If you are in a survival situation in extreme heat (i. e. in the desert), which is the best clothing and footwear to use? It's better to cover yourself up entirely, like the tuaregs, or to go about stark naked, like the Aboriginal australians?

Some questions I've read are related, but not the same. In particular, I don't need plausible answers. I would like correct answers. Bibliography of experimental studies would be the best option.

  • 2
    Just a point: not all deserts are extremely hot, all the time. Some can be quite cold in the winter, even well below freezing, and even in the summer temperatures can fall quickly after sunset.
    – jamesqf
    Jun 29 '15 at 18:12
  • 3
    An important aspect will be whether your skin more closely resembles an Aborigine or a Northern European. Jun 29 '15 at 18:15
  • 3
    Related: outdoors.stackexchange.com/questions/5224/…
    – Wills
    Jun 29 '15 at 19:49

I'll offer up my experiences. I spent a summer in the Sea of Cortez, in which the night time lows didn't go under 100f and the sea water temperature was above 90f for months. It was around 20 degrees latitude, and was extremely hot.

In pure sun like that, you need to keep the sun off of your skin, period. You will be hot no matter what you do. There's no way to walk around in 125f heat and not feel intense heat, but you can do your best to keep from being physically harmed from it.

Hat: In the tropics, the sun is typically at a very high angle so broad hats will cover your shoulders. Umbrellas work too.

Shirt: Long sleeve. I use ExOfficio's Sol Cool line with great success.

Pants: Typically in disgustingly hot heat there are disgustingly nasty bugs to match so as much as it stinks you need to wear long pants. Thin synthetics work good. I like Prana pants. You can roll them up to your knees. Also, this keeps the sun off your skin (rolled down).

Shoes: Sneakers with a lot of mesh. Cheap ones might melt (seriously), but given the ground heat and bugs you can't really play around with flipflops if you're in the back country.

Umbrella. It might sound very un-outdoorsy, but I'm a convert for the silver-lined go-lite clone umbrellas (ultralite trekking models). They keep a tremendous amount of heat off of you, and you can take your hat off to cool down more. I use one any time backpacking in the summer with direct sun (no trees).

Other things to consider are skin rashes, infections, heat cramps, and other super fun heat related issues. Until you've lived in the tropics (without AC) for a couple of years, it's really hard to fathom exactly how brutal the sun is. We started nicknaming it "The Orb of Death".

If you're only hanging out for a few days in the desert at 35 degrees latitude, some of this is no big deal. But if you're in the real tropics mid summer, this stuff really can kill you.


Which is the best clothing in extreme heat?

The answer to this is; what have people who have lived in deserts for thousands of years done?! Desert peoples have adapted their clothing and culture to provide the most efficient desert survival techniques, so Which is the best clothing in extreme heat? think desert tribes, Bedouins or touaregs, etc. What do these people wear, long billowing robes loosely fitting with much of their head and face covered:

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Bibliography of experimental studies would be the best option

I went into this in some detail in a similar question.

like I said there; the Journal nature has conducted a study Why do Bedouins wear black robes in hot deserts?

"It seems likely," the scientists wrote, "that the present inhabitants of the Sinai, the Bedouins, would have optimised their solutions for desert survival during their long tenure in this desert. Yet one may have doubts on first encountering Bedouins wearing black robes and herding black goats. We have therefore investigated whether black robes help the Bedouins to minimise solar heat loads in a hot desert."

so the evidence, though indirectly, also points to this dress.

It's better to cover yourself up entirely, like the tuaregs, or to go about stark naked, like the Aboriginal australians

Your comparing chalk and cheese there. The desert(s) in Austrailia and the African deserts/Arabian peninsular are very very different. The people are also very very different. There are cultural as well as geographical differences (it's part of Islam to cover up).

For me Aboriginees are the exception rather than the rule, people have lived in the African deserts for much, much longer than the Australian deserts.

Humans are around 200,000 years old (much of this in Africa), people have lived in Australia for "only" around 40-60,000. So you would guess that the North african humans would be much better specialised for desert conditions. Almost all African/Arabian tribes wear robes.

  • stay somewhere for 50000 years, you'll probably know a thing or two about your environement.
    – njzk2
    Aug 28 '15 at 19:56

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