Everyone loves beautiful, sunny days, but unless there is some caution involved, hot weather hiking can be harmful.
As temperatures rise higher and higher, so do the risk of becoming dehydrated, ill and in some cases seriously.
High body temperature can develop rapidly in very hot environments causing what is known as hypothermia.
Heat-related illnesses cause high body temperature due to the body not being able to transfer heat effectively or external heat gain is excessive. Heatstroke, heat rash, cramps, etc.
Instead of landing in one of these situations, discover some tricks to keep your body temperature down and find relief from the summer heat.
Plan Ahead & Choose Wisely
On really hot days find hikes that take place mostly in the shade or at higher altitudes.
Make sure these hikes lead to many sources of water. Not only is water a natural coolant, but will give you the opportunity to fill your water containers.
Plan ahead and make sure to have enough fluid in place to complete the individual legs (available water sources en route) or the entire trip.
Plan How To Stay Hydrated
You know you must drink plenty of water in order to keep your sweat glands up and running. If your body can’t sweat, your skin cannot cool down. This will help you avoid heat-related illnesses.
So, the first question to ask yourself is “How much water will I need and where is that water coming from?”
An ideal intake is approx 1-quart of water per 30-minutes hiking – although this will differ with the altitude, humidity, dryness, and temperature of your hike.
So ask yourself how much water can you carry and where can you refill along the way?
How Much Water to Carry on a Hike?
The weight of water is likely to be the most noticeable in the backpack so make sure to carry only enough to match the needs.
Avoid passing any water source without getting a refill which should limit the weight carried and prevent issues with rationing out water until arriving at the next stop.
If you discover water along the trail make sure you filter or purify it first.
Drinking enough fluid while hot-weather hiking or similar physical activity is essential to avoid issues of dehydration.
How often should I drink?
The most effective method to avoid issues with dehydration is to sip fluids at regular intervals. Sipping fluids – sports drink or water – will help to keep the body in much better shape.
Plus, it benefits to constantly sip fluid and not stop every so often for a large gulp of water.
National Parks and other hiking destinations often give guidelines on the most appropriate fluid intake to remain fit and healthy.
Desert hiking hydration needs extra caution and more fluid intake to compensate for the buckets of sweat lost and constant high heat.
Planning for a hot-weather hike should include factors like the temperature of the trip, weather condition, and amount of water to take.
Signs of Dehydration
Early signs of starting to feel dehydrated include a dark urine and foamy or sticky saliva. But it is easy to avoid these issues and prevention is the most desirable action to avoid problems and stay hydrated.
Water bottle Vs hydration system
The most effective ways to carry water on the warm-weather hike is the water bottle (aluminum or plastic) or a hydration system.
If planning to travel with the water bottle make sure to pack enough to last the duration if not carrying a purification system.
Popular choices include Nalgene for the water bottle and CamelBak for the hydration pack. Hydration packs give the benefit of being easier to sip from at regular intervals thanks to the purpose-made drinking tube.
Plus, this type of pack is favored if planning to carry a high volume of water on the shoulders.
Dangers of Dehydration
While staying hydrated is essential for any physical activity, it is much more of a concern when hot-weather hiking. Desert hiking hydration is a concern when it is possible to lose up to 2-quarts of electrolytes and water per hour.
Plus, sweat will evaporate immediately, which means dehydration can take effect more quickly.
After 2-quarts of water have been lost the system starts to slow and the body performs with about 20% less efficiency.
This can lead to a difficult thirst cycle, which makes it tiring to continue and results in heat stroke or exhaustion.
Water alone will not be enough to avoid heat issues. You should take in electrolytes that are minerals found in salty snacks or hydration powders and tablets. Electrolytes allow your body to use the water you are drinking.
Keep an Eye on the Time
If you will be hiking where there is little shade, do it during the early hours of the day. You will want to be back before the sun heats the day to its extremes.
Wear good quality wicking clothing designed for exercising. Cotton clothing can become very uncomfortable in the heat.
I have seen people advise on loose-fitting clothing, but this can cause chafing – you are much better off wearing well-fitted clothing from high-quality wicking material
Hats should also be large brimmed and loose-fitting and will also protect you from sunburn….which leads us to
As Baz Luhrmann recommended “feel free to wear sunscreen”
and we could not agree more!
Take a Dip
If you are in an area where you can take a quick dip, do it. If not, soak a bandana and place it over your head or around your neck for fast relief.
There are bandanas filled with water-absorbing polymer crystals that soak up water and help you remain cooler for a longer period of time.
Look for Breezes
I don’t believe there is anything as refreshing as finding a really nice breeze in the middle of a blistering hot day.
You can find breezes on ridges or certainly around water or look for trees and their patterns such as twisted leaves caused by constant winds.
Take It Easy
Look to walk at a slower pace than you normally would. Give enough time to complete the hike at an acceptable pace without a need to walk at a rushed or fast pace constantly. This should help with keeping the body temperature at a more acceptable range.
Appreciate the stunning surroundings of the desert hike and walk at a slow and comfortable pace. Walking at a slow pace will lessen the need for water and slow the build-up of heat.
Afterall, a relaxed pace means there is a greater chance of enjoying the outside adventure.
When hiking in hot weather use common sense and keep your body cool. Hypothermia is a very serious condition and you do not want to be out in the wilderness somewhere and suffer from this illness.
Drink plenty of water, wear loose-fitting clothing, hike during the earlier hours of the day and seek shade when you can.
Gear to take on hot weather hiking trip includes a hydration pack or water bottle with polarized sunglasses (protects and prevents glare) a hat or bandana, and sun protection.
Matt Green, is an avid hiker and lover of the great outdoors. He is always planning his next big trip or hitting the trails for a solo hike.
He’s traveled extensively to many remote regions and has plenty of experience exploring various terrains, and stories to tell.
- 1 Plan Ahead & Choose Wisely
- 2 Plan How To Stay Hydrated
- 3 Salty Snacks
- 4 Keep an Eye on the Time
- 5 Clothing
- 6 Sun Block
- 7 Take a Dip
- 8 Look for Breezes
- 9 Take It Easy
- 10 In summary