Whether it’s biting insects or sunburn, summer can present walkers with a number of challenges. Jen and Sim Benson test the best kit to keep you safe.
The summer walking season is approaching, and we’re all itching to get out and explore after so many months of staying local. But making the right kit choices is just as important now as it is over the winter months – with different challenges to overcome. When choosing warm weather gear, look for enhanced breathability through lightweight fabrics, vents or mesh panels; insect-repelling properties; sweat-wicking fabrics; and those that are naturally thermoregulating, such as merino wool.
The ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) of a material indicates how well it blocks UVA and UVB rays. A rating of UPF25 lets up to 4% of UV radiation through. UPF40 lets less than 2.5% of UV radiation through, and the maximum rating of UPF50+ is more than 98% effective at blocking UV radiation.
Some of the items tested here are PFC-free. PFCs (perfluorinated or polyfluorinated chemicals) are toxic chemicals used in durable water-repellent (DWR) treatments to fabrics, increasing their resistance to water and stains. Newer, PFC-free alternatives are increasingly being used to reduce these harmful effects. Some items are bluesign-approved – this external accreditation system ensures sustainable practices during textile manufacturing processes.
If you’re walking in an area known for ticks, always wear long trousers and sleeves, and follow the advice here: bit.ly/RamblersTickAdvice
Keen Astoria West Sandals
Walking sandals are great for hikes in hot weather, allowing plenty of airflow. They’re also a quick-draining, fast-drying option for water sports or the beach. This versatile hybrid model combines a light and airy feel with all-round foot protection and a nonslip sole. Recycled polyester webbing and elastic lacing ensure a snug fit throughout which, combined with a cushioned, supportive footbed, means they’re comfortable all day.
Patagonia Altvia Alpine Pants
The four-way stretch and articulated cut of these packable, warm-weather trousers allow freedom of movement for walking and climbing. The main fabric is a recycled polyester/elastane mix while the higher-wear areas – knees, inner calf and seat – are reinforced with tough nylon. A harness-compatible waist belt and four zipped, mesh-lined pockets offer easy-access storage options. Fair Trade Certified and PFC-free.
Smartwool Merino 150 Baselayer
The soft, ultra-fine feel of this light, breathable base layer is made by spinning responsibly sourced merino wool around a nylon core. The result is a fabric with merino’s naturally antimicrobial and thermoregulatory properties plus enhanced drying and durability. The pattern is created using plant-based dyes, while seam-free shoulders ensure it stays comfortable.
Finisterre Transition Reversible Jacket
This versatile, lightly insulated jacket is ideal year-round. A comfortable outer layer for cooler summer evenings and chilly mornings, it works well under a waterproof for winter walking, too. It’s fully reversible – choose from navy or orange – with handwarmer pockets, a chest pocket and an adjustable hood. Made from 100% recycled materials with a PFC-free water-repellent finish.
Helly Hansen Okapi ATS
Versatility is key when it comes to summer walking shoes and these are a great all-round choice. With their trainer-like design, they’re light and cushioned while offering plenty of support and protection – ideal for longer walks in warm weather, or year-round outings on dry trails. The Max-Grip outsole offers traction over a variety of terrain. A waterpoof model is available as well.
Craghoppers NosiLife Fara Long Sleeved Shirt
Designed with summer’s challenges in mind, this lightweight nylon shirt has moisture and odour control, a cooling flip-up collar to protect your neck from the sun, a sunglasses loop and a security pocket. Plus, the fabric is treated with NosiLife, a long-lasting permethrin-based insect repellent.
Fjӓllrӓven Abisko Shade Shorts
These superbly designed shorts are made from lightweight G-1000 Air fabric (65% recycled polyester and 35% organic cotton). Durable, functional and breathable, features include rear vents and a security pocket.
Salewa Mountain Trainer Lite
Ideal for handling mountain terrain, these are light, comfortable, supportive and grippy, with good foot protection and high breathability – perfect for summer treks. We tested the more breathable non-waterproof version, great for hot, dry conditions, but try the Gore-Tex-lined model for year-round use. The to-the-toe lacing and heel support system ensure a precise fit.
Berghaus Kalden Cargo Shorts
Made from a durable, two-way stretch, bluesign-approved nylon/elastane fabric, these lightweight shorts offer good freedom of movement, but the sizing is fairly small so you may want to size up for a more relaxed fit. They feature five pockets, including a generous, snap-closure cargo pocket big enough for a map, and mesh-lined pockets that double as vents. Airy, breathable, comfortable and functional, the shorts are PFC-free and water repellent.
Rab Borealis Jacket
Designed to meet the demands of big wall climbing, where a good warmth-to-weight ratio and small pack size are crucial, this versatile softshell jacket is also an excellent lightweight-but-tough wind-resistant layer for year-round walking. The soft, stretchy fabric offers freedom of movement, breathability and a UPF rating of 50+. Features include a helmet-compatible hood and two mesh-lined zip pockets.
Royal Robbins Global Expedition II SS Shirt
A lightweight, breathable shirt is invaluable for hot weather walking. Made from bluesign-approved recycled polyester, this has a UPF rating of 40+. The crease-resistant fabric is HeiQ-treated to prevent stains and offer enhanced thermoregulation. Features include two snap-fastening chest pockets and two zipped pockets.
Montane Terra Pants
An outdoors classic, these combine comfort and performance with lightweight durability. Versatile year-round, the weather-resistant nylon fabric has a UPF of 40+. There are zipped vents at the thigh and ankle, and the reinforced patches mean they should last for years. Features include zipped pockets and a belt. In short, regular or long leg lengths.
Jack Wolfskin Rocky Path LT Sandal
Sandals are a breath of fresh air for your feet over the summer months, and this model offers impressive underfoot protection and grip, comparable to a good walking shoe. The three adjustable leather straps are comfortably padded with a quick-release fastener for easy on-off action. The side strap, anatomical-fit leather footbed, and cushioned EVA midsole offer a smooth, comfortable ride and enough support for longer walks. PFC-free water repellent.
BAM Graphic T-Shirt
This range of graphic print tees looks and feels great to wear, and scores highly on sustainability. Compared with a standard cotton tee’s production, the blend of bamboo, organic cotton and elastane saves 588.9 litres of water, 1.7kg of CO2 emissions and 576mg of pesticides, according to BAM’s calculations. The bamboo is naturally odour-resistant and there’s a high UPF rating of 50+.
Outdoor Research Helios Sun Hat
A wide-brimmed hat adds essential protection from the rays on summer walks. This relaxed style feels light and comfortable yet secure on the head, with a removable chin strap and adjustment around the crown. The foam brim helps it float in water and hold its shape when stuffed into a pack. The nylon/polyester fabric is durable, quick drying and features UPF50+ protection, while a darkened panel under the brim reduces glare.
Dewerstone Tambora MK2 Wooden Sunglasses
Handmade from layered maple wood, these classic-style sunglasses look great and feel light to wear. They stay in place well, even when negotiating rough terrain. The Zeiss LightPro polarised lenses offer 100% UV protection and allow digital-screen viewing. Supplied with a protective case. Devon- based Dewerstone donates 1% of its sales to environmental causes.
LifeStraw Go Stainless Steel Waterbottle
This double-walled stainless- steel bottle enables safe drinking from natural water sources on the go. The membrane microfilter protects against 99.99% of bacteria, parasites, microplastics, dirt and sand, while the activated carbon filter helps eliminate chlorine and improves taste. Every purchase helps to provide clean water in overseas schools.
Deuter AC Lite 24
This smart, lightweight rucksack is a great choice for summer walking. The Aircomfort back system has a sprung metal frame that maintains a cooling air space, and there’s a padded hip belt for comfort. This pack carries weight well, has a selection of easily accessible pockets and there’s a walking pole holder. PFC-free.
Sim Benson is an outdoor author and photographer with an environmental science background. He is a kit expert with over 15 years working, testing and reviewing in the outdoor industry.
Jen Benson is an outdoor adventure photographer and writer with an MSc in sport & exercise medicine. Jen is happiest when she is outdoors, and is passionate about exploring Britain’s wild places on foot.