Hot Weather Hiking Tips

Your hiking companion won’t hike in the bitter cold, so you compromise by taking the winters off.

window_winter

When spring arrives, you are eager to hit the trails. You head away from home at every opportunity. Life is good.

spring hiking

North Yuba River Trail in Eldorado National Forest, CA

But now summer temperatures have arrived. 

If there is Heat, the diagnosis is Sweat

Moisture will seep out from your skin and your clothing will feel damp and clingy against your skin. You’ll wish for clouds to capture the intense radiant heat blazing down from that luminous yellow disk in the afternoon sky. 

The sweat on your forehead will drip past your eyebrows and burn your eyes.

Dried sweat will leave patches of salty dust on your cheeks. Bugs will buzz around your ears. You will be easily irritated and parched for thirst.

The intensity of the sun and the hot air keeps you hovering underneath the shade, and suddenly it is too HOT for hiking?!

Don’t let your hiking hobby restrict you to playing outside for a meager few months out of the year.

The summer heat also brings pleasure! A breeze feels welcoming and cooling. Splashing cold creek water on your face never felt more energizing. Taking a dip or swim never felt more refreshing. What else can you do to stay cool? Follow these summer hiking tips to help you feel more comfortable in the heat. 

Hot Weather Hiking Tips

  • Keep your clothing and skin wet to stay cool. In cold climates, we talked about how fatal the combination of cold and wet is. When your clothes are sweaty (or wet), your loss of heat is increased 5 times. Use this to your benefit in the heat! Whenever you are near water, make sure that you wet (actually soak) yourself down. Staying WET is one of the best things that you can do to help decrease your core body temperature, and a difference in how comfortable you feel.
  • Avoid hiking between 10AM and 4PM. Start your hike predawn and finish lateTake a long break near shade and water during the hottest part of the day. Even if you are eating and drinking correctly you still need to avoid hiking in direct sunlight during the hottest part of the day. Sun temperatures are 15F to 20F (9C-11C) degrees hotter than shade temperatures. 
  • Always carry a headlamp/lightweight flashlight so you can hike out after dark in the event of an illness, injury, or enjoyment keeps you out longer than you anticipate. 

Hot Weather Clothing 

If you know how to make yourself more comfortable with the right clothing and proper hydration, you’ll feel much better in the heat.

  • Wear a Sun Hat. Hats not only prevent sunburn, but are also good for keeping insects off your head. 
    • Look for a hat with a 360 degree brim to protect your face, ears and neck. Make sure the material is flexible so it can easily cinch into your backpack. Mesh fabric on the top helps with ventilation.
    • We’ve mentioned our favorite hat in previous posts, the Tilly LTM6 Airflo Hat because it offers all of these characteristics – mesh ventilation, a 360 brim, and a sun protection rating of UPF 50+. It also floats in the water, will fold up easily to stow in your backpack, and is lightweight (~ 4 oz). [If you purchase the LTM6 Tilly by clicking on the above link, it will pay us a small commission. This costs no more to you as the purchaser, however it does encourage us to keep writing articles such as these]. Tilley LTM6 Hat
  • Wear clothing with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) rating. UV clothing is a great choice if you will be hiking in open, exposed areas or do not want to use sunscreen.  The UPF in fabric will not fade or wash off over time. 
  • Wear a loose or semi fitted wicking shirt with a waffle pattern. Keep your clothing loose enough to allow for adequate air circulation. A waffle pattern allows for greater breathability and is faster drying.
  • Wear wicking socks. Wicking material for socks is extremely important for keeping feet dry and preventing blisters. Look for Merino Wool blends (best) or Coolmax Polyester blends (good). While polyester is great for wicking moisture, it is not anti-bacterial. Wool is naturally anti-bacterial, which helps control odor. 
    • Look for wool blends containing at least 60% Merino Wool (not from Australia) and Nylon (for durability) and Spandex (for stretch).
    • Make sure your socks are tight fitting. Loose socks will contribute to blisters.
  • Carry rain gear. You just never know when you will be caught in a rainstorm in the middle of a hot, summer day. While a light shower may feel good, a heavy downpour will often bring strong winds and temperatures will drop rapidly, which will make you feel cold fast. Always carry an ordinary emergency poncho or rain suit/jacket. Depending on where you are hiking, it might make more sense to bring an umbrella, which is useful for providing your own shade when hiking in sunny, open areas.
    • If you purchase a poncho, make sure what you are getting is sized to cover you and your backpack. The advantage of a poncho is that it offers good rain protection in a downpour and can be used for other (non-rain) purposes such as as tarp/temporary rain shelter/groundcloth. The main disadvantage is that it is not breathable and you will start to feel damp and uncomfortable after wearing it a while.

No Excuses!

The person who claims they love the outdoors, but won’t go there because the weather is never right, doesn’t love (or like) the outdoors. Maybe that person is you, or someone you know. If you genuinely enjoy spending time outside, you can’t expect to stay comfortable. That doesn’t mean outdoor activity makes for a miserable hobby. In many cases, you can make yourself more comfortable by improving your gear & following these summer hiking tips.

Humans, thanks to our ability to sweat, have adapted exceptionally well for survival in a hot environment. Physiologically, cold adaptation is more difficult for humans. We are not subarctic animals by nature. We do not grow dense fur coats or thick layers of fat insulation like polar bears. Despite that, more humans die from heat each year. High temperatures with high humidity make it harder to stay cool since sweat can not evaporate. As a result, we do not get the cooling effect of rapid evaporation. While evaporative cooling is very effective in dry climates, there is a major drawback.  That is the rapid loss of water and salts from the body through sweat.  This can be fatal in extreme heat (less than 24 hours) if not replaced. Make sure you stay hydrated and replace electrolytes

If you’d rather choose between hypothermia and heat exhaustion, which would you pick?

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