American Long Distance Hiking Association - West

5 Tips for Hot Weather Backpacking

11 Apr 2017 6:52 PM | Bob Turner (Administrator)

Snowed in, iced in?  Dreaming of warmer hikes ahead?  Here is an article that will help when you turn those daydreams into reality.

5 Tips for Hot Weather Backpacking
By:  Sirena “desertsirena” Dufault

Here are some tips for beating the heat while backpacking:

Drink Water and Eat Food
Seems obvious enough, right? But in hot weather it can be a challenge to find the right balance.  It’s not just enough to chug water all day long while backpacking in the heat- in fact, it can lead to a dangerous condition called hyponatremia. The body loses salts when sweating, it’s what causes white rings on clothing after a hot day on the trail. Replacing these salts while rehydrating is extremely important, either by eating salty snacks or by using electrolyte replacement drinks, chews, or gels. Feeling like the trail sucks and your hiking partners are a bunch of jerks? One of the first signs of dehydration is irritability. Take a moment to drink and eat, you’ll be surprised at how much of a difference it can make.

Cover Yourself
Long sleeves and pants might look hot in the sun, but they provide shade, protect from UV rays, and when wet with sweat, provide evaporative cooling. Make sure to protect the back of your neck and ears from sunburn with a hat with a wide brim, a neck flap or a lightweight hoody with a baseball cap or visor.

Shade Up with an Umbrella
My number one piece of hot weather backpacking gear is a trekking umbrella. Shade is at a premium in the heat, so why not carry your own? A regular umbrella will do in a pinch, but most are not made to withstand high winds without turning inside out. Trekking umbrellas with a silver reflective surface made from carbon fiber are light, sturdy and can either be carried in your hand or attached to your pack. It can also be used to set up some shade while taking a break. No need to wear a hat and umbrella at the same time, so there’s lots of ventilation. Put a wet bandanna on your head and you’ve got a great way to provide evaporative cooling.

Get Wet
We have a saying in the desert- “If you’re hot and near water, you’re stupid!” Wet your head, soak your shirt, get in the water to cool your core temperature. At the very least, wet a bandanna and tie it around your neck. This fools the body into thinking it is cooler than it is because it gets the temperature cues from the blood flowing through the carotid artery in the neck. Note: DO NOT use precious water from caches for this purpose.

Siesta Schedule
Take a cue from the wildlife and many hot weather cultures and split your day into early morning and afternoon hiking with a nap in between. Temperatures are usually hottest between 10am - 4pm. Find yourself some shade or use an umbrella to make your own and settle in to wait it out. If you can siesta near water, all the better. Getting a sunrise start will give you several hours to hike in more comfortable weather. Night hiking is also an option to beat the heat.

Sirena “desertsirena” Dufault

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