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  1. #1

    Default Shorts in the desert

    I started the AT sobo in June with pants, switched to a kilt in the whites and then shorts when the seam wore out on the kilt. Looking back I would have been most happy doing the whole thing in shorts.

    Right now im sorting clothing out for the PCT nobo starting around may 18-21 (registered for the 21st). I have a good dash of Mediterranean in my blood and tan dark very quickly. However, I have no experience desert hiking. I plan on using a long sleeve shirt and am flirting with the idea of getting an umbrella. What I'm wondering is whether or not I should go with pants or if I can get away with shorts.

    Dose anyone here HAVE FIRST HAND EXPERINCE that could lend a clue?

    thank you!

  2. #2
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    I used pants in 2016, most people around me used shorts. I'm not sure about their sunscreen habits, but for me a lot of the time it was so hot that it didn't matter what was or wasn't on my legs, so I took the less sunscreen option. You'd most likely be fine either way.

    Be careful when you get into the Sierra though. All that snow reflects the sun right back up at you and hits you in places you haven't been tanned yet

  3. #3
    Registered User srvand02's Avatar
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    Convertible pants. They're nice in the desert because you can use them either way (Id always do the short option on the CDT) and then at night when it gets cold (because it's the desert) I'd zip on the legs again.

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    I am glad I wore thin light-colored long pants on the PCT in SoCal last spring (and in the sierras and Washington on other hikes). Most of the other hikers wore shorts, and some had horrific sunburns on their legs, as well as plenty o' scratches and cuts.

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    I wore shorts on the PCT and really it was not a problem in the desert I switched to long pants because post holing cuts your legs up. On the CDT the desert seemed to have way more things that wanted to stick in me so I switched out of shorts as soon as I could. If had it to do over again I would wear the combos.
    Everything is in Walking Distance

  6. #6

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    I've always started PCT NOBO's earlier so maybe the sun wasn't as intense with your mid May start? I've always went with the lightest wt nylon short short running shorts or the lightest wt I could find loosely fitting convertibles. If you use convertibles make them light wt, slightly loose fitting, have the zip off location in a comfortable location with a comfy zip that doesn't lay directly on skin(should you get burned), and go lighter colored. Look for convertibles for your start date that vent well having vent panels such as mesh, etc. I thrive in the sun and heat and don't look like a prune or have any skin cancer. I do put a sunscreen on my legs in the Mojave Desert. This works in junction with doing a lot of early pre dawn starts, resting/siestaing during the most intense sun of the day in shade, and hiking later in the day into the night.

  7. #7

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    Lightweight loose fitting long pants are cooler in hot direct sunlight than shorts. The opposite is true in shade. Just feel how hot your skin gets in direct sunlight vs. under pants. There is a reason desert cultures cover up. The reason people think shorts are cooler is because sweat dries faster when directly exposed to air. What they are calling cooler is really just drier.

    And for those that care about skin cancer and more fair skinned, not having to constantly apply sun screen is a huge bonus and getting to carry a smaller tube is weight savings. Having long pants for the Sierra keeps your legs from getting cut up as you posthole in snow. Permithrin treated long pants keep the hordes of mosquitos from bitting your legs without having to apply DEET. Between the permithrin treated long pants and long sleeves, I only used DEET 2 days on the entire PCT (all in Northern Yosemite, when you get there you'll understand why), just applied to my hands and neck.

    My preferred pants for desert hiking are Railriders Eco Mesh pants which have mesh down the length of the leg. The mesh can be zipped up when not needed. I thought they were cool enough that I never felt the need the swap them for shorts on the PCT. They have similar shirts as well.

  8. #8
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    I started May 21st and didn't wear shorts on a consistent basis until Oregon. Two reasons, I believe long, very lightweight pants are cooler in the desert and second as was mentioned about snow and postholing. I didn't wear my first sunscreen until the very snowy Sierra. Heads up to 2017 hikers, the sun bouncing off the snow will result in a nasty sunburn especially to the bottom of your nose.

    Once up in Oregon, there is a bit more tree cover and the hum it's increases so shorts were worn more often especially early and late in the day. For reference, I wear shorts almost exclusively on the AT.
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    Wear a dress! Desert dwellers famously wear "robes" for a reason. They cover you up and they also allow for excellent ventilation. They also provide for private privy practices even within sight of others.
    I'm not lost. I'm exploring.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by nsherry61 View Post
    Wear a dress! Desert dwellers famously wear "robes" for a reason. They cover you up and they also allow for excellent ventilation. They also provide for private privy practices even within sight of others.
    I know it's California and all but wouldn't I make people uncomfortable if I wore a dress? (Keep in mind I'm 250lbs).

  11. #11

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    There was a guy a few years ago who wore wedding dresses for the entire trail. He kept changing the dress for another as he hiked north.

  12. #12

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    I've been shopping around online for a summer bathrobe, light colored, cotton-poly blend. Barring that it will be at least a skirt.

  13. #13
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    going to wear cotton shorts like i always do in the desert, from campo to KM

    source: i live in a desert

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    Be careful with cotton in the desert. It may not feel so desert-like when you're getting snowed on at 9000' in the San Jacintos

  15. #15

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    I wore the convertibles on both PCT and CDT. When bugs were bad or while hiking in snow, the long pants were great. When my pants started feeling like a sauna, I was able to take the legs off and let my legs breathe.

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    I go back and forth on this issue. I wear convertibles, but they are a pain to detach / re-attach. I prefer shorts, but if I'm not careful on trail, I pick up pricks and scratches that add up to major annoyance. I've finally settled on just wearing my very comfortable prAna Zion pants when on trail, and switching to simple nylon shorts when camping / extended breaking.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by AlpineKevin View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by nsherry61 View Post
    Wear a dress! Desert dwellers famously wear "robes" for a reason. They cover you up and they also allow for excellent ventilation. They also provide for private privy practices even within sight of others.
    I know it's California and all but wouldn't I make people uncomfortable if I wore a dress? (Keep in mind I'm 250lbs).
    Yeah, don't wear a dress, man. Lightweight convertibles, - that's the ticket!

  18. #18
    AT 14/PCT16/CDT18? norts's Avatar
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    Shorts and long sleeve shirt all the way but had very light track pants for camp ( mosquitoes ).

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  19. #19
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    Nobody's mentioned the poison oak yet. Or ticks specifically. Pants help keep stuff out of your shoes, too, and may negate the desire to wear gaiters.
    "Throw a loaf of bread and a pound of tea in an old sack and jump over the back fence." John Muir on expedition planning

  20. #20

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    Thanks for all the input! One thing I did not consider was postholeing, I've hiked through snow for extended periods in shorts and it can get pretty painful. I do not know the west coast mosquitos but they usually don't bother me, the Maine black flies left me alone too, only issue I had with bugs were the damn gnats in the eyes.

    Now, I am very allergic to poison ivy, and if I recall correctly I've had bad reaction to poison oak.

    I don't hike in gaiters, I hike in sandals. I guess I will need to start looking into socks with uv protection.

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