There is nothing better than getting out in the countryside this summer. Its something about the fresh air and the English countryside that make the whole weekend almost nostalgic. The problem is when the temperature really starts to climb, and the mercury levels start hitting above 30. This is where hiking can sometimes become a problem if you’re not prepared for the heat.
Remember, in the worse-case scenery, if you don’t manage your heat levels, your fun day in the mountains could quickly turn into a painful and potentially dangerous situation. Below are ten hot weather hiking tips to help you manage the heat in the summer.
Time of Day
Typically, the hottest part of the day is between 11 am and 3 pm. If it’s a scorching day, avoid this period and either hike in the morning or late afternoon. Remember, in the summer in most of the UK it doesn’t get dark until 10 pm. In Scotland, it’s more like eleven or twelve. Over the years, there have been many times where we haven’t started hiking until 4 pm to avoid the worst of a hot day.
This is more difficult, especially if you’re in the hills, but it’s a great idea to try to stay under trees rather than being directly exposed to the sun.
Choosing clothing for the summer months is a vastly different proposition than in winter. In the summer, you need to think about cooling yourself down rather than staying warm. The most important thing is to cover up completely and make sure that your clothes are all made from moisture-absorbing materials such as nylon, polyester, or merino wool. The idea behind these materials is that they’re great at absorbing moisture from your body, and due to quick-drying properties, they also dry quickly, keeping you dry. We have written on this subject in the past, however the best clothes for hiking in the summer include the following properties;
- Light Colors that reflect the sunlight rather than absorb it
- Wear loose-fitting to help create airflow through your clothes
- Include Vents to further promote airflow.
- Have a UPF-rating of at least UPF 15, but ideally UPF 30 to UPF 50+.
- Wear A Hat as it will help to keep the sun away from your neck and face.
- You can take this a step further by wearing a Bandana or a neck gaiter. If you’re walking next to a cool water source, it’s often a great idea to dunk your bandana in the water before wearing it around your neck.
- Remember Pants and Socks. There is no point in wearing the best summer clothing to forget your pants and socks.
- Carry a Hydration Pac to make sure you have enough fluid, and you can drink it when you need it. It’s also a great idea to freeze your pack for the first day if this it’s possible.
Know Your Medical Concerns
These are all serious if you take them to the extreme. Most importantly, they are all easily avoidable with some basic preparation.
- Sunburn – Wear SPF 50 and make sure you put it on at least 30 minutes before you start hiking. If you’re sweating a lot, its a great plan to reapply at least once every two hours. If you do get sunburnt, you in for a painful evening, however, the most important thing is to make sure you don’t get burnt twice in the same place, two days in a row.
- Dehydration – Very simply, if you don’t drink enough water, you will end up with dehydration. Dehydration causes severe confusion, Dizziness or Light-headedness. All three are not needed in the countryside, and in extreme cases, Unconsciousness and even death. To avoid dehydration, you simply need to drink half a litre of water every hour as a minimum. As the temperature starts to increase, or the harder you push your body, you may need to increase this further.
- Overhydration – You probably won’t ever be affected by this as its quite difficult to carry enough water to suffer from this, but you can overhydrate yourself. If you stick drinking half a litre every hour and then slightly upping this as and when you need it, you will have no problems. The key to preventing overhydration is to monitor how much you drink.
- Cramping – If you start getting cramps, either because of the weather or after a long day of walking, you need to take it seriously. Cramps are basically your body saying that it’s almost had enough. If you keep on pushing, you could do more damage, and you need to slow down or stop and take a break and have a stretch.
- Heat Stroke – If you’re dehydrated and continually push your body, the last stage is a heat stroke. It occurs when your body literally overheats, and while it normally occurs in hot weather, I have seen the same symptoms on a day where it was 20 degrees. While the exact cause of heatstroke is unknown, the core symptoms, you need to be on the lookout for include headaches, dizziness, nausea and vomiting and a high body temperature.