The busiest time of year for the National Parks is June through September, which is also the hottest time of year. While many adjust their hikes based on the weather, others do not have the time, or are eager to see as much as possible during their trip to the Parks. If you are considering hiking in the heat, it is important to know some of the key tips to keep yourself safe in the hot desert sun. The first and number one thing we could stress is hike with a buddy – but the following are also crucial things to keep in mind.
As you hike in high temperatures, your body loses a lot of water through perspiration. You sweat roughly a quart of water every half hour (or more in the sun). You need to make sure to replenish your body with water. If you lose too much water you can become dehydrated which can lead to impaired brain functioning (who wants that?), and even the thickening of the blood, which makes the heart work harder. At higher elevations, you definitely want to make sure that doesn’t occur, so make sure to bring lots of water with you. Not only that, but you want to drink before you even start on the trail.
Make Sure to Eat
Water is truly important to replenish, but you also want to rebalance electrolytes which out for long hikes in the sun. The two things you want to make sure you replenish are sodium and potassium. Doing this will help keep up your energy. You can dig in to some trail mix or add in some electrolyte drink mixes with your water too.
Hats, sunglasses and sunscreen are the very basics of sun protection. These are non-negotiables in heat You may also want to try and find a hike that is more shaded so you aren’t literally baking in the hot sun. Covering up actually helps you keep your cool, so think about loose-fitting long sleeves and pants with a wide-brimmed hat. But – avoid cotton at all costs and opt for wicking fabrics. Even a lip balm with SPF is a good idea.
Temperatures can very easily be 20 degrees cooler in the mornings than in the afternoon, the hottest time of day. So, as much as everyone dislikes getting up in the morning, there is definitely a benefit to it. You want to avoid hiking between 11:00AM to 3:00PM, depending on the temperatures. You could always go for a siesta in the afternoon!
If you feel like you are getting too exhausted or are having a difficult time, you probably are. Try and find some shade and take a break. There is no shame in climbing or hiking slowly. Make sure to also remember what the signs of heat exhaustion and stroke are. Signs of heat exhaustion include sweating heavier than usual, rapid breathing, nausea, light-headedness and feeling very tired. You want to address these symptoms immediately. If left unattended to, they can lead to heat stroke, which can be fatal. The signs for heat stroke include: high body temperature, strong, rapid pulse, rapid breathing and muscle cramps. If sweating also stops – this is a major sign of heat stroke.
Overall, if you take the proper precautions and are aware of the weather and your surroundings, you will be sure to have a safe and wonderful hike in the hot weather.
Are there any tips that you've learned from hiking in the heat? Share them with us in the comments below.