I see everywhere advice to wear cotton shirts (long sleeved?) and pants in Egypt due to the hot weather. This is against the "general wisdom" of backpacking, that says to use light clothes that dry fast and can be hand washed easily.

I will spend 16 days backpacking in Egypt (Cairo, Luxor, Aswan, Western Desert, Alexandria and maybe Hurghada or some other beach for a couple of days) during May. Since I will be moving a lot, including tours to the desert, I want to keep the carried weight to a minimum (I will also carry about half my daughter's stuff) and having the choice to hand wash my stuff.

Are cotton t-shirts really worth carrying? Also, considering the sun is it better to have long sleeved t-shirts or short sleeves with some light jacket on top?


3 Answers 3


A similar question was asked in The Great Outdoors Stack Exchange. The short answer is

Long sleeve light colored thin fabric cotton is leagues better than any synthetic.

The short explanation is that cotton retains water (sweat in your case), so it dries slower. Cotton will keep you cool by slowing down the evaporation experienced at high heat and low humidity.

As to why use long sleeves, that came up too in another question and it gives 3 reasons to be covered from head to toe in a desert:

  • Protection from the sun's harmful rays.
  • Air flow for convection cooling
  • Moisture retention (you heard that right) for evaporative cooling.
  • I heard the evaporative cooling argument, but I'm not convinced by it. I've seen elsewhere that evaporative cooling will make you cool when actively walking or in the sun, and very cool when you stop or are in the shade. Also being wet and drying all the time increase chaffing. Feb 4, 2015 at 18:28
  • Having visited Aswan & Lake Nasser in April a few years ago, it is a very dry heat, and nothing stays wet for long (if at all). At least 1 long sleeved shirt would be a must for me.
    – DaveP
    Feb 5, 2015 at 18:53

Wear cotton clothes when traveling in Egypt during summer - because of the heat you will sweat a lot and cotton fabric absorbs this sweat and helps the body to cool down. Cotton clothes provide better air circulation leading to more absorption of sweat and thus gives a cooling effect.

During winter temperatures are more human and you can dress pretty much as you like.

For a great guide on what to pack for Egypt consider this article: https://www.egypttoursplus.com/what-to-pack-for-egypt/


Your best is summer wool to wear. 40% wool & 60% cotton. So it don't itch. You would need buy that there. Have made there. As wool evaporates from the inside out Cotton wicks water to the surface. Not having that go with light cotton. Long sleeve. A good vented hat. Carry a sweat rag. Loose fitting cloths.

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