10 Jan 22

10 Tips for hiking in hot weather

Sam McCrow Training and Preparation

Summer is often the best time to go hiking. Clear, sunny skies and long daylight hours make for lovely long days of adventuring. But when the temperatures reach 30+ degrees, hiking in the heat can be brutal, so you need to take extra precautions. That’s why we’ve put together these top 10 tips for hiking in hot weather – to help you stay safe and enjoy the trails.

1. Check the weather forecast

Check the weather forecast before you hit the trail, including the morning of your hike. Pay attention while you hike and be flexible with your plans. Downloading a weather app is a great way to stay on top of changing conditions, including wind speed, storm alerts and more.

2. Avoid hiking in the hottest part of the day

Start early, just after sunrise, take a break during the hottest part of the day (usually 11am to 2pm, but this varies), and resume walking when it’s cooler.

3. Know the signs of heat-related illness

During hot weather, it’s easy to become dehydrated or for your body to overheat. This can lead to heat-related illnesses such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke, which can be life threatening. Heat can also make pre-existing conditions worse. Stay cool, stay dehydrated and stay informed – learn the signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses and how to treat them. When you are hiking, monitor the condition of your hiker friends and have them do the same for you.

4. Be fire ready

Bushfires are common in Australia but it’s likely you’ll complete your summer hike without encountering any fires. Have a good contingency plan that includes what you’ll do if you get early warning signs like the smell of smoke or the distant sound of emergency vehicles. Pay close attention to your navigation so that you know your location at all times. Carry a PLB emergency beacon – they are quite affordable these days – you can hire one if you don’t want to buy one. And familiarise yourself with the many sources of weather and bushfire information.

5. Look out for snakes

You’re more likely to see snakes in summer. You can add to your snake awareness and safety by understanding snake behaviour, which species you’re most likely to encounter and where they prefer to hang out. Snake bites generally occur due to human carelessness or lack of awareness. Take the necessary precautions and the chances of being bitten are remote. Carry a snakebite first aid kit and know how to use it.

6. Cover up

To help stay cool, wear clothing that is lightweight, breathable, and SunSmart. Wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect your neck and ears and cut the amount of UV radiation reaching your eyes. Choose hiking specific shirts – the ones with sleeves that you can roll up, and ventilation flaps. Invest in good-quality hiking socks. Unlike regular socks, hiking socks are designed specifically to protect the foot and wick away moisture. Choose a close-fitting, wrap-around style of sunglasses. Polarised sunglasses will reduce glare and make it easier to see on a sunny day.

7. Apply and reapply sunscreen

Protect as much skin as possible by covering up when you are out in the sun, and apply sunscreen on every exposed part of your body, including the back of your hands. Sunburn is not just painful, it can also dehydrate you and make for a horrible experience. It’s not much fun if you burn your shoulders then need to strap on your daypack. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher and reapply it regularly (at least every 2 hours), especially if you sweat a lot.

8. Hydrate

Bring more water than you think you’ll need . Drink a litre of water before you start your hike. Then sip water during the day. Small quantities of fluid at regular intervals will keep you well hydrated. Avoid drinking alcohol the day before a long walk – even small amounts of alcohol can cause dehydration.

9. Replenish your electrolytes

Electrolytes are essential minerals, including sodium, calcium and potassium, that regulate nerve and muscle function and help regulate the balance of fluid in your body. When you hike in hot weather and sweat a lot you’ll need to rebalance them. You can do this through food but to replenish them more quickly, try adding electrolyte powder or tablets to your water.

10. Take regular breaks and eat well

Find a shady spot to enjoy a drink and a snack (something that offers slow releasing energy and is low in sugar). Take your bag off and let your body cool down. Don’t exhaust yourself early on. Pace yourself so that you can comfortably walk the rest of your route.

Further reading

See our top tips on how to sustain energy throughout the day, including some fave snack ideas from RAW Travel staff.

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