Q. Hey Gear Guy, I went out on a desert trip to the Sahara Desert last weekend and I had a hard time keeping cool. I was in a tank top and shorts but I still got hot and sweaty. Can you tell me what would be better to wear?
— Hot Harry, Grayslake, Ill.
A. Weekend trip to the Sahara Desert? Wow Harry, you may be hot but you’re also a lucky kid to get to go on a trip like that.
Okay, there are a couple things you can do to keep yourself cooler in desert environments. First off, what color was your tank top? Black? Navy blue? Dark colors absorb heat from the sun and only make you a hotter Harry. So whether for your shirt, pants or hat, stick with light colors like white, yellow or stone.
Now this may seem wacky, but long sleeve shirts and pants can actually make you cooler than shorts and a tank top because it keeps the bright sun off your skin (ever see photos of camel drivers in the desert wearing big, flowing white robes?). I’m guessing you’re not interested in wearing something that looks like a dress, so choose lightweight and breathable shirts and pants with built-in vents that’ll let the hot air escape. Cotton fabrics are good because they breathe really well but they do absorb sweat and can feel sticky. That’s why some folks who spend lots of time in very hot environments prefer clothing made from a nylon-cotton or nylon-polyester blend which is better at wicking the sweat away from your body so you stay dry and cool. Keep in mind you can actually get a sunburn through your clothing so, if possible, choose fabrics with an UPF (the amount of ultraviolet light that penetrates fabric) of 15 or greater.
Finally: wear a hat. Look for one with a wide brim that’ll shade your head, neck and face—it’ll feel like you’re wearing your own personal shade tree.
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