Summer hiking is, without a doubt, one of the most popular activities around the globe. Sunny days and warm and starry nights create a perfect background for your camping trip, and it opens tons of possibilities – from visiting the nearest canyon, or local lake, to some other amazing place, it sounds amazing in theory. But summer also means temperatures could be a bit higher than you’d love, so hiking in hot weather requires some precaution and preparation.
This article will lead you through the basic stuff and show you summer hiking tips, so once you hit the road and find yourself and your friends on the track you’ll know what to do and how to act or react to prevent the heat from creating any problem that could not only ruin your trip but also be potentially hazardous.
Proper Planning Is The Foundation
Some research says that it can take up to 10 days, but sometimes even two weeks for your organism to adapt to hot weather, so make sure you plan your trip cleverly. Don’t rush anything and take your time, especially at the beginning. It is recommended starting with small distances.
Right Time To Hike
An important aspect of staying healthy during the hot weather hiking is choosing the right time to hike. The hottest period during the day is between 12 pm and 3 pm. That means the best and the safest option is to start your hike early in the morning and to finish sometime near 3 pm, or to wait for the heat to pass and start in the afternoon. Also, try to organize your trip so you spend the peak of the heat somewhere in shade, or near a body of water. Bathing in the sun is quite fun – of course if it is allowed.
The second option is to hike at night. This has lots of its other perks, but related to this topic is the fact that nights are way cooler, and you won’t have to worry about possible sunburns.
Choosing A Place To Hike
While you search for a place you’d love to explore, make sure to find a place with lots of shade. This means hiking in the forest during the hot summer day is a good idea, hiking in a desert or across open terrain without trees around is not such a good idea.
The second thing to look for is water. If you’re somewhere near the ocean, lake, or the sea, a cool breeze typical for these places will help you maintain body heat on a normal level. If you’re hiking near the river or a brook or a creek, you could always wet your clothes and put them back on.
Clothes And Gear – What To Wear And Bring During How Weather
Choosing the right clothes for hiking is probably the most popular topic among hikers, and not without a reason because proper clothes will keep you comfortable for a long period of time. The best option is something light-colored. Unlike dark colors that absorb, light colors will reflect the sun’s rays away. If you have the option, get something white or light shade of any other color.
Make sure you have something loose on you, so your body could breathe. Also, avoid putting on something too heavy. Recommended materials are polyester and nylon. And if you have something made of cotton, don’t worry. During the summer days, its ability to absorb moisture and dry slowly could be quite refreshing, because it will help your body cool off, unlike during the wet or cold days, when it could be not only unpleasant but also dangerous to your health. But in this case, make sure you have something else within the hand reach, just in case the temperature drops during the night. Some clothes have air vents included, so opening those up will improve airflow.
Cover Yourself Up
When you buy clothes for hiking, ask for UPF-rated items. This type of clothes will provide total sun protection. Although it sounds weird, having a lightweight long-sleeve shirt and a neck gaiter will provide more than enough protection. Don’t forget to bring a hat, because it helps protect your head, face, and neck from the sun. If you have a baseball cap, it will do, but the better option is to get a hat with a brim, so you have your whole head covered.
Wearing a bandana, sun-protective neck gaiter, or similar piece of clothing will protect your neck from direct sunlight, but you could also dip it into the water and make it wet, so it cools your head and neck off.
Another important item is the proper selection of socks. Remember when we’ve said that cotton keeps moisture? Well, unlike your shirt, the moisture in your shoes will not only be unpleasant, but it can easily help blister formation. And make sure your socks fit your legs well because if they are too large or too small, you could end up with some pressure points in your shoes, and with possible blisters.
Cool Off Gear
Having a hydration pack in your gear is a must. Unlike water bottles, with the sip tube drinking water is way simpler because you don’t have to take the bottle out of your backpack, take the lid off, then close it and place it back into your backpack, which is especially annoying during the unbearable heat. With the sip tube, you’ll only have to take a sip, which means you’ll do it more often and stay hydrated this way.
And who says cooling down has to be so boring? Bring a water pistol just take it out and “shoot” your friends with it. You’ll have a good laugh, it will be fun and there’s the opportunity to see who the fastest shooter in town is. Not so fun alternative comes in the shape of a spray bottle.
Possible Health Problems And Hot-Weather Hiking Concerns
As we’ve stated already, hiking during hot summer days could potentially be really dangerous. There are lots of things that could happen, like sunburns, dehydration, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, or heat stroke, to name a few. Here we’ll guide you’ll find out how to prevent them, and what to do if some of these strikes.
If you’ve got yourself a nice pair of UPF-rated pieces of clothes, it is a good start, but you’ll have to add something to it. This won’t probably cover your whole body, so you’ll need something to protect the uncovered parts. To achieve that, get a bottle of sunscreen. This should be essential for all the hikes during the sun, not only in the summer time.
When searching for the right one, if you plan on spending more than 2 hours on the track and out in the sun, get a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) above 30. Add sunscreen about 15 minutes before you start your hike, and redo it again every two hours, tops. In the case of swimming think about applying it every 40 minutes, and if you’re outside, hiking, and all covered in sweat, doing it every 60 to 80 minutes should be enough. But don’t let more than two hours pass by before you re-add it.
You already know people can’t live without water, and if you skip it you could end up dehydrated, which could make you more prone to getting heat exhaustion, cramps, or even a heat stroke.
Knowing how much water you’ll need is impossible and it can vary from person to person, but there is some general recommendation to drink about half a liter per hour. Although it could easily be much more or much less – it depends on outside temperature, the type of activity, etc. It may seem a bit problematic to figure your amount at first, but as time goes by and you gather hiking distance, you’ll learn how much water you really need. And don’t forget – if you’re having your four-legged friend with you, then you’ll need extra water and a bowl.
The other side of this medal is so-called overhydrating, or hyponatremia. It is not so common, and it usually strikes those who spend much energy, like marathon runners or triathletes, but because you’ll be carrying your gear, which probably isn’t the easiest thing in the world, you’ll also be spending lots and lots of energy on your hike, so this is also a possibility. This condition means sodium levels in your blood are diluted and your cell function becomes decreased. This could eventually lead to coma or even death. The symptoms are more-less the same – it comes with fatigue, headache, nausea, and it could force you to drink more, and make things worse.
Preventing it is not so hard, but it does require a bit of discipline because you’ll have to try not to overdrink. Follow the routine of drinking a bit of water every 15 or 20 minutes. If you end up gaining weight after the hike, it means you’ve drunk too much. Also, it is recommended to drink something with electrolytes like a sports drink or eating some salty snack to add up the lost salt.
Heat Cramps And Exhaustion
If you start to feel your muscles contracting painfully, you’re experiencing heat cramps, which is a clear signal to ease up a bit. Staying properly hydrated will help you avoid them, but if you get them, start and easily stretch that area, it should lower the pain and relax the muscle.
If you’ve been exposed to a high temperature for a longer period of time, there is a chance of getting heat exhaustion. The symptoms are the following:
- Heavy sweating
- Rapid pulse
- Faintness and Dizziness
It is crucial to react the moment you spot some of these symptoms. Get to the shade and lay down. Remove any extra clothing. If there are no trees, use a tarp to create shade. Drink lots of water, and add electrolytes or salt tablets. Take your time to cool down. Splashing water on your head could help, or you could dip your headwear in the nearest body of water and place it on your head.
It is easier and way more pleasant to prevent it, so make sure you’ve given yourself and your companions enough time to acclimate to your surroundings. Be cautious when starting your hike and especially during it. Drink enough fluids, and listen to your body, it will tell you do you need more water or less. Don’t wear heavy clothes; opt-out for lightweight, loose-fitting pieces, so your body could easily regulate temperature by itself. Don’t force it, if you feel you need to rest, stop, and take a break. Know your limitations and stick to them.
This is a clear sign of overheating. Do not play chicken with it, take it as seriously as possible, and rush to the nearest doctor or a hospital. Typical symptoms are:
- Sore headache
- Nausea and vomiting
- Confusion and disorientation
- The body temperature of 104-degrees-Fahrenheit or higher (if you have a way of measuring body temperature)
Although serious, there are some things you could do before you arrive at the hospital – cool down the person who’s suffering the heat stroke as fast as you can, but don’t forget – this could cause hypothermia. Hydrate them, don’t panic, and hope for the best.
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Hiking is fun, but sometimes it can be dangerous, if you don’t take it seriously, especially in extreme weather conditions, as the high temperature. This article should help you prevent any unwanted outcome and have an amazing trip.