Hiking in the Heat: Preventing Summertime Hiking Problems

Summertime hiking means preparing yourself for weather related problems. One of the most overlooked weather problems while out in the trail is heat. Heat is responsible for taking out more hikers every year than all other weather related problems combined.

The Blazing Summer Sun

Problems like Heat Exhaustion can quickly turn into a life threatening situation, so don’t underestimate the risks of hiking in hot weather.

Protecting yourself from Heat Related Problems

Have a Plan: Before I set out on any hike, the first thing I do is sit down and develop a plan.

  • I analyze what the weather conditions, environmental conditions, and route conditions I will likely face on my trip.
  • I analyze any and all threats I may face while hiking my specific route.
  • I come up with a plan to deal with the threats and dangers that I may encounter on my trip.

Pay attention to weather forecasts. Before setting out on any hike, make sure you know exactly what weather you are likely to encounter. Sites like Weather.com can be extremely helpful, and can help you plan your route several days in advance.

Hike early in the day. The hours between 10 a.m. and 4p.m. can be some of the worst times to hit the trail. If possible, try to hike early in the morning or right before dusk. Early morning and afternoon temperature can be 20-25 degrees cooler than during the middle of the day.

Stay Hydrated: Summertime hiking can cause your body to lose around ½ to 1 quart of fluid every hour and strenuous hiking can more than double that amount. Fluid loss can easily exceed 2 quarts per hour if you hike uphill, in the desert, or in direct mid-day sunlight.

Your body can only absorb about 1 quart of water per hour, so make sure you are keeping on top of your water needs.

  • Prehydrate before hitting the trail. It’s never a good idea to start out in negative territory, so make sure you’re hydrated before you start in the morning.
  • Carry a water bottle in your hand and drink small amounts of liquid often. Carrying the bottle in your hand will help remind you to stay hydrated.
  • In extreme heat, alternating between water and Electrolyte-enhanced drinks can be helpful in preventing or reversing heat related problems.
  • Keep an eye on your pee! You urine should be clear; Dark colored urine is a big sign that you are heading in the wrong direction and are already dehydrated.

Eat snacks with salt. We all hear about how dangerous salt is, but the truth is, without it our bodies would quickly shut down. When hiking we sweat out a lot of salt; eating salty foods while out on the trail can help restore sodium levels in the bloodstream.

Keep the 3 L’s in Mind: Wear lightweight, loose fitting, and light-colored clothing.

  • Light-colored clothing reflects the sun’s heat and helps keep you cool.
  • Lightweight clothing protects you from the sun’s rays without trapping heat inside the clothing.
  • Loose fitting clothing helps keep air flowing around your skin, and helps dissipate heat.
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