Sweat pouring down your back, sun in your eyes, trying desperately to find some shade, layers quickly being peeled off. Yup, it must be summer hiking.
Hiking in each season are very different experiences. Make the most of your summer hike with these tips + tricks.
Top Tricks for Summer Hiking
It's all in the timing
Try to avoid hiking in the middle of the day when the sun is at it's strongest. In New Zealand that is between 11am and 3pm. Obviously, if you are doing a whole day or a multi-day hike this is hard to avoid. But you can plan your route so that you are not hiking the hardest part during these times. Get an early start and head out before the sun has reached its Maximum Potential.
Plus, you will have more time for the pub stop afterwards if you do it this way. Winning.
Take lots of extra water. As in, more than you think you will need. Aim to drink at least 3-4 liters.
Dehydration is a very real threat when you are summer hiking. Take sips regularly even if you are not thirsty. A camelback is a great idea as you won't need to keep going into your pack to grab out your water bottle. They are also easier to carry and you can fit more water in them without the bulk.
Start hydrating a day or two before a big hike, this is just as important as staying hydrated on the hike.
Be aware of the symptoms of dehydration which include:
- increased sweating
- muscle cramps
- extreme fatigue
- dark urine or lack of urination
What to do if you or anyone in your group is suffering from any of these symptoms:
- find shade, if there is none make some shade using a tarp or spare clothing
- take small sips of water, too much could make them throw up. Increase the sips slowly, but don't let them take big gulps
- fan the person
- rest until fully recovered
- get medical treatment if symptoms don't improve or get worse
Be Sun Smart
Sunscreen. Always wear sunscreen, even if you are going to be mostly in the shade. You are already going to have sore legs, you don't want a sore nose/arms/back/neck/face to go along with it. Minimalise the pain and be sun smart, yo.
- apply sunscreen at least every 2 hours, even if you are in the shade
- wear a hat that covers ears, neck, and face
- sunglasses help protect your eyes
- try and wear clothing that covers as much skin as possible
Avoid Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke
Take lots of rests out of the sun. Exhaustion from the heat is common when you are summer hiking and isn't fun.
Some symptoms of heat exhaustion include:
- pale and clammy skin
- heavy sweating
- tiredness, dizziness or fainting
- muscle cramps
What to do if you or anyone in your group is showing symptoms:
- place the person in the shade,
- encourage them to drink water slowly at first
- apply a wet cloth to the skin and fan the person to cool them down
- do not continue your hike until the person feels better
Heat stroke is a very real threat and is very dangerous. Heat exhaustion and overexertion cause heat stroke and it needs immediate attention. Symptoms include:
- increased heart rate/rapid pulse
- hot, sweaty, red skin
- confusion and disorientation
What to do if you or anyone in your group shows symptoms:
- immediate medical help is required
- move the person into the shade - if you can't find any shade, make some out of a tarp or a spare piece of clothing
- loosen tight clothing
- make them drink small amounts of water
- pour water on them, place a wet cloth and fan them to help cool them down
- send someone for help if there are three or more people in your group
What to wear
Avoid clothing that is bulky and doesn't dry easily such as cotton. Cotton traps the sweat and moisture. Even in the middle of summer, it pays to wear layers or at least pack some extra layers in your bag. High altitude mountains and hilltops often have cooler temperatures than closer to sea level. Fresh winds are common high up as well. When you stop you want to put a layer on so your temperature doesn't drop.
You can always take layers off again as you start back walking. Fleece is a great layer to have in your bag, it doesn't stay wet for long and keeps out the chill of higher altitudes and wind.
A full brim hat that keeps the sun off your face, ears and neck is essential as well as good, waterproof hiking boots. Wool socks or specialist hiking socks will help keep your heels free from blisters.
Shorts are great for summer hiking, just be aware that you may get scratches from thistles, branches and other prickly things sticking out from the sides of the track. You can get quick-dry trousers as well if shorts aren't your thang.
Try to use the three-layer system of clothing.
- Base - wear a lightweight, moisture-wicking garment
- Mid - if it gets a bit cooler, chuck on a light or medium weight fleece
- Top - a waterproof jacket to keep out the wind and rain
General Hiking Do's
- Do tell someone where you will be going and your expected return time. Don't be vague, "oh, I am just heading into the Ruahines" (a 900 square kilometre forest park), isn't helpful. Tell someone which hike you will be doing.
- Do your research beforehand. Find out the weather conditions (even though they are subject to change), trespass notices, track information, the time it takes and any other relevant information. The Department of Conservation has a website that is fantastic for information on the various hikes dotted around Kiwiland.
- Do leave nothing but footprints and take nothing but photographs. Take an extra plastic bag for your rubbish and take it home with you. Leave Mother Nature as you found her. She will appreciate it.
- Do pack enough snacks, water and layers to last you longer than you need. Just in case.
- Do chuck a GSP, compass, and map in your pack. Even if you are hiking on a well-worn trail. Be a Boy Scout and Be Prepared.
- Do check out my Top Tricks + Tips for hiking.
Now you are well informed as to how to hike in the summer (now that summer is over here in Kiwiland...)
If you think there is an important tip that may have been missed, make sure you leave a comment below
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