Lightweight & Breathable Clothing for Hot Weather Work [My Favorites]


Lightweight, breathable clothing for hot weather is critical to help you survive summers on the job. In this article, we will discuss the following list of lightweight work clothing, using pictures of some of the products I own.

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Quickly, these are some of my favorite options for summer:

I have tried a lot of summer work clothes over the years. In this article, we will discuss things like:

  • Lightweight Work Shirts
  • Lightweight Work Pants
  • Lightweight Work Shorts
  • Lightweight Work Hats
  • Lightweight Coveralls

If lightweight work clothes aren’t enough to help you beat the heat, you can always consider buying a neck cooling device or a wearable ice pack cooling vest to help find some relief in the summer heat. I personally like the FlexiFreeze cooling collar for humans.


Lightweight Shirts for Hot Weather Work

There are plenty of shirts on the market today to help you manage the heat (and hoodies too). Some options will just be made with a lightweight fabric, while others may be vented, or made with a cooling fabric.

Cooling Shirts

Most cooling work shirts accomplish the cooling effect by wicking your sweat away to the outside of the shirt, and dispersing it in a way that allows it to dry quickly. The evaporation process naturally pulls heat away from your body, and helps regulate your temperature.

Now, to be clear, this won’t make a brutally hot day feel like a cool spring afternoon. The results from cooling fabric will be relatively minor, but in my experience it does help.

I personally where the Dickies Temp-iQ shirts that are designed to produce this cooling effect. Here’s a look at mine:

dickies-summer-work-t-shirt
dickies-summer-work-t-shirt-material

Not only is this shirt designed to wick sweat to help keep me cool and dry, it also has a lightweight, breathable design. My size medium weighs 0.43 pounds:

dickies-summer-work-t-shirt-weight

If you are interested in this Dickies cooling work shirt, or other types of lightweight, breathable t-shirts, visit our article about the best summer work t-shirts to read more. The good news is you have a lot of options so you can find one that meets your personal needs.

For polo shirts, visit my article about the best lightweight polo shirts.

Sleeveless

Do you like to wear sleeveless work shirts? There are a few things to consider if you’re thinking about using a shirt like this on the job.

First, how much shoulder coverage do you need? The term “sleeveless shirt” may often be used interchangeably with “tank top”, but tank tops usually offer less shoulder coverage.

Yes, less shoulder coverage means more heat escapes from your shoulder and neck area, but it also means more sun exposure.

Second, you will need to decide the type of fabric that makes sense for you. Some sleeveless work shirts will use a midweight fabric that is still tough enough for dirtier jobs.

But if you want a cooling fabric like we discussed in the section above, you have options for that also. Here is a close up look at the material and weight of the Arctic Cool sleeveless cooling shirt I own:

sleeveless-arctic-cool-material
sleeveless-arctic-cool-weight

If you are interested in these types of shirts, and want to read more about the different designs, materials, and weights available, visit our article about the best sleeveless work shirts.

Button-Up

Does your job require a button-up work shirt? This type of shirt is very common in the automotive industry, but there are other types of jobs who require this type of uniform-style work shirt.

Yes, there are some really nice lightweight button-up work shirts for you to consider. I actually like Red Kap a lot. Red-Kap offers several types of button work shirts that have breathable mesh paneling for comfort. Here’s a look at the paneling on one of my Red Kap shirts:

Overall, if you need a short-sleeve summer button-up work shirt, you have a lot of options. You can find options that are vented, options that use a cooling fabric, and options that have breathable mesh paneling. To read more, visit our article about the best short sleeve button up work shirts.

Long-Sleeve

Do you prefer to wear a lightweight long-sleeve work shirt? The nice thing about these shirts is they give you extra sun protection down your arms.

I mentioned earlier in the article that I personally like the Dickies Temp-iQ cooling shirts for summer work. Well, they make that Dickies Temp-iQ cooling shirt in a long sleeve version.

Here’s a close-up look at the material and weight of my size medium long-sleeve Dickies Temp-iQ shirt:

Again, this shirt is designed to wick away sweat to the outside of the shirt, and disperse it in a way that allows it to dry quickly. The evaporation process naturally pulls heat away from your body, and helps regulate (to a small degree) your temperature.

To read more about your long-sleeve options (including long-sleeve button up options) visit our article about the best long sleeve work shirts for hot weather.


Lightweight Pants for Hot Weather Work

Work Pants

If you are shopping for summer work pants, finding something that is lightweight and breathable is critical. The type of fabric can play a large role in breathability.

How durable do you need your work pants to be? Traditional canvas work pants can be very hot. Heavyweight canvas is usually 12-ounce cotton, and can really trap in the heat.

I like to use a lighter-weight canvas pant during the summer months. The Carhartt B151 pants have been my go-to summer pant for several years because they use a lighter-weight 7.5-ounce canvas fabric that is more summer friendly.

Here’s a look at my Carhartt B151 pants, and a close-up look at the fabric:

carhartt-b151-work-pants
b151-material

My size 32×34 weighs 1.33 pounds:

b151-weight

Those are the canvas summer pants I wear the most. But I also own the Wrangler ATG Canvas Utility Pants because those pants have reinforced knees. Here’s what those pants look like:

atg-work-pants
atg-pants-reinforced-knee
atg-pants-material

My size 32×34 weighs 1.58 pounds:

atg-pants-weight

So, yes, this Wragnler ATG pant weighs a bit more than the Carhartt B151 pant does, but this Wrangler pant has reinforced knees and kick plates. This Wrangler pant is still a summer-friendly option designed to wick away sweat.

If you are interested in summer canvas pants, visit our article about the best lightweight canvas work pants.

Cargo Pants

If you are looking for ultra-lightweight work pants, and don’t need a canvas material, then I’d suggest the Columbia Silver Ridge Cargo Pants. These pants use a lightweight nylon ripstop fabric that, despite being lightweight and breathable, is designed to discourage rips and tears.

Here’s a look at mine:

columbia-work-pants
columbia-zip-pocket

Here is a close-up look at the material of these pants. You can see the ripstop weave:

columbia-ripstop-material

My size 32×34 weighs only 0.62 pounds:

columbia-weight

If you are interested in lightweight cargo pants for work, visit our article the best lightweight cargo pants. Most of these pants use a moisture wicking fabric and have a breathable design.

Vented Work Pants

I was a bit surprised how hard it was to find vented work pants. I finally found a pair that made sense for me. These CQR pants have vents on the back side of the knee which helps circulate air in the brutal heat.

Here’s a look at the vents on my pants:

cqr-vented-knee-back
cqr-vented-knee

As you can see, there is a small flap that covers the vent, and the vent also has a mesh paneling to prevent debris from entering. I understand vented pants might not be for everybody, but in my opinion, these are the best pants I’ve found for circulating air.

My size 32×34 weighs:

cqr-weight
cqr-work-pants
cqr-cargo-pocket-side

If you think these might be a good option, you can read more by visiting our article about the best vented work pants. No, these pants aren’t as durable as heavy-duty canvas pants, but they do allow the legs to breathe.

Another option you have for summer work pants is to wear a pair of convertible pants that zip off at the knee. Some people don’t like this style of pant, but it’s a versatile option that allows you to shed some material when the heat sets in.


Lightweight Shorts for Hot Weather Work

Many of us rely on work shorts once the weather turns brutally hot. But finding the right type of work short to meet the demands of your job (and climate) can be critical.

There are 7 main things you will want to consider when buying work shorts. Each of these can greatly affect the performance of a pair of work shorts, and how they are designed.

  • Durability – Do you need a canvas fabric?
  • ComfortDo you need a stretch fabric? A breathable fabric? A crotch gusset?
  • PocketsHow many pockets do you need? Do you need a tool loop?
  • InseamHow long do you like work shorts to fit?
  • FitDo you like a relaxed fit or a slimmer fit?
  • WaistbandDo you like a flexible waistband? How many belt loops do you need?
  • CostAre you on a tight budget this month?

In the sections below let’s discuss these 7 issues to consider when buying work shorts. I will use specific examples of my work shorts that I own to give you a better idea of what your options might be.

Durability

How durable do you need your work shorts to be? The most durable types of work shorts will either use cotton canvas fabric, or a ripstop fabric. Quickly, here’s what you need to know about both:

  • Ripstop – Ripstop is a lighter-weight more summer-friendly fabric. No, it’s not as durable as canvas, but it is designed in a way that discourages rips and tears. This makes it durable enough for most types of jobs and is a nice blend of toughness and breathability. Ripstop material pictured below. To read more, visit our article about the best ripstop shorts.
moisture-wicking-cargo-shorts
  • Canvas – The most durable type of fabric you can find in work clothing. Very abrasion resistant and durable. If you need something very tough, this is probably your best option. The drawback is at first it can feel a bit stiff, and can trap heat. Canvas picture below. To read more, visit our article about the best canvas shorts.
flex-shorts-dickies-material
  • Denim – Denim is another durable, and comfortable, fabric. Finding denim work shorts isn’t impossible, but they definitely aren’t as popular as canvas and ripstop shorts. I use the Wrangler denim shorts pictured below. I like denim, I just don’t use it in the extreme heat. To read more, visit our article about the best denim work shorts.
best-denim-work-shorts

Yes, you can find lightweight work shorts as well, but just make sure that they make sense for your job. Will a lightweight work short hold up? If it will, it’s probably your best option, especially in the brutal heat.


Comfort

You need work shorts that are comfortable, otherwise, they will make long days feel even longer. Obviously fit can play into the comfort (we discuss that more later in article), but there are three very specific things that can affect the comfort of your work shorts:

  • Stretch Fabric – Stretch fabric blends incorporate a small bit of spandex to give work shorts flexibility. This has become increasingly popular over the last few years. It allows you to bend and crouch easier. The drawback is these types of shorts may not always be as durable over the long run. To read more, visit our article about the best stretch work shorts.
flex-shorts-dickies
  • Crotch Gusset – A crotch gusset is extra material sewn into the crotch to take stress of, yes, your nether-regions. There are two types (pics below). A diamond gusset is smaller, confined to crotch. An inseam gusset stretches the full length of short. Both pictured below. An inseam gusset is the better choice for hiking and running, but both help on the job. To read more visit our article about the best gusseted work shorts.
cargo-carhartt-force-gusset
wrangler-cargo-shorts-gusset

Pockets

How many pockets do you need? Having too many pockets can be overkill and just add bulk and weight to your work shorts. That doesn’t help anyone. But not having enough pockets can be a problem too.

There are a few design options you will want to consider:

  • Cargo Shorts – As we all know, cargo shorts give you plenty of storage space. The only drawback is cargo pockets can be bulky. Sometimes, low-profile zip cargo pockets take away the bulk. To read more visit our article about the best cargo work shorts. For low profile, visit our article about the best cargo shorts with zip pockets.
lee-swope-shorts-pocket-2
  • Carpenter Shorts – Carpenter shorts are better for those who need tool loops and tool band. They also are good for those who just don’t like the bulkiness of cargo pockets. Most carpenter shorts have small utility pockets down one leg. To read more, visit our article about the best carpenter work shorts.
rigby-carhartt-shorts-loop

If you prefer cargo work shorts, you will have plenty of options. Not only can you find tradition cargo work shorts, but they make stretch cargo shorts, and denim cargo shorts so you can find a material that works best for you.


Fit

Most work shorts are made with a loose, relaxed fit that gives your legs plenty of breathing room. Not only is this comfortable, it allows you more freedom of movement on the job.

But if you prefer a slimmer look, it is much more difficult to find options. Many workwear companies don’t make slim fit work shorts. But we put together a list of your best options – to read more visit our article about the best slim fit work shorts.


Inseam

You will definitely want to consider the inseam of your work shorts. Obviously, your height matters, but a 10″ inseam will often hit near the top of the knee.

It is most common to find work shorts in the 10-11″ inseam length. Longer options may push up near 13 inches in some extreme examples.

For shorter work shorts, you will see options in the 8 to 9-inch inseam range. These will finish well above the knee for most people. To read more, visit our article about the best short work shorts.


Waistband

It may be easy to neglect the waistband when choosing work shorts, but it is something you will want to consider. First of all, do you need extra belt loops?

I’ve found that typically the cheaper the work shorts, the less belt loops they have. This is one of the sneaky ways they cut down on material costs and hope nobody notices. Just be mindful of that.

But perhaps the biggest thing to consider is whether or not you want a flexible waistband. They are basically two types. The first is the more traditional, bunched elastic style that we are familiar with seeing. Here’s an example:

columbia-elastic-waistband

But you will also find a lot of work shorts that have hidden elastic waistbands. This means from the outside, the short looks like it has a normal, non-elastic waistband. Here’s an example of this type of waistband hidden on the inside of the short:

lee-swope-shorts-stretch-waistband

Both types of elastic waistbands can help your shorts fit snug and comfortable. To read more, visit our article about the best elastic waist work shorts.


Cost

Yes, cost can be an issue. Some of the more premium styles of workwear shorts can cost $50 or more. But if you are on a tighter budget, you can definitely find shorts cheaper than $30.

If you need budget-friendly options, I’d recommend considering Dickies. They are well-known for making a wide selection of workwear that is quite affordable, and still dependable.

Just be mindful that cheaper shorts may not have as many belt loops, may not have extra seam stitching, may not have pocket reinforcements, and the hardware may not hold up as well over the long run.


Lightweight Hats for Summer Work

If you like to wear a bucket hat in the summer to help shield your face and neck from the sun, finding a lightweight design that lets heat escape is critical. The good news is there are several types of cooling bucket hats.

Most types of cooling bucket hats ask you to soak the hat in water prior to use (and then ring it out). This helps jump start the evaporation process, which triggers the cooling effect.

It is important to understand that cooling bucket hats won’t feel like an ice pack on your head. The effect will only be minor, but in my experience it does help.

Don’t worry, if you have to soak the hat first, you ring the water out before putting it on your head, which means you won’t have water running down all over your face. Also, these types of material are made to dry quickly, so the hat won’t feel soaked for long, and it will trigger the cooling effect.

To read more, visit our article about the best summer bucket hats. Not all summer bucket hats are cooling hats – some will just have breathable mesh paneling to allow heat to escape. For simple work around the yard, a linen summer flat cap might do the trick.

If you wear a hard hat at work, you will also want to consider wearing a cooling helmet liner to help fight the heat. These helmet liners can wick sweat and provide some relief. To read more, visit our article about the best helmet liners for summer.

Summer Coveralls

I recently put my hands on 6 of the most popular lightweight short sleeve coveralls to compare them on many things, including weight, design, and breathability. My conclusion is this: I think the Dickies short sleeve lightweight coveralls that use a cotton/poly poplin material have the best balance between durability and lightweight breathability.

Here are mine:

These lightweight coveralls really allow the body to breathe in the summer heat. To read more, visit my article about the best short sleeve coveralls.

I also did the same thing for long sleeve coveralls:

If you need lightweight long sleeve coveralls for hot weather, and want to explore your options, visit my article about the best long sleeve coveralls for summer.

Lightweight Work Shoes

Finding safety toe work shoes that are also very breathable can be critical in the summer heat. For example, my Reebok Fusion Flexweave Shoes were noticeably more breathable than other composite shoes that I tried – when I hold mine up to the light, I can see through them:

reebok-material

To read more, visit my article about the best breathable composite toe shoes for hot weather work.

If you need steel toe, the Reebok Zprint Steel Toe Shoes were noticeably more breathable than other shoes that I tried – when I hold them up to the light, I can also see through them:

reebok-zprint-breathability

To read more, visit my article about the best breathable steel toe work shoes.

Paul Johnson

Paul is a lead content creator for Workwear Command. He has had several blue-collar jobs which have provided him a wide range of experience with tools and gear. He also has a business degree and has spent time in business casual office settings.

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