Hiking can be a pure pleasure but in the heat of summer you should take some precautions before hitting the trails. It is very likely that you will encounter high temperatures which will make your body rapidly loose fluids. Therefore, it is essential that you regularly hydrate during the hike and bring enough water with you. You should also protect your skin and eyes against the damaging UV rays and keep in mind that the weather might change rapidly – it is no fun to be dressed for warm sunshine if a cold rainstorm arises. In the following we will give you some tips on summer hiking to make your hikes in the heat of summer enjoyable and successful. However, if you are new to hiking, it might not be the best idea to go hiking on very warm and sunny days because such weather will put additional strain on your body.
Hiking in Summer – Tips:
- Bring enough water
- Get an early start
- Check the weather
- Wear the right clothes and footwear
- Sun protection
Bring enough water
In high temperatures your body will lose more fluids through perspiration (sweating) and therefore it is vital that you bring enough water with you. You can calculate how much exactly after reading our article How much water to bring on a hiking trip where we took a more scientific approach to hiking hydration and explained how to calculate your water requirements. You should also drink regularly throughout the hike to prevent your body from dehydration. The latest research estimate that if you lose 5% of your body weight in fluids, your performance decreases by no less than 30% – and it does take some time to regain strength after being thoroughly dehydrated. A hydration bladder is a great accessory for hiking in summer because it allows you to drink on the go without hassle. If you are using water bottles instead of a hydration bladder, remember to take a break for drinking at least every 50 minutes, depending on the weather. Since water is heavy to carry, you should also check out if you can refill your water bottles or hydration bladder along the trail (mountain huts, streams, lakes etc.). Note that not every water source is safe to drink from and thus you might need a water filter.
Get an early start
In summer it is not uncommon to see people starting their hikes at 5am. Getting an early start means lower temperatures and lower temperatures mean lower water requirements and less strain on the body. Another benefit of starting early, is that the trails are less crowded which enables you to set your own pace. Starting early is especially recommended for climbing mountains because the ascent is much more physically demanding than the descent. It makes sense to do the hard work in the morning at bearable temperatures and then enjoy the descent with the sun high above your head. However, there is one thing you should keep in mind if you decide to start early. If the trail is grassy, it will probably be wet because of the night dew – and few things are more annoying than having wet feet during a hike. In such cases you might want to wear water-resistant hiking shoes.
Check the weather forecast
Checking the weather forecast before going on a hike will help you make the right decisions about what gear and clothes to bring. Nevertheless, it is important to remember that the weather in summer can change quickly due to the rapid upward movement of warm air which can also lead to thunderstorms. Thunderstorms are particularly dangerous for hikers and we do recommend postponing your hike in case that thunderstorms are forecasted. If you are planning to hike at high altitudes keep in mind that the temperature drops for 5.4° F (3° C) for every 1000 ft. (300 m) gained. Cloudy weather makes hiking at high altitudes less fun because your view will be disturbed. Furthermore, clouds or fog might make it difficult or even dangerous to navigate along the trail, depending on its difficulty.
Wear the right clothes and footwear
To be comfortable on trails in summer you should wear appropriate clothing and footwear. If the temperatures are high, your base layer and hiking pants should be thin and quick-drying because they will most likely get soaked with sweat. However, all your garments should also block the damaging sun rays to protect your skin against sun burns. See our article Sun Protective Clothing for Hiking to learn more about UPF rating which tells you how good sun protection a garment provides. You should only wear hiking shorts if you will be hiking on pruned paths where you won’t encounter abrasive vegetation or cliffs. Also keep in mind that long pants will protect better against insect bites if you are hiking close to swamps, lakes or other bodies of water. When it comes to footwear, you should avoid overly insulated hiking boots and instead wear a pair of lightweight and breathable hiking shoes or boots, depending on the terrain. Don’t forget to wear a sun hat which will protect your head and neck against the sun.
There are two things more that you should bring for a complete sun protection; a pair of sunglasses and a good sun cream. You should apply sun cream even in cloudy weather because up to 50% of sun rays efficiently penetrate through the cloud cover. Note that the potency of UV rays increases with the altitude and thus it is especially important to apply sun cream if you hike at high altitudes. Since you will most likely sweat during the hike, it is important to reapply sun cream at least every 90 minutes. The sun is, however, not only harmful for your skin but also for your eyes. Therefore, do yourself a favor and wear sunglasses that cover your eyes from all directions and provide good UV protection. This will also ensure that your eyes will not get so tired from the bright sun light.