiking shirts have a bit of added stretch. Of course, it’s by no means a gotta-have-it feature—a relaxed-fit, non-stretchy design can offer similar amounts of mobility—but a forgiving and soft shirt is undeniably a nice luxury item in the backcountry.

Icebreaker Tech Lite II merino hiking shirt (mechanical stretch)
The Icebreaker Tech Lite II is 100% merino but has some added mechanical stretch

Sustainability

One of the primary ways we see manufacturers innovating is through the use of more sustainable materials and practices. In terms of hiking shirts, this means recycled and/or natural fabrics (like modal, lyocell, and merino), more responsible production practices (including the elimination of harmful chemicals used in UV-resistant treatments), and an emphasis on the ethical treatment of workers, often denoted by a “Fair Trade” certification. Many companies also utilize the bluesign system for sourcing materials responsibly. Patagonia is a clear leader in the sustainability movement, and brands like Outdoor Research, REI, and Arc'teryx have also made a sizable effort to reduce their footprint. Finally, while we encourage you to shop sustainably, we’re also big advocates of lowering consumption by reusing old gear—hiking shirts are a dime a dozen at our local consignment shop, many of them with a lot of life left to be had.

Packrafting in the mountains (women's hiking shirt)_0
The most sustainable choice you can make is to buy used—or not at all

Layering for Cold-Weather Hiking

The vast majority of hikers head out in fair-weather conditions, when a t-shirt, sun hoody, or button-up is the primary layer of choice. But for cooler evenings or shoulder-season conditions, you’ll want more insulation. When layering is in the forecast, we’ll generally leave the button-ups at home and stick with a short- or long-sleeve shirt or sun hoody as our primary layer. 

Layering a rain jacket over a hiking shirt (glacial lake)
For inclement weather, we recommend a lightweight rain jacket or hardshell

What kind of jacket you choose to layer on top of your hiking shirt will come down to weather and personal preference. For windy conditions or when you just need to cut a little chill, we love a windbreaker jacket, especially those with stretchy and breathable designs like the Patagonia Houdini Air or Black Diamond Alpine Start. If you need to add more warmth, a performance fleece or breathable synthetic jacket is an ideal outer layer. For technical fleeces, we particularly love the Arc’teryx Kyanite Jacket and Black Diamond Coefficient LT Hybrid Hoody; our go-to synthetic jackets are the Patagonia Nano-Air and Arc’teryx Proton Lightweight. And if precipitation is in the forecast, a rain jacket or hardshell is your best bet—we particularly love stretchy and breathable designs like the Black Diamond Stormline Stretch and Outdoor Research Microgravity. 
Back to Our Top Women's Hiking Shirt Picks  Back to Our Women's Hiking Shirt Comparison Table

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