What to Wear: Backpacking


Pick your clothing for multiday trips in Utah to deal with its climate extremes: very hot days and rapidly cooling nights. Raingear is optional: In the rare chance you actually get wet in a summer monsoon shower, sunshine is always right around the corner, just waiting to dry you off. Our best advice: Select versatile, loose-fitting clothes that do double-duty as day and night garments so you can pack light.


1. Trekking Pants: Convertible trousers with zipoff legs may look a bit dorky when you wear them around town, but they're like gold in the Southwest. The ExOfficio Nio Amphi pants are a favorite of BACKPACKER editors, one of whom wore them 40 miles straight on a Peru jungle trek. Cool, quick-drying shorts by day, they become wind-resistant, cotton-soft pants by night.


2. Shirt: It may seem counterintuitive, but a light-colored long-sleeve top is a smart pick for hot canyon hikes. BACKPACKER's editor-in-chief swears by Woolrich's Stillwater 3XDRY, a loose-fitting cotton shirt with a high collar and vents in the back and armpits. When wet, the cotton creates evaporative cooling (the moisture against your skin pulls heat away), and the long sleeve reflect the sun (meaning less sunblock to slather on).


3. Bandana: A good old cotton bandanna is a MacGyver must in the canyon. It has multiple uses: sun protection (drape it around your neck), cooling cloth (dip it in water and sponge your head), water filter (strain sand and silt from stream water), washcloth, and more.


4. Sunglasses: Wondering why your head is pounding at the end of your day in the canyons? It might be from not wearing UV-proof shades. The glare in sandstone can be as bad as on snow, causing temporary painful damage to your retinas. Prevent it with a quality pair of sunglasses like Smith's Factors, which come with interchangeable lenses for different light conditions and activities. See comments from BACKPACKER testers on these and other models here.


5. Jacket An insulated jacket for the desert? If you want to sit out and enjoy the stars after dinner, you bet. Temperatures can drop 30 to 40 degrees, making a puffy jacket like the Mountain Hardwear Nitrous a key addition to your clothes bag. This ultralight down sweater packs as small as a grapefruit.



What to Wear: Day Hiking

They like to say “it’s a dry heat” in the Southwest, and it is—like a furnace. Especially on exposed trails in the Utah desert, where there is no shade.


Backcountry Tips & Tricks

When it comes to essential wilderness techniques, we'll show you how to do it right. The best part: There's no test. Until you encounter that rattlesnake, of course.