Sunny and hot days are perfect for tying your boots on and going in search of spectacular alpine lakes, mountain peaks or slot canyons in the hot weather. But, along with the sun, intense heat can come, and if you don’t manage the combination of the two properly, your fun day can turn into a painful and potentially dangerous day. If you need to know more about hiking, read this article.
To learn how to have fun and stay healthy in hot weather, see the following:
- Planning Tips: Choosing Where and When to Hike
- Clothing and Gear Tips: The Right Clothes Can Make You Comfortable
- Health Tips: Protect yourself from the sun , dehydration, overhydration, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke
Tips for planning a hot weather hike
Thinking about when and where a hike is an important step in planning a successful hike in hot weather. Keep in mind that it can take anywhere from 10 days to two weeks to acclimate to the high heat, so be careful and take it slow on your first hike as the weather warms up.
When to hike
- Avoid the hottest time of day: The hottest time of day is usually around noon to 3 pm. On hot days, it may be best to avoid this period altogether by starting early and finishing the hike in the afternoon, or departing after 3pm. If you can’t avoid hiking during the hottest hours, try planning your trip in the shade or near water during those times.
- Take a night hike: If you live in or visit a hot place, the scorching temperatures can be annoying (or even unbearable) during the day, and a night hike can bring some relief. Learn more about hiking at night in the article Night Climbing Basics.
- Staying in the shade: Opting for a hike that takes you in the shade of trees or inside steep canyon walls, rather than in direct sunlight, is a good idea.
- Hike by the water: If there is not much shade, but you are near the sea or a large lake, take a hike where you can enjoy the cool sea or lake breeze. If you walk near a river, you can often soak a hat, t-shirt or bandana and cover it over your body to keep it cool as the water evaporates.
Warm Weather Clothing and Gear Tips
Dressing appropriately for a hike can keep you comfortable.
- Choose light colors: Wearing light colors that reflect sunlight instead of absorbing it (as dark colors can do) helps keep you cool. Look for shirts, shorts, and pants in white, brown, or khaki.
- Wear loose, breathable clothing: Light, loose clothing that breathes well will help your body regulate its temperature. Nylon and polyester are good choices.
- Cotton could be fine: You’ve heard him say: Cotton kills. Cotton has a bad reputation outdoors because it absorbs a lot of moisture and dries very slowly, which can create an uncomfortable and dangerous situation on a humid and/or cold day. But in hot and dry conditions, the moisture can be pleasant on the skin, and when it evaporates it will leave you feeling refreshed.
However, you have to be careful when wearing cotton. Make sure you’re comfortable with the feel of wet cotton on your skin (some people don’t like it) and that it doesn’t cause blisters if it rubs against your skin. More importantly, if there’s a chance you’ll be outside when the temperature drops at night, bring a change of clothes or opt for synthetics instead of cotton.
- Ventilation Open: Some shirts, shorts, and pants designed for hiking are ventilated. Opening it on a hot day helps increase airflow.
- Choose clothing with UPF protection: All clothing blocks out the sun to some degree, but clothing with a UPF rating is guaranteed to provide protection. Common ratings include UPF 15, UPF 30, and UPF 50+. Learn more in our article Sunscreen clothing basics.
- Cover: It may seem counterintuitive to wear extra clothing in hot weather, but an extra cover can provide the needed UV protection, especially for people with sensitive skin. Lightweight long-sleeved shirts, solar sleeves, and neck gaiters can provide effective protection.
- Wear a hat: Hats provide important sun protection for the face and neck. Baseball caps provide great color, but sun hats with a rounded brim are better.
- Cool Neck: A bandana, gaiter, or other light cloth can be dipped in water and worn over the head or around the neck to keep the nape cool and covered as the water evaporates. A special neck scarf filled with polymer crystals retains moisture for a longer time.
- Wear the right socks: Never wear cotton socks (choose wool or synthetic) and make sure they fit. Socks that are too big can have creases that rub together and socks that are too small can create pressure points and slip. Find out more in our article on Blisters Prevention and Treatment.
- Carry a hydration bag with you – this may seem like a small difference, but having a water hose always at hand will keep you hydrated more often than when you need to carry a bottle of water.
- Bring a Spray Bottle: When the going gets tough, plan a sneaky water attack on your fellow climbers or use the fog settings to create refreshing clouds whenever you need them.
Hiking in hot climates Health problems
Sunburn, dehydration, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke are some of the most common health problems associated with hiking in hot climates.
Sun protective clothing is good protection against the sun, but be sure to put sunscreen on exposed skin to avoid sunburn. Sunscreen is essential when walking in the sun. Always read the directions on your sunscreen bottle, but here are the basics:
- For hikes longer than 2 hours, choose sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher.
- Apply sunscreen generously 15 minutes before sunbathing.
- After 40 to 80 minutes of swimming or sweating, reapply immediately after towel drying or at least every 2 hours.
When hiking in hot weather, it is important to drink enough water to avoid dehydration. Dehydration can make you feel unwell and potentially contribute to other heat-related illnesses, such as seizures, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke.
How much you need to drink while you walk depends on a number of factors, including temperature and humidity, your intensity, your age, your body type and sweat rate, and the length of your walk. A good general recommendation is about half a liter of water per hour of moderate activity in moderate temperatures. From there, you may need to increase the amount you drink as the temperature and intensity of activity increase. For example, during strenuous hikes in extreme heat, it may be necessary to drink a liter of water or more per hour. As you gain experience, you will be able to refine the amount you drink.
When you go hiking with your dog, keep in mind that he will also need water. Plan to bring enough water for your pet in a dry place and bring a small, packable bowl.
Learn more about hydration in our article on hydration basics.
The downside of dehydration is overhydration or hyponatremia. This is a fairly rare condition that primarily affects endurance athletes like marathon runners, ultra runners, and triathletes, but hikers should be aware of this.
In hyponatremia, blood sodium levels are so dilute that cell function is impaired and in very extreme cases, hyponatremia can lead to coma and even death.
The symptoms of hyponatremia are similar to those of dehydration: fatigue, headache, and nausea, causing some athletes to mistakenly drink more water and exacerbate the problem.
Preventing overhydration: The key to preventing overhydration is controlling the amount you drink.
- Don’t Drink Too Much – Keep drinking a few sips of water every 15 to 20 minutes, trying not to drink more than you sweat. Gaining weight while exercising is a tell-tale sign that you are drinking too much.
- Add Salt: Keep your salt levels in balance by occasionally drinking an electrolyte sports drink instead of plain water and / or eating a salty snack like pretzels. You can also take salt tablets.
Heat cramps are painful muscle contractions that can occur suddenly during exercise in hot weather. It can be helpful to view heat cramps as a warning to exceed your limits and slow down. It is not known exactly what causes heat cramps, but to avoid them, make sure you are adequately hydrated. If you have heat cramps, gently stretch to ease the pain.
Heat exhaustion is your body’s inability to deal with heat stress. It can occur after prolonged exposure to high temperatures and is often associated with dehydration.
Heat exhaustion symptoms:
- Profuse sweating
- Rapid heart rate
Heat exhaustion treatment:
It is important to treat heat exhaustion right away if you or another hiker develop symptoms .
Get out of the heat: find a shady spot, lie down and rest. Take off excess clothing. If there are no trees for shade but you have a tarp, use it to block the sun.
- Rehydrate: Drink lots of water and if you have electrolyte tablets or salt, use some of them.
- Cool off: Splashing your face and head with cold water can be nice. If you are hiking near a lake or stream, dip your head or dip a scarf or hat into the water and place it on your head.
How to prevent heat exhaustion:
- Take some time to acclimatize – In hot weather, you should calm down while walking. Acclimatization can take anywhere from 10 days to two weeks. So be careful and take it easy on your first hikes of the season.
- Stay hydrated – Make sure you drink enough fluids. Half a liter per hour is a good place to start, but depending on the intensity of the hike, you may need more.
- Wear appropriate clothing: Choose light, loose-fitting clothing that allows your body to regulate its temperature and a sun hat to shade your face and neck.
- Rest in the shade – When you need a break, take the time to find a shady spot instead of struggling in the sun.
- Know What You Can Do – Be honest about your fitness and choose walks that complement it.
Heatstroke occurs when your body literally overheats. It is a serious condition that can appear quickly and requires immediate medical attention. If you see a fellow hiker showing symptoms of heat exhaustion associated with a change in mental state, you may have heatstroke. Pay special attention to these signs:
- Stabbing headache
- Nausea and vomiting
- Body temperature 104 degrees Fahrenheit or higher (if you can)
- Cooling: A person with heatstroke needs to be cooled down quickly. Lay the hiker in the shade, remove excess clothing, and use cold water and a fan to lower the temperature. If you are near a lake or river, you can try asking the hiker to lie down in the water, being careful to keep the airways clear. Also be aware that rapid cooling can cause hypothermia.
- Hydration: If a pedestrian is careful enough to hold a bottle of water, make him drink water.
- Evacuation: Heat stroke can cause damage to internal organs, so remove pedestrians as soon as possible and go straight to a hospital for further evaluation.
How to Prevent Heatstroke: Follow the same tips to prevent heat exhaustion.
If you want to be better prepared to respond to an outdoor medical emergency, consider taking a wilderness medicine class.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):
What to wear hiking when it’s hot out?
Look for white, tan, or khaki shirts, shorts, and pants. In such cases always wear loose, breathable clothing – Lightweight, loose-fitting clothing that breathes well will help your body regulate temperature. Nylon and polyester are good choices. Cotton can be fine – you’ve heard it before: cotton kills.
What should a girl wear on a summer hike?
For a trendy summer hiking outfit, forgo a black head to toe and opt for a light and bright look. Above, try a lightweight, breathable tank top over a sports bra. At the bottom, choose shorts or leggings, depending on your position.
What should you not wear while hiking?
The things which you should not wear on a hike:
No show socks
Bras with Clasps
Bulky pants or jackets
Stiff or to thin fabric
Only one layer
What kind of pants should I wear hiking?
Shorts, Pants, and Convertible Pants (Zipoff): Pedestrians love zipoff pants because they don’t have to choose between pants and shorts. Quick-drying fabrics are the rule here, and some hiking shorts with built-in liners can also double as swimwear.
How do you look good when hiking?
To successfully layer up your hiking look, start with basic clothing, such as a tank top or tee. Then, add other clothes on top, such as flannel shirts, sweaters, and jackets. If the weather is very cold, you can even layer leggings or tights under your pants.