10 Important Tips for Hiking in the Heat
I live in Florida, which means I tend to a lot of hiking in the heat. Even if you don’t live in a state known for its scalding temperatures, you’ll likely be doing some hiking in the hot weather of summer.
Every season offers its own unique challenges, especially summer. If you plan on hitting the trails when it’s hot outside, these important tips can help you stay cool when you’re hiking in the heat.
1. Start Early and Finish Late
Choosing the right time of day to head out on your hike is incredibly important. When you’re hiking in the summer, you want to avoid doing a strenuous hike during the hottest part of the day, which is typically from around noon to 3 p.m.
The best plan of action is to start your hike early. Then find some shade to take a nice, long lunch break in the middle of afternoon. You can then finish your hike in the evening.
Just make sure you don’t forget to pack your headlamp in case you’re still on the trail after the sun goes down.
Related: The Best Hikes Near Asheville, NC
2. Choose an Appropriate Trail
Certain trails are better than others when it comes to hiking in the heat. Obviously, hiking through a thick forest with a lot shade will be significantly more comfortable than hiking through an open field with zero shade.
Try to hike on a trail you know will offer several shaded areas. It’s even better if the trail runs along a river or other source of water. Not only can you use the water to replenish your water bottles, but you can also use it to help you cool down.
Related: Best Hikes in Chattanooga, Tennessee
3. Wear the Right Clothes
You might think wearing shorts and a tank top will help you stay cool during hot weather, but it’s actually better to cover your skin and protect it from the sun.
When you’re picking out the best outfit for hiking in the heat, look for light-colored clothing that will reflect heat. Also, pick loose-fitting clothes for better air circulation. Finally, look for quick-drying, moisture-wicking fabrics with built-in UPF protection.
I also highly recommend wearing a neck gaiter. A neck gaiter offers a variety of benefits. You can wear it around your neck for sun protection or pull it up to keep dirt out of your mouth and nose on those dusty trails. Plus, if you wet it and snap it a few times, it instantly cools down, which feels AMAZING when you’re hot.
4. Protect Your Skin
When you’re hiking in the summer, you have to remember to stay cool AND protect your skin at the same time.
While most clothes offer a small amount of sun protection, you still want to protect your skin with sunscreen. I highly recommend using this sunscreen.
It’s a reef-safe sunscreen that doesn’t contain any biologically harmful chemicals, such as oxybenzone, avobenzone, parabens, or phthalates. It offers SPF 50+ protection, and it’s water-resistant for up to 80 minutes.
Related: Most Scenic Hiking Trails in Georgia
5. Drink Plenty of Water
Staying hydrated is important on every hike. But it’s especially crucial when you’re hiking in the heat. While it’s vital to drink plenty of water, it’s actually more important to drink enough water the RIGHT way.
Too many hikers make the mistake of going for hours without taking a drink, and then chugging a bunch of water all at once. This isn’t good for your body.
Instead, take small, regular sips of water throughout your hike. Using a hiking backpack with a water bladder can make it very easy to drink your water.
Also, don’t make the common mistake of underestimating how much water you’ll need. Natural water sources can be unreliable in the summer, so always bring more water than you think you’ll need.
Related: The Best Water Filters for Hiking
6. Eat Salty Snacks
You’re going to be sweating a lot on your hot weather hike. In addition to drinking plenty of water to replenish your fluid levels, you’ll also want to restore the electrolytes you lose from sweating.
The best way to replace these electrolytes is to eat salty snacks. Good options include peanuts, trail mix, and pretzels. These snacks are also a great source of complex carbs, which can help boost your energy levels.
Additionally, you can bring along some electrolyte tablets that you simply drop in a bottle of water for a quick and easy dose of electrolytes.
7. Take Extra Breaks
Hiking in hot weather isn’t when you should try to break any speed records and blast through the miles. Instead, slow down and take your time on the trail.
You should also plan to take extra breaks. When you find a shady spot, take off your backpack, take a seat, and give your body a chance to rest. This is also a great time to take off your hiking boots and give your sweaty feet and socks a chance to dry.
Related: The Best Hiking Backpacks
8. Pack a Few Extra Essentials
While you should already have these day hike essentials in your backpack, you’ll likely want to grab a few extra essentials to make your hot weather hike a little more pleasant.
Your feet are going to get very hot and sweaty on your hike, so I recommend throwing in one or two extra pairs of hiking socks. You can’t even begin to imagine how great it feels to put on a dry pair of socks during the middle of your hike. Plus, having dry socks is one of the best ways to help prevent blisters when you hike.
Also, don’t forget to pack some bug spray. The combination of shady forests, hot weather, and your sweat can result in some truly irritating swarms of insects.
9. Keep an Eye on the Forecast
You already know it’s going to be hot, so you don’t really need to check the weather forecast to see what the temperature will be. However, hot weather can create strong and sudden thunderstorms.
These storms can cause serious issues if you’re not prepared. That’s why it’s always a good idea to check the weather forecast before you head out on the trail. It’s also important to know what to do if you get caught hiking in a thunderstorm.
10. Know the Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion and Heatstroke
Heat exhaustion and heatstroke are two very serious conditions that can occur when you hike in hot weather. It’s important to know the symptoms of both.
The signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion include:
- Heavy sweating
- Cool, moist skin
- Muscle cramps
- Weak, rapid pulse
- Low blood pressure upon standing
If you or your hiking partner start to experience these symptoms, find some shade, put a cool cloth on the head, drink some water, and have a snack. If symptoms don’t improve, seek medical attention.
The signs and symptoms of heatstroke include:
- Hot, dry skin
- Flushed skin
- Nausea and vomiting
- Racing heart
- Rapid breathing
If you think you or your hiking partner are having a heatstroke, find some shade, use any means necessary to cool down, and seek medical assistance immediately.
What You Need to Know About Hiking in the Heat
Summer is a great time to get outside and hike, but the hot weather is dangerous if you don’t properly prepare for it. If you plan on doing some hiking in the heat, you can stay safe and cool when you follow these important tips.
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Now that you know more about how to hike in the heat, are you ready to hit the trail? Then be sure to check out some of these popular posts so you can start planning your next hiking adventure today: