Hiking in hot weather can be a lot of fun… if you’re properly prepared.
If you’re not, you can end up dehydrated, sunburned, and exhausted.
In this article we’ll tell you how to prepare for a hot weather hike so you can avoid all of that and have the time of your life.
Ready to get started?
Let’s dive in!
The Dangers & Risks Of Hiking In Hot Weather
When you’re out on the trail in hot weather conditions, your internal body temperature can get quite high. If your body is unable to regulate this sufficiently through sweating, you could become susceptible to heat stroke.
Symptoms of heat stroke range from a headache, nausea and confusion to seizures and even coma.
Heat stroke can be quite serious, so you definitely want to avoid it by helping your body stay cool in every way you can. This includes keeping your clothes wet and jumping into any water you come across along the way.
Overexerting yourself while hiking in hot weather can lead to painful muscle contractions. These are known as heat cramps. If you experience a heat cramp, it’s a clear sign you need to slow down and cool off before heat stroke begins to set in.
Another issue that can occur when your body is unable to cope with the stress of excessive heat is heat exhaustion. Signs that you may be experiencing heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, a rapid pulse, dizziness, nausea and a headache.
Not getting enough water can cause you to become dehydrated, which can contribute to other heat related illnesses, such as heat stroke and heat cramps.
In itself, dehydration can give you a headache and cause you to become dizzy and nauseous. So, make sure you’ve got plenty of water available when you’re hiking in hot weather.
On the other hand, overhydration, otherwise known as hyponatremia, is just as real of a threat. Other than not drinking too much water, this can be avoided by keeping your salt levels stable with a salty snack or sports drink.
The symptoms of overhydration are similar to those of dehydration, except that it’s far more dangerous. In fact, it can even result in coma or death. (To be fair, this isn’t very likely – but it still pays to be cautious!)
We’ve all been burnt by the sun at some point or another. It’s never much fun, but if you’re out hiking in extreme heat without enough sun screen and the right kind of clothing, you’ll be looking at a far more serious sunburn than you may have thought possible.
You might not realize it, but the sun can burn you so bad that you end up with 2nd degree, and in some cases even 3rd degree burns. Yikes!
In the long term, repeated exposure to the sun can lead to melanoma. This is why it’s important to protect your skin and avoid getting burnt.
8 Tips & Tricks For Hiking In Hot Weather Safely
Let’s be honest – after all of this, hot weather hiking sounds like it’s more trouble than it’s worth.
While it has its fair share of problems, all of these can be easily avoided – if you follow just a few simple tips.
Here are a few of our favorite hot weather hiking tips and tricks to keep in mind next time you’re heading out on a blazing hot trail.
Wear The Right Kind Of Clothing
When it’s hot out, your instincts would probably lead you to wear as little clothing as possible. However, the truth of the matter is that you’re much better off covering up than stripping down. Keeping as much of your skin covered as possible, will protect you from getting burnt. It’s especially important to cover areas like your shoulders, as the sun beats down on them directly.
Make sure to wear a hat. A wide brim hat or a cap with a neck flap are best. If your hat doesn’t have a neck flap, a neck gaiter is another great way to protect your neck.
Wear loose fitting clothing that’s made of cotton.
Yes, you read that right. Cotton.
Many people advise against wearing cotton when you’re hiking. For the most part, I agree with them wholeheartedly. Cotton retains water and it’s slow to dry. In hot weather though, this is actually a plus.
Avoid cotton hiking socks, though. Wool is a much better option. Also, make sure your socks fit properly.
Wet your clothes (including your hat and neck gaiter) as often as possible. This will do wonders for keeping you cool.
Wear Plenty Of Sunscreen
When it comes to summer hiking, it’s important to wear sunscreen with an SPF factor of at least 30 for adequate sun protection. In extreme conditions, it’s a good idea to go for an even higher factor, such as 50.
Of course, the more sensitive your skin is the more UV protection you’re going to need.
Slather it on generously, and reapply as often as needed.
If you’re sweating a lot, you’ll need to be reapplying your sunscreen more often than you usually would.
If you’re a morning person, this part will be a piece of cake. If you’re anything like me, getting out of bed at the crack of dawn is going to be a struggle. Trust me though, when it comes to hot weather hiking, it’s definitely worth making the effort.
On a hot day, high temperatures will have often already peaked by 11 AM. Considering most of the steep climbing you’ll be doing is likely to be towards the beginning of your trail, it’s best to try and get that part done while it’s still slightly cooler.
Make Sure You’ve Got Enough Water, But Don’t Overdo It
Have a solid plan in place to make sure you have enough water. When there’s a natural drinking water source along the way, take full advantage.
If there aren’t any, get a water purification system to filter water you come across along the way. If you’re hiking in an area where there isn’t any water, make sure you take enough with you to keep you hydrated for the duration of your hike.
Drinking enough water will protect you from dehydration, but make sure you don’t drink too much, or you put yourself at risk of becoming overhydrated.
A good way to regulate your H2O intake is by using a hydration pack. If you’ve got one of these, you can take a few sips every now and then without having to stop and take your water bottle out.
Keep Your Salt Levels Balanced
It’s important to drink enough water to replace the water you lose through sweat. But, drinking water while you hike is not enough. You also sweat out important minerals, such as sodium and potassium. These will also need to be replenished, in order to keep your energy levels in check and avoid succumbing to heat exhaustion.
The best way to do this is with sports drinks that contain electrolytes, and salty snacks containing complex carbs, such as trail mix. Combining complex carbs with a starchy fruit, such as a banana or apple, provides a particularly effective slow-burning energy boost out on the trail.
Get Wet Whenever You Can
Anytime you come across a river or lake on your hike, jump in to cool your body down. Even if it’s just a trickling stream, take your shoes off and soak your feet in the cool water. This will greatly assist your body in regulating its internal temperature, protecting you from the onset of various heat related illnesses.
As I already mentioned, it’s a good idea to wet your clothes and hat, too. Just not your shoes, of course.
Don’t Ignore A Headache
One symptom that almost every heat related illness has in common is a headache. If you experience a headache while hiking in hot conditions, don’t keep pushing yourself. Take a break, find a nice shady spot to sit or lie down, drink some water and rest until the headache passes.
If it hasn’t subsided within 20 minutes, you should probably think about calling it quits and heading back, to be safe.
Choose Your Trail Wisely
If you want to stay as cool and comfortable as possible while you’re out hiking in the sun, it’s important to choose an appropriate trail.
For starters, you’ll want to make sure there’s enough water along the way. It’s also a good idea to have a good amount of shade on your trail. It doesn’t have to be along the entire trail, but at least from time to time, so you have a shady place to take a break and cool off.
Also keep in mind that the weather is cooler at higher altitudes. For a more pleasant hike, choose a trail that’s higher up in the mountains.
Remember to check the weather before you set out, though. Weather can be unpredictable, especially up in the mountains. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve set off for a hike on a sunny day with clear blue skies, only to be caught in a sudden storm that comes out of nowhere. It’s not much fun, believe me.
Hiking in hot weather is not without its dangers.
But, with a little preparation (and the right gear) it can also be a lot of fun.
Wearing the right clothes, using plenty of sunscreen, and getting a head start are just some of the tips you should follow to protect yourself from the hot summer sun.
Want to learn more? Check out our guide on hiking for beginners, where we do a deep dive into everything you need to know as a newbie hiker.