Summer is here. The skies are clear and the long days are full of the promise of adventure. It’s the perfect time to head outdoors, but it can also be one of the most dangerous times, too. If you’re not careful, high temperatures and sun exposure can spoil even the shortest hikes on your local trails.
To help you stay safe outdoors this summer, we’ve compiled some tips for those first few adventures in the heat. From avoiding the hottest hours of the day, to making some cool wardrobe choices, take note of these pointers and enjoy the summertime safely.
Setting your alarm early can be tough—especially when you’re on summer vacation. But if you’re heading out on an all-day hike, plan around the hottest part of the day, between 11am and 2pm, and set out at a time that lets you avoid any potentially punishing temperatures. You don’t have to finish by 11am, but try to get a good chunk of your hike completed before the peak of the heat, then find some shade and take a well-earned rest before hitting the trail again. Still need convincing about an early start? Just picture that mountain-top sunrise reserved for members of the dawn patrol.
It might sound dramatic—especially if you’ve been waiting for those first warm days of the season to arrive—but the increased heat and sun exposure that comes with time spent outdoors in summer can be dangerous. To keep you and your buddies safe on the trail, know the signs of heatstroke, which include:
If you detect any of these signs, stop what you’re doing, find shade, and try to cool down. The areas of the body that are most effective in cooling the core temperature include the groin, armpit, neck, and torso—apply cold, wet towels or sheets to these areas and replace when no longer cool. Focus on getting off the trail, and don’t hesitate to call for help if you need it.
Covering up isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when the sun’s out, but wearing loose-fitting pants, long-sleeve shirts, and wide-brimmed hats can go a long way towards keeping you cool. They’ll also help protect your skin from harmful UV rays. When choosing your clothing, always go for synthetic, sweat-wicking materials over cotton, which can quickly become saturated and uncomfortable.
Start by picking up some actively cooling garments, designed to drop your surface temperature when wet. The Castelli Chill Arm Sleeves cling to water, allowing your skin to benefit from the cooling effects of evaporation long after you’ve soaked them. And the Simms Sungaiter Cool protects your neck from harmful UV rays while dropping your surface temperature up to 30 degrees after a dunk in the water.
On an average hike, your body can lose around one liter of water every hour—and that amount doubles when the heat is high and you’re working hard. Carry as much water as you can, or at a minimum, enough to consume half a liter for every hour you’re out. Consider adding a CamelBak Crux Water Reservoir to your pack, which will help you carry more water and stay on top of your hydration. It’s better for your body (and your supply) to take frequent small sips of water, so remember to always drink before you’re thirsty to prevent chugging your precious rations.
Whether you’re just out to enjoy nature or are training for a race, give yourself a break. Factor in regular stops to your schedule, and take time to admire your surroundings. A quick rest, coupled with the chance to stretch and eat a snack, can do wonders for your stamina. Plus, regular stops could even mean you end up hiking faster, reducing the risks of burnout and that slow, sluggish feeling that comes with dehydration and exhaustion.