It’s important to take precautions when hiking in hot weather
Hiking can be addicting. It gives you a close-up view of nature wherever you decide to stay. It’s the one way that you can see the local flora and fauna in their natural habitat, and it’s a great way to stay fit. There are many safety precautions to take when hiking in regular conditions, but when you’re in a place where the temperatures are hot enough to boil water, the heat becomes the most important safety concern. You still want to hike, but is the heat telling you to lie low?
When and where to hike
The time of day matters. When the sun is highest, the temperature is at its peak. For this reason, it’s a good idea to get out and hike in the early morning before the heat has reached its full force. If you’re not an early riser, then evening may be the best choice for you, but just remember, the sun has baked the earth all day, so there will still be radiant heat. If you hike while the sun is still up, make sure you stick to shaded areas that will provide cooler temperatures and relief from the brutal heat. Hiking near water can give you some cooler conditions as well.
The best clothing covers your entire body and protects you from UV rays and sunburn. Breathable fabrics are best, and clothing that evaporates moisture fast is even better – so stay away from cotton. When choosing your hiking gear, opt for light colors that will repel the light and the heat. Wear a hat with a wide brim to protect you from the sun. And a bandanna soaked in water and wrapped around your neck will help keep you cool while you’re on your adventure.
This should go without saying, but we will say it anyway: Carry ample water with you. We don’t mean a couple of water bottles; we’re talking about a hydration pack with a sipping tube. If you have a tube in your face the entire time, you’re much more likely to drink frequently, and that’s what you should do when the sun is beating down.
Know the signs of dehydration!
- You’re thirsty
- You’re developing a headache
- Your mouth feels dry and sticky
- You’re not feeling the urge to urinate
- Your muscles are cramping
Dehydration shares many symptoms with heat exhaustion, which is also a very serious issue, so make sure you drink a lot of water to make up for what you lose.
Along with staying hydrated, you want to make sure you’re getting electrolytes back in your system. Carry snacks that contain a good amount of salt and potassium and that are made up of complex instead of simple carbs.
You’re not running a marathon; you’re hiking – and there’s no rush to meet your destination. Overheating can come from within as well as without. Your body temperature is already increasing because of external heat, so make sure you take plenty of breaks if you feel tired. Sit in the shade if you can, and enjoy the view while you drink water until you’re ready to get up and hit the trail again.
Know the weather
You don’t know how quickly the weather is going to change, and if there’s a sudden downpour, the trails could become treacherous. Make sure you’ve checked your weather apps and know what kind of conditions you could meet on the trail. Have plans for how you would handle unexpected storms or showers. Carry a two-way radio with a good range so you can contact someone back at the camp if something should happen or if you find yourself stranded.
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