Summer is just weeks away, which means that peak hiking season is just around the corner. Here are a few tips for dealing with the heat and keeping cool while out on the trail.
The most important thing to consider while hiking during the summer is staying properly hydrated. Hiking in hot and humid weather depletes your body of liquids. To replace lost fluids, and electrolytes, you need to drink frequently
while out on the trail. If you wait until you feel thirsty, you're more than likely already dehydrated. The more dehydrated you become, the less efficient your body is at cooling itself down. Your body also becomes less efficient at walking.
Make sure you take plenty of water or some type of sports drink with you on any hike. Sports drinks are an excellent source of liquid because they replace both fluids and electrolytes. Although there are many products on the market these days, good old Gatorade still gets the job done for me.
Hikers can sweat anywhere from 1/2 to 1 quart of fluid each hour while walking in the heat. This fluid loss can exceed 3 quarts per hour if you're hiking uphill in direct sunlight, or during the hottest part of the day.
When the thermometer is really high, my wife and I will fill our water bottles about half-way and stick them in the freezer the night before hitting the trail. Then, just before leaving for our hike the next day, we'll top-off the bottles with cold water. This provides us with cooler water for a much longer time. Please note that you don't want to put a full bottle of water in the freezer because it will crack the plastic as it expands when turning into ice.
If you're considering drinking water from the back country, please note that it must be treated for Giardia lamblia, a parasite that can cause an intestinal infection with a variety of symptoms. To avoid this nasty infection, boil water for at least one minute, or use a filter capable of removing particles as small as 1 micron.
To help offset the effects of fatigue, bring a lunch and/or snack with you. Food will be your body's primary source for fuel and salts (electrolytes) while hiking. Try eating a salty snack
every time you take a drink.
Also, stay away from sodas and alcohol, as they will only promote dehydration.
Besides staying properly hydrated, there are a few other things you can do to help avoid over-heating while out on the trail.