We all love the benefits of working up a sweat while hiking. An hour-long hike can burn an average of 500 calories or more. However, when hiking in hot, humid conditions, the physical toll on your body increases drastically. It’s important to plan and implement precautionary measures to ensure you stay hydrated and healthy.
Let’s look at some ways you can compensate for hot, humid conditions when hiking.
Change the time of day you hike
If you typically hike mid-day, try hiking in the early morning hours or later in the day when the sun is starting to go down.
- During these hours the weather is a little more tolerable, so hiking will be a little more enjoyable.
- Hiking during sunrise or sunset can be a completely different sensory experience and provide breathtaking views.
- Sweat rate is proportional and can be as much as 3 to 4 liters per hour or as much as 10 liters per day
Replenish electrolytes and salts
We all know the importance of staying hydrated and drinking lots of water when it’s hot outside. Sometimes more rigorous outdoor activities require replenishing our bodies with something more than water.
When we get hot, our bodies produce sweat to help cool us off. When we sweat, we lose not only water but electrolytes and “salts” such as sodium, chloride, and potassium. Consider swapping water for sports drinks, like Gatorade or Powerade, or bring along a few salty snacks. You can also try an electrolyte powder that you can add to you your water for different flavors and save on money.
It’s recommended that for moderate activities during moderate conditions, one cup of water be consumed every 15-20 minutes to stay adequately hydrated.
Wear lighter color clothing
The sun emits heat in the form of wavelengths of light. Dark-colored clothing absorbs these wavelengths of light converting it to heat.
When you wear white or lighter-colored clothing, your clothing will then reflect the wavelengths of light. While you will still be hot either way, wearing lighter-colored clothing will slow down the process, which can be a lifesaver during humid days.
Keep a cool bandana around the neck
You can do any variation on this that suits your fancy, but the principle remains the same. When it’s hot outdoors, keeping something cool or wet around your neck can aid in keeping your body temperature lower.
Try wetting a bandana or towel with cold water before a hike. You could also stick them in the fridge or freezer while wet and grab them on your way out for some extra cool relief.
You can also use a cooling towel designed to help with exercising in the heat. Simply soak it cool water and drape it around your neck. The microfiber towel keeps cooler longer and you can even put it in the freezer before hiking.
Wear proper socks
Wearing the right kind of socks can make or break a hike. Surprisingly, you want to stick to the same sock material of wool in the hot summer months that you would typically wear in the wintertime. While wool keeps your feet warm in the winter, it also repels moisture in the summertime. Avoid cotton socks, or at least choose socks with a lower percentage of cotton, since cotton will absorb moisture.
Although you may be wearing the same material of socks in the summer as you would in the winter, that doesn’t mean you want the same weight of socks. There are thin, lightweight socks made specifically for hiking needs that can still provide adequate cushion where you need it most.
Why Humidity Makes You Feel Hotter
Be mindful of the material of your clothing
The material of clothing you select during a hike on a summer day is an important consideration. Avoid cotton materials, opting instead for more synthetic fibers that are soft, lightweight, and moisture-wicking. Polyester is loads better for hiking than cotton and will keep you cool and comfortable during the entire hike.
This type of material will help expel the sweat your body produces instead of trapping it into the fibers as cotton does. You can choose short sleeves or long sleeves. A long-sleeved shirt may help avoid sunburn and can help protect against the terrain you’re traveling.
Don’t forget the sunscreen
Speaking of sunburns, make sure you don’t forget the sunscreen. Wear a sunscreen of at least 30 SPF and reapply often, at least every two hours, even on cloudy days. Ideally, sunscreen should be applied at least 15 minutes before heading outdoors to give the best coverage.
Having a dedicated sunscreen designed exclusively for your lips is a good idea as well. The lips are an often-overlooked body part that is also susceptible to skin cancer.
Know the signs of heat-induced illnesses
Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are two of the main concerns when talking about outdoor activities during summer. If you are going to be partaking in something as rigorous as hiking during the summer months, it’s important to know what to watch for, not only for yourself but for anyone hiking with you.
Signs of Heat Exhaustion:
- Heavy sweating
- Cold, clammy, pale skin
- Fast, weak pulse
- Nausea or vomiting
- Muscle cramps
- Tiredness/ weakness
According to the CDC, if you experience any of the above symptoms you need to move to a cool location and loosen clothing. Sip water and put cool clothes on areas of the body. Seek medical attention if you are throwing up, if symptoms get worse, or if symptoms last longer than one hour.
Signs of Heatstroke:
- High body temperature (103 degrees)
- Hot, red, dry, damp skin
- Fast, strong pulse
- Losing consciousness
Heatstroke is a medical emergency and 911 should be called right away. Anyone showing symptoms should be moved to a cooler location and cool cloths should be placed around key areas of the body such as the forehead and around the neck to help lower body temperature. Do not give anyone exhibiting heatstroke symptoms anything to drink.
Go slow and take plenty of breaks
Give yourself plenty of time when going on hikes. Find a nice shaded spot to sit down and take a break every so often. Chances are you will have plenty of beautiful scenery to take in. Breathe and enjoy the moment and all that your environment has to offer. This is what hiking is for, after all.
Hike Smarter in the Heat
Hiking in the summer can be a great way to keep in shape and stay mentally strong. With a few extra precautions, you can also make sure you’re staying healthy and safe as well.