Top Tips for Hiking in Hot Weather
There’s nothing more frustrating than being all excited to head out onto the trail but then having the weather let you down. Normally it’s storms, rain and snow etc. but people often overlook the power of the sun, heading out without the right preparations even when it’s blazing.
If you don’t do things sensibly hiking in hot weather can sap your energy, drain your liquids and actually be very dangerous. Heat stroke and heat exhaustion are not fun, especially in the wilderness, and can sneak up on you surprisingly quickly.
When we want to hike we want to hike – we’re guessing you’re the same! That’s why we put together this guide for hiking in hot weather: to make sure nobody misses out. Simple steps for before the hike, during and after so you can get into the wilderness without collapsing like a hot mess on the floor!
How to properly prepare before hiking in hot weather
If it’s baking outside preparation really is the key to enjoying your time on the trail. Spend a bit of time planning before you get your boots on and you won’t end up in a messy situation.
Choose the right hike
The first thing is picking the right hike for hot weather e.g not a remote 30 km desert loop with no water in sight. If you know it’s going to be excessively hot then choose a hiking trail which has cover from the sun, ready water sources so you can keep hydrated and doesn’t have an aggressive incline.
We’re not saying you shouldn’t pick a tough, exposed route but bare it in mind if it’s intensely hot and maybe sway towards a more sensible option.
Check the weather
If the temperatures are really high then think about going on a different day. Check the weather forecast to see how hot things will get and at what point in the day temperatures are highest. If it’s too high then maybe see if you can rearrange your days, it might be frustrating but it’s better than ending up ill with heat exhaustion.
Plan water stops along your route
Once you’ve set your hike and picked the day then plan out water availability along the route and how much you’ll need to take. If it’s a designated path you should be able to find some details online by Googling the name of the hike + water availability. If you can’t find information online then see if you can spot any natural water sources on local or online maps.
If you see water sources but aren’t sure if they’re drinkable then take water purification tablets – these are the ones we use.
Pack light but make sure you take the right things
If the heat is already against you then taking a heavy bag filled with useless gear is only going to make things harder. Limit any extras you don’t need and just pack the essentials.
These are some of the things we recommend for hot weather;
- The right amount of water (consider buying a water bladder)
- Electrolyte/rehydration tablets
- Isotonic drinks
- Hiking snacks – check out our guide to vegan hiking snacks here
- Suntan lotion
- Some salty food (more info further down)
- Sun hat
- Water filteration tablets if there are no fresh water sources
If you’re going on a mult-day hike then make sure you pack sensible sleeping gear. Hammock or bivvy options are great for hotter climates – this article from Adventure Junkies shows has some top hammock options.
Wear the right clothes
The best clothes for hiking in hot weather are light and loose, preferably made from thin nylon or polyester. Make sure they’re baggy enough so air can ventilate whilst you’re moving and light in colour so they don’t absorb the heat. Many hiking brands also add SPF protection to their clothes which give you added protection from the sun.
It might sound crazy but it’s actually better to have as much skin covered as possible. A full length top is a good choice, along with full trousers and a hat which shades your face and neck.
Think about chaffing!
When it’s hot you sweat more and when you sweat you get more rubbing and chaffing. This can be serious pain in the arse (literally) so make sure your clothes and gear fit well. Important areas to think about are around the thighs and groin, armpits, nipples, feet and rucksack straps.
Be sensible the night before
Starting a hard hike in hot weather is a bad idea if you’re already dehydrated from boozing the night before. Make sure you get a good nights sleep, eat a balanced dinner and drink ample amounts of water so you wake up feeling prepared.
How to keep cool whilst you’re hiking in hot weather
If you’ve prepared properly you’ve already done half the work. Nonetheless, remember these tips whilst you’re on the hike to keep safe, even with soaring temperatures.
Hit the trail at the right time
If you’re going on a day hike then start as early as possible to try and avoid the hottest parts of the day. You can also change things up and go later in the day, hiking into the evening. If you have good lighting gear why not hike through the night?
If you’re going on a multi-day hike then it really pays off to begin nice and early, covering a lot of distance before the temperatures really pick up. You can hopefully find a shaded area to take a lunch break through the hottest parts of the day and then continue in the afternoon when things start to cool down.
Rest in the shade
When you do have a water break or lunch then make sure you do it in the shade. It might not seem as hot whilst you’re resting but your body will still be at a much higher temperature and you’ll be loosing more fluids. Find some shade and take your time.
Have regular water breaks but don’t drink too quickly
No matter how long you’re planning on hiking make sure you take regular water breaks, drinking small amounts at regular intervals. Just be careful you don’t finish off your supply too early.
If you’re hiking in groups it can be popular option to have ‘water buddies’. The idea is each hiker has a partner and they both keep an eye on each other’s water levels and drink at the same time.
Think about taking electrolyte or rehydration tablets
Electrolyte or rehydration tablets can be great for replenishing lost fluids from hiking in hot weather. Many tablets will be can be dissolved in water so often if it’s been a particularly tough hike I’ll drop one into my water bladder once we’ve hit the summit. These are the hydration tablets we have often used.
Eat the right food at the right time
When it’s hot your body looses heaps of essential electrolytes and salts from sweating. Even if you don’t think you sweat a lot it will be happening so don’t skip this step!
Try and consume salt-free food during the ascent or the hardest parts of the hike as they can leave you feeling dehydrated.
Then, once you’ve hit the summit, or completed the hardest part of the hike, try and eat a few healthy, salty snacks which will help give you energy from the sugars and carbohydrates but also replenish some of your lost salts.
We normally go for salted nuts, energy balls, peanut butter or a salted breads like pretzels or olive bread – all relatively healthy, offering protein and carbohydrates but also a good level of salt.
Our hiking energy balls have got a good balance of salt, calories, carbohydrates and sugars – perfect for hiking!
How to recover properly after hiking in the sun
Things like heat stroke and heat exhaustion can have a delayed impact so follow these tips once you’ve finished hiking even if you’re feeling fine.
You’re much more likely to experience muscle cramps when you’re dehydrated so make sure you stretch properly when you get off the trail.
Rehydrate and replace electrolytes
After you finish your hike take on plenty of fluids and think about using rehydration or electrolyte remedies to help your body recover. You can easily make your own by adding one teaspoon of salt and one teaspoon of sugar to a pint of water. Don’t add any more salt as this can be dangerous!
Have a good meal (even if you’re not hungry)
It’s quite common to loose your appetite when you’re dehydrated or after having spent the day in hot temperatures. Even if you’re not feeling particularly peckish try and eat a healthy, balanced meal with ample calories, carbohydrates, salts and protein. We NEVER loose our appetite so this isn’t a struggle for us!
Know the danger signs: heat exhaustion and heat stroke
Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are both very serious and can even lead to death. If you are planning on hiking in hot weather then it’s important to know the danger signs.
This can happen when you’re dehydrated and exert yourself in high temperatures for longer periods of time.
Some symptoms of heat exhaustion are:
- Excessive sweating
- High pulse rate
- Feeling faint
Heat stroke can be very serious and is when your body temperature overheats. This has similar signs to heat exhaustion but can also cause a change in mental state and confusion. It can come on very quickly and requires possible hospital treatment so make sure you watch out for these symptoms:
- Serious headache
- Nausea and vomiting
- Dizziness and lack of coordination
- Confusion and disorientation
- Very high body temperature
How to treat heat exhaustion and heat stroke
- Immediately try to get out of the heat and cool down – if possible find water source to cool down in (lake, river etc)
- Rehydrate quickly and effectively, possibly with electrolyte treatments but be careful not to take on too much water
- Leave area and find a safe, cool place
- If symptoms persist then seek further medical help
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