When days are longer and the nights shorter, you know summer’s here. It’s the perfect time to do all the fun things you love to do under the sun, like hiking up mountains and exploring bucket-list trails. It’s also that time of the year when you need to be extra careful about hiking under the heat of the sun, if you want to reach your destination safely and have a good trekking experience.
Learn the Signs of Dehydration and Heat Stroke
To avoid the pitfalls of hiking in hot weather, you need to know what it takes to get there. This way, as soon as you notice the early signs of dehydration or heat stroke, you know what to do to avoid the worst of these conditions.
So, if your throat feels dry and your head is throbbing and dizzy, that means the heat is slowly getting to you. Don’t wait until you get nauseous, disoriented, or even stop sweating despite the hot climate before taking shelter under the nearest shade and rest with a few good gulps of water.
Hike During Cooler Hours
It’s best to start early when it’s still a bit dark so you put in a good number of miles or pass through the more difficult parts of the trek before it gets too hot. This way, you conserve your energy and hydration.
Don’t forget to check the weather forecast before doing your trek so you can plan your route accordingly.
Wear the Right Protection
If you think using shorts and sleeveless tops will help you keep cool, think again. While this outfit may be perfect for a short romp at the beach, it won’t get you very far on a hot day out on a climb. You need to shield your skin from the heat of the sun so your body’s moisture doesn’t evaporate quickly (and make you thirsty easily).
Choose light-colored, loose clothing that wicks moisture away from the body so you keep yourself cool and protected from the heat. You may need to wear a neck scarf, which you can use as a sort of balaclava on the dustier parts of the trail. Don’t forget sunglasses!
Hydrate at Regular Intervals
Don’t wait until you’re thirsty before taking a sip of water or an electrolyte drink. Take a few sips every 10-5 minutes when it’s really humid or hot. If it’s not as hot, you can hydrate every 20-30 minutes. Consider also your sweat rate and adjust the interval based on this.
Trek with Less Baggage
The heavier your backpack, the more you exert effort and the more you sweat. Which means you’ll be more likely to get thirsty easily than when you travel light. Consider doing a day hike so you don’t have to bring a lot of gear or hydration with you.
Rest When You Need To
Listen to your body. If it asks you to rest a bit, do so. Otherwise, you might run the risk of getting a heat stroke. The goal is to reach your destination and return to where you started happy and healthy.
Avoid Thirst-Inducing Food and Drink
Diuretics induce dehydration, so avoid taking food or drink containing alcohol and caffeine. Better yet, it’s best not to take in these substances a day before your hike to help your body store up enough hydration reserves for the trip.
You may also need to avoid salty and sugary food as these also induce thirst quite quickly. The sodium in your electrolyte drink is enough to replenish lost sodium and essential minerals in your body, so no need to bring along salty eats. Do be warned that excessive salt intake may make it very hard for you to urinate or, in some cases, not be able to urinate or sweat at all.
Choose Trails Wisely
Pick a trail that is rather shady and has a good number of water sources so you can easily top up your reserves along the way and not have to bring a lot of H20.
If you really want to challenge yourself by purposely going on a desert trail, make the hike a short one.
Put this on exposed areas of your body 15-20 minutes before going out as it takes time for the sunblock to take full effect after application. Top this up after 2 hours or so, depending on your sweat rate.