Summer is my least favourite time of year to hike. It’s not just the heat and flies and a higher prevalence of snakes, it’s the higher risk of bushfires or developing heat stroke that keeps me to more urban terrain and out of the bush.
That’s not to say I don’t ever hike during the hotter summer months – I do. But there’s an extra level of planning to be done to factor in the risk the heat and hot weather brings.
Plan your route well
Planning your hike well can save a lot of drama on the day.
If the temperature is forecast to be over 35 degrees celsius, I won’t go. I might even hem and haw over a 30-degree forecast if it’s going to be sunny and windy.
Let people know where you’re going, your proposed route and when you intend to be back.
Have a back-up hike planned; one where you can either cut your walk short or go a different route so you’re not exerting yourself in the heat for too long.
Choose a hike that you know is well-marked.
Avoid hiking in wilderness areas because you do not want to be far from civilisation if you or someone in your group experience heat stroke or if a bushfire broke out.
If possible, plan a hike with a water source like a river, lake or beach along the way where you can cool off. That cool water will be magic.
Plan a hike with plenty of shelter
If the day is going to be hot, you’ll want to be hiking under plenty of shade. That is not the day to choose a hike that is exposed to the sun for much or all of it.
It will also be nice to be able to rest under the shade of a tree.
Starting early means hiking during the coolest part of the day. You could be finished your hike before people are heading out for a late brunch.
Allow extra time
Hiking in the heat will take longer than hiking on a cooler day. Allow more time to complete the distance than you would on a cooler day. Take lots of breaks to give your body a chance to rest and recover.
Start the hike hydrated.
Don’t drink (or too much) alcohol the night before your hike and drink plenty of water or sports drink before you go.
I love freezing a couple of bottles of water and cooling my bladder in the fridge over night. I always leave a frozen drink in a cooler bag back at my car for when I finish the hike.
Drink plenty, but not too much or you’ll be at risk of hyponatremia. I always take a sports drink with electrolytes to make sure I’m not losing too many minerals and too much salt via sweat.
Check changing weather conditions during your hike
Check for changes in the weather forecast and fire conditions during your hike. Know in advance how to get updates when you’re out on the trail. Tune in to local ABC emergency radio for fire warnings and other dangers.
Know the warning signs of heat stress and heatstroke
I hope you nor anyone else in your hiking party ever succumbs to heat stress or heatstroke.
Heat stress happens when you become dehydrated and your body can’t cool itself. Heat stress, if not treated promptly, can lead to heatstroke, which can cause organ damage or even kill you. So it’s not something to be taken lightly.
Prevent chafing before it starts
Do you know where your chafing hotspots are? Mind are the tops of my thighs (aka the delightfully, colloquially named ‘chub rub’) and under my breasts from my bra. I usually don’t notice the under-boob chafing until I get in the shower. OUCH!
But the chub rub can definitely take its toll. No one wants to waddle to the end of the hike like they’re sitting astride a horse.
I recommend using a Body Glide product, available from Wild Earth (my fave Aussie outdoor store) to prevent chafing. I also love leggings or bike shorts to help beat the chub rub.
What to wear when hiking in hot weather
First of all, don’t wear cotton. You need clothing that is going to wick sweat away from your body and dry quickly. Cotton and denim become uncomfortably wet with sweat and stay wet for a long time.
You don’t have to wear expensive hiking gear. Regular sports gear will suffice.
I don’t like hiking in shorts – I fret about scratches from bushes and long grass and also snakes so I always hike in long pants, even on hot days.
Wear gaiters if you’re worried about snake encounters.
To protect yourself from the sun, wear a wide-brimmed hat that covers your neck as well as your face. It might look daggy, but it’s going to help keep you cooler and protect your skin.
UV protecting sunglasses are also a must.
Sunscreen – do we even have to say this? Reapply it often.
Choose light colour clothes to reflect the heat. Dark colours attract and absorb the heat.
Take a hiking umbrella and make your own shade.
I love slipping off my hiking boots and changing into thongs or sandals for the drive home. GLORIOUS. Packing a pair and leaving them in the car is a must.
Know the signs of heatstroke
Warning signs of heatstroke vary, but may include:
– very high body temperature
– red, hot, dry skin (no sweating)
– dry swollen tongue
– rapid pulse
– a throbbing headache
– dizziness, confusion, nausea
– eventual unconsciousness.
From the Better Health Channel
Heatstroke is a medical emergency – call 000. While waiting for emergency services, do your best to keep them cool by removing excess clothing, putting water on their skin or using wet towels or clothes to wrap the person and constantly fan them. Do not give them anything to drink.
Your tips for hiking in the heat?
What are your tips for hiking in the heat?
Let me know in the comments below.
Last modified: March 3, 2019