Long summer days are perfect for venturing up into the mountains or down into the canyons. However, the intense heat of summer mixed with physical exertion, if not managed carefully, can lead to an unpleasant or even dangerous day out on the trail.
To stay healthy and comfortable in hot weather, consider these two areas before taking your next trip —
Planning: Optimize the time and location of your hike.
Clothing and Gear: Stay comfortable by taking (and leaving behind) the right gear.
Planning Your Hot-Weather Hike
For many people, hot weather may be a daily summer experience, but it often consists of brief exposure, for example getting from your house to your car. Outside in the elements with a physically exhausting activity is a different story, and requires careful planning of when and where you'll be hiking.
When to Hike
Avoid peak heat: Days are typically hottest from around noon til 3pm in the afternoon (although sometimes heat doesn't begin to dissipate until as late as 5pm or 6pm). When possible, plan your hike so that you're starting and finishing outside of this time window. For full day trips where the afternoon is unavoidable, see if you can plan a route that takes you through shaded areas or near water during this time.
Consider night hiking: When planned correctly, a night hike after the sun has set not only provides unique opportunities for solitude, stargazing, and reflection, but also provides a much more comfortable hiking experience.
Where to Hike
Seek shade: Shade can come in many forms, from thick forests to deep canyons. Wherever you find it, shade can make the air feel 10-15 degrees cooler, making for a much more comfortable hike. If you're accustomed to hiking year round, consider choosing more exposed trails during spring and fall when the temperatures are cooler, and saving shaded trips for mid-summer.
Take advantage of water: Lakes and seas can produce cool breezes that make hot temperatures much more bearable. Streams and rivers may not produce quite the same effect, but they do provide a great excuse to dip your hat or shirt into the water for a cooling effect as the water evaporates.
Hot-Weather Hiking Clothing and Gear Tips
Beyond smart planning, dressing appropriately can also go a long way in creating a comfortable hot-weather hike.
Choose light colors: Light-colored clothing reflects the sun's rays, creating a noticeably more comfortable hiking experience than you get with dark colored clothing. Choose tops and bottoms in light colors such as white, khaki, or tan.
Choose loose and breathable: Loose-fitting lightweight clothing helps your body regulate temperature better than form fitting clothing. Breathable fabrics such as nylon and polyester can also make a difference. Some shirts and other hiking apparel even have built-in vents that can help with airflow.
Look for UPF-rated clothing: Any clothing will block harmful rays to a certain extent, but clothing that is UPF rated is guaranteed to provide a given level of sun protection. Look for ratings like UPF 15, UPF 30, or UPF 50+.With loose and breathable UPF-rated long sleeves and pants, you can still manage to stay cool, with the added benefit of sun protection.
Wear a hat: A hat with a full 360 degree brim protects your face and neck from harmful rays, not to mention helping your eyes cope with intense brightness. In a pinch, a baseball cap can provide partial protection. Pair your hat with a bandana or cloth dipped in water for extra cooling around your neck.
Bring easily-accessible hydration: A hydration pack with a readily available sip tube will get much more use on your hike than a water bottle buried at the bottom of your daypack. Pack easily-accessible water to ensure you're getting enough fluids and don't inadvertently become dehydrated.