Prep up with these summer hiking tips before you hit the trails.
PLANNING YOUR HIKE TIPS
As fun as hiking can be, it also presents some risks if you do not plan. So think through when and where you want to hike.
Hike during the cool of the day
From early morning till right before the early afternoon is the best time to hike during high summer. Avoid hiking when it's scorching, which is usually from noon to 3:00 pm.
Nighttime hiking is also a good idea if you have just visited a new destination and you are now adjusting to the afternoon heat.
Nighttime hiking can be risky. Here are some tips to make it safer:
- Don't go solo. Hike with a group of friends.
- Pick the right location.
- Start on a well-known trail.
- Hike when there's a full moon.
- Improve your night vision (bring along headlamps or flashlights).
- Be prepared for an emergency (bring along a flare to signal when you are in distress).
For more tips, stay tuned for our blog post on Nighttime Hiking.
Choose trails with a lot of shade
Summer hiking under the shade of trees or within steep canyon walls will prevent overexposure to the sun.
Try hiking near a river or lake
A hike near a lake or river will keep you refreshed by the cool breeze.
Do not exert yourself during your first few hikes because it takes about 10 to 14 days to adjust to the heat.
CLOTHING AND GEAR TIPS
The right garb and gear will keep you safe and comfortable.
Wear the right clothes
The right clothes should:
- Be light-coloured. Light colours like khaki, tan and white will keep you cool because they repel the sun’s rays. Get shorts, shirts and pants in these colours instead of dark colours which absorb the sun’s rays.
- Loose and breathable. Clothing that is light in weight and allows in the air will make it easier for sweat to evaporate from your body, so you cool off. The best fabrics, in this case, are polyester and nylon.
- Have open vents. Some clothing specially designed for hiking has open vents that support airflow. You can open these up to allow in air when the heat turns up, to regulate your body temperature.
- Wear UPF-rated clothing. UPF-rated clothing is made to give you more protection from the sun than regular clothing. You can opt for UPF-rated clothing with ratings from UPF 15 to UPF 50+.
On a scorching day, putting on extra clothing like a neck gaiter or sun sleeves to cover certain parts of your body may seem a bad idea. This, however, can give you more protection from the UV rays of the sun if you have sensitive skin.
Wear a hat
A wide-brimmed hat will protect your face and neck from sunburn. You can also wear a baseball cap, though a wide-brimmed hat gives you more protection.
Keep the back of your neck cool
There are quite a few ways of doing this. You can moist a bandana or neck gaiter and place it around your neck. This will cool you off and protect your neck as well. You can also wear a scarf around your neck, some scarves are polymer-crystal filled to keep them moist throughout the day.
Wear wool or synthetic socks that fit well. Loose-fitting socks can rub against your skin and cause blisters. They can even trip you up.
Have a hydration pack and squirt bottle handy?
A sip tube connected to a bag of water that sits in your pack or hydration pocket in a compatible pack will make you drink up more often. Because the sip tube is within your reach, you can grab it and sip on the go rather than rummaging around for a water bottle from your pack.
You can also use the mist setting of a squirt bottle to create a cooling cloud when it starts heating up.
STAYING HEALTHY TIPS
Summer hiking poses a lot of health risks. You should be wary of sunburns, dehydration (or overhydration), heatstroke and heat cramps. Here are tips to prevent each of these conditions:
- If your hike will take more than 2 hours, apply sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
- Apply enough sunscreen at least 15 minutes before you get exposed to the sun.
- Reapply sunscreen after every 40 to 80 minutes.
The general rule is to drink half a litre of water for every hour of moderate activity when temperatures are not high. However, as the temperature and intensity of the hiking increase, you need to up your water intake.
Just as not taking in enough water can be harmful to your body, taking in too much water than your body needs is also equally dangerous. Overhydration or hyponatremia lowers the sodium levels in the body. This affects cell function and can be fatal. To prevent this condition:
- Take a few drinks every 15 to 20 minutes, and make sure you take in more than you sweat out.
- Drink a sports drink with electrolytes to balance out your salt levels. You can also take in salt tablets with your plain water.
You get these painful muscle contractions when you exert yourself in hot weather. If you start feeling crampy:
- Ease up on your hike.
- Keep yourself hydrated.
- Do some gentle stretching to relieve the pain.
Read our post on heatstroke to know its causes and how to prevent it while summer hiking.
Stay tuned for our post on Summer Hiking Essentials.
By Nana Ama Afoa Osae I Writer I GreatWonderful Team
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