For most places in the country, summer is probably the best time to get some good hiking done. Clear, sunny skies, vacation time, and long daylight hours can all mean a great, full day spent on the trail. Sometimes, however, the weather can pose as many challenges as opportunities, and this is certainly true when the temperature climbs.
That doesn’t mean you can’t hike during these times — you just have to be a little more prepared. I compiled a list of things you can do to stay safe and be cooler when hiking in warm or hot weather.
Stay Safer and Cooler on the Trail
Start early. If you want to beat the heat you need to hit the trails early. 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. you don’t want to be hiking in triple digits.
Cover up. This may seem counterintuitive, but long sleeves are actually better to wear. The more your body can shield from the sun, the happier you’ll be. Be sure to wear loose-fitting long sleeves and pants (clothes that wick moisture away from the body are best. No Cotton) paired with a wide-brimmed hat that will do wonders on a summer hike. Remember to shield your eyes from the harsh UV rays of the sun with some UV-blocking sunglasses and remember the sunscreen! (Spf 15 or higher is recommended) Slather that stuff all over your body – especially if you’re hiking at altitude or sweating a lot. The sun is stronger the closer you get so you’re going to get sunburnt faster than at normal altitudes.
Hydrate. Start hydrating the day before you plan on hiking. Be sure that you have prepared for the activity by bringing lots of water, or other hydration with electrolytes. At most, the human body can absorb 1 liter of water per hour, so do not be shy with drinking water. Be sure to bring more than you think you will need – and remember to sip often. If you are thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.
Stay Salty. If you were to drink 7 liters of water in a day, chances are you’ll get very sick. This is because your cells need to balance all of that water with sodium, or salt in order to function properly. 10g of table salt will give you 4g of sodium. So how do you increase your salt intake? Packing salty snacks, such as heavily salted nuts and salty jerky helps. Another way is to use a salt supplement such as Salt Sticks, Nuun, Thermo Tabs, or salt pills to increase your sodium. Be sure to track your salt intake and add an additional 2.5 to 5g of salt (if you are out hiking for 5-10 hours) on top of the 2.3g recommended dose of sodium per day. Even with a regular workout, the recommended 2.3g is often not enough and an extra 0.5 to 2 grams of Na will work wonders for recovery.
Remember to rest. While you eat your snack and drink your water, why not do it resting in the shade? Chill out, give your muscles a chance to recover and your core temp to come down to a cooler level.
Don’t forget the extras. While hiking in hot weather It’s always a good idea to bring extra! Bring 2 pairs of socks. It’s hot, your feet sweat and that could become a very uncomfortable step after step. Hot spots, rubbing, blistering, etc, Bring extra water, food, and lots of bug spray. It never hurts to have extra first-aid supplies either.
Know the danger signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. For your own safety and the safety of those with whom you’re hiking, know what heat exhaustion and heatstroke look like and know what to do. There is not always cell service in the wilderness so you might not be able to call for help. If you cannot get service to call 9-1-1 then send an able-bodied person to get to a location with service to call for help.
Heat Exhaustion: Symptoms: pale face, nausea, vomiting, cool and moist skin, headache, cramps. (Don’t ignore a headache when hiking in hot weather! This is serious stuff. Stop. Drink. Rest.)
Treatment: drink water with electrolytes, eat high-energy foods (with fats and sugars), rest in the shade for 30-45 minutes, and cool the body by wetting it with cool water. If nausea or vomiting prevent drinking fluids, get the victim to a hospital as fluids may need to be administered intravenously.
Heat stroke – This is a life-threatening emergency (Call 9-1-1 if possible)
Symptoms: flushed face, dry skin, weak and rapid pulse, high core body temperature, confusion, poor judgment or inability to cope, unconsciousness, hallucinations, seizures. Sometimes symptoms of heat stroke can mimic those of a heart attack or other conditions.
Treatment: the heatstroke victim must be cooled immediately! Continuously pour water on the victim’s head and torso, and fan to create an evaporative cooling effect. Immerse the victim in cold water if possible. Move the victim to shade and remove excess clothing. The victim needs to be evacuated to a hospital. Someone should go for help while attempts to cool the victim continue.
Check the weather The skies may be clear in the city and the mountains can make their own weather. Oftentimes when it’s very hot – and especially when it’s more humid than usual – the mountains can trigger surprise monsoon downpours that can do some serious damage whether you’re on the peak or in a nearby canyon. Check the weather before you go and check with a ranger, too. You don’t want to get caught in one of those storms.
Picking the right trail. If you don’t do a little research you could end up in a bad situation and might not matter how much water you’re drinking or how many layers you’re wearing. When you choose your hike, you will want to look for three things: SHADE, WATER, and ELEVATION.
There are a number of weather and hiking apps available for purchase and download in your app marketplace some of which combine weather and hiking into one and get recommendations on if it’s a good day to hike or not.