Happy Summer Solstice! Although we’ve been having a cool summer so far here in Southern California, I know this perfect hiking weather won’t last much longer and hot days are on their way. I have to be honest; I am not a fan of hiking in warm weather. I would rather hike in a snow storm over a heat wave any day. But since I am not willing to give up hiking when the days warm up, I learned how to make it more comfortable and safer. Here are my top 5 tips for hiking in warm weather.
When the weather warms up, I start watching temperatures in the early morning. Starting earlier allows me to hike while there is still coolness from the night and before the sun has had a chance to warm everything up. I aim to be finished with my hike before the temperature reaches 80 degrees, so that means sometimes starting as early as sunrise and/or hiking a shorter route to be finished before it gets too hot. I calculate the mileage I am hiking, and how long it should take me to complete it, and then start as early as needed to be finished before it warms up.
Temperature drops the higher in elevation you go. You will lose an average of 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit for every 1000 feet of elevation you gain, so the higher you go, the cooler it gets. Summer is the time I head to the mountains and bag a few peaks. Usually temps on the mountain are pretty moderate when it heats up off the mountain. Plus, usually mountain trails have more trees than non-mountain trails so there is typically more shade.
Wear Proper Clothing
Wearing the proper clothing for hiking in warm weather can really improve how comfortable you are. Wear loose fitting, light colored, and breathable synthetic materials that cover your skin. Make sure the clothing you choose has a UPF factor of 30+ and if it has venting, you’ll be even cooler. Brands like Columbia, REI’s Sahara, ExOfficio, Arc’teryx, and Outdoor Research all have great hot weather hiking shirt options.
My favorites are the Omni Freeze shirts from Columbia and the Sahara shirts from REI.
Also, wear a hat and add a neck gaiter with cooling properties dunked in water as well. I usually jut wear an old-fashioned bandana but sometimes will opt for a technical neck gaiter instead if it will be extra warm.
Here is the neck gaiter I use:
Carry Extra Water
Dehydration can be a real threat when hiking in dry and warm weather. I always bring way more than enough water when I hike, and even more if it’s warm out. I also drink from a bladder instead of a bottle so water is easily available to me throughout the hike. If you are new to hiking, especially in warm temperatures, I would recommend a minimum of one liter per hour of hiking. I also carry a life straw in my first aide kit so I am able to drink filtered water from the source should I run out of water. Of course, there would need to be water available on the trail for me to use the straw which is fairly uncommon in Southern California. Make sure to include electrolytes such as Nuun tablets in your first aide kit for added electrolytes and minerals that are lost when you sweat.
Leave Your Pup at Home
I love hiking with my pup more than anything but when the temperature rises, I leave him at home. As a general rule, I will not take him with me if the temperature at the hottest part of my hike will be higher than 75 degrees. My dog is black so he gets hotter faster than a lighter colored dog. Also, take into consideration the ground temperature. If hiking on surfaces that absorb heat (pavement, sand, etc. make sure your pup’s paws will not get burned. If you are unable to hold the back of your hand on the ground for longer than 10 seconds, your dog’s paws will get burned. You can also outfit your pup with booties such as these to protect their feet from the hot ground.
Make sure you have plenty of water for your dog, along with a pack-able bowl for them to drink out of. Dogs tend to hide their symptoms if they are in distress, so they may not show any heat related symptoms until it is too late. If you have any doubt about bringing them with you, leave them home. Check out this infographic from Pet Plan Insurance that outlines temperatures and hiking with your dog.
We hope you have a happy summer full of amazing hikes!
We all know hiking is great for your physical body and can build strength, help to maintain a healthy weight, improve balance and coordination, strengthen cardiovascular health, lower blood pressure and help control diabetes but what can it do for our minds? Check out these 5 benefits hiking has on your mind.
1. Hiking helps relieve anxiety.
“Research shows that hiking has a positive impact on combating the symptoms of stress and anxiety," says Gregory A. Miller, PhD, president of the American Hiking Society. "Being in nature is ingrained in our DNA, and we sometimes forget that."
Taking a hike in nature means getting away from your everyday stress, slowing down, re-connecting with yourself, and becoming present in your surroundings. The sounds of nature, birds, flowing water, wind in the trees have a calming effect on your brain and help to stop any anxiety you may have.
2. Hiking lowers levels of rumination (repetitive thought focused on negative aspects of the self).
A Stanford led study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, found “through a controlled experiment, we investigated whether nature experience would influence rumination (repetitive thought focused on negative aspects of the self), a known risk factor for mental illness. Participants who went on a 90-min walk through a natural environment reported lower levels of rumination and showed reduced neural activity in an area of the brain linked to risk for mental illness compared with those who walked through an urban environment. These results suggest that accessible natural areas may be vital for mental health in our rapidly urbanizing world”.
Negative thoughts can cause self esteem issues, low confidence, fatigue, less clarity of mind, and now are being associated with illness and disease. These thoughts can be improved with just a 90 minute hike in nature!
3. Hiking makes you feel happy.
Dopamine and Serotonin are two neurochemicals that make you feel happy. Dopamine is responsible for improving mood and stimulating pleasurable feelings. Serotonin helps to decrease depression and anger and is known as the happy chemical. According to research conducted at the University of Texas at Austin, they found that just a single 40-minute period of exercise can have an immediate effect on mood. It is believed that this effect on mood is due to what is known sometimes as a “runners high” which comes from an increase in dopamine after a run (or a hike).
4. Hiking keeps you in the present moment.
"The power for creating a better future is contained in the present moment: You create a good future by creating a good present"- Eckhart Tolle
Although you might day dream a bit while hiking, for the most part you are in the present moment for most of your hike. It’s hard to hike on a trail without being conscious of where your feet are, if you’re thirsty, paying attention to not getting lost, etc. You are forced to stay in the present moment to be able to hike without getting hurt or lost.
So what is so good about being in the present moment? The ability to be mindful can create improved focus & concentration, help to make clearer decisions, improve memory, improve mood, and promote peaceful thoughts. It also allows your mind to re-connect to your body and become aware of emotions, feelings, and anything you may not have been aware of while distracted.
5. Hiking boosts creativity and problem solving.
Research showed that a four day immersion in nature while disconnected from technology and/or multi media increased performance on creativity and problem-solving tasks a full 50% for the hikers involved in the experiment. The study found that technology and urban environments are greatly distracting, thus taking away from the ability to focus and have a negative impact on cognitive skills. Unplugging and stepping into nature for a hike will boost creativity and cognitive skills.
Whether you're a Zen Master or not, the benefits of hiking go on and on including these five benefits to your mind while hiking.
Five years ago today, I was laying in the dirt on a trail with a shattered and dislocated ankle with pieces of bone pressing against my skin so hard I developed fracture blisters that left scars that still remind me everyday of my accident. I literally felt like I could die from the pain before the fire department (aka amazing hero angels) would have time to get to me. I was supposed to be celebrating my birthday, not waiting to be rescued from one of my favorite trails. As I laid there, mostly in shock, and in indescribable pain, I couldn’t have imagined one day I would be grateful for my injury. I could have never guessed how much my life would change for the better, and how that traumatic injury would open a new path to becoming a happier and healthier me.
You see, before my accident, I was kind of a mess. I didn’t know how to say no to anyone, I was a hopeless perfectionist, an obsessive over achiever, a workaholic, and a chronic people pleaser. I never put myself first, and took care of everyone else before my needs were met. I lived mostly in the past, chained to past failures and hurts I didn’t know how to let go of, and my stress and anxiety were so out of control I began to manifest OCD symptoms, and panic attacks were fairly common. I was unhappy and really good at avoiding my emotions by staying busy and never stopping (physically, mentally, or spiritually) to feel them, let alone deal with them. It wasn’t the true me and it wasn’t healthy.
It’s amazing now looking back at my injury, and the difficult recovery, and being able to see what a special time that was for me. I’ve found my recovery, as hard as it was physically and even more so emotionally, was where the true healing was. I literally was forced to be quiet with myself for months. After two surgeries and two months in a wheelchair I couldn’t run out and help someone else when my emotions came up. I sat on my couch in pain, physically and emotionally, and was forced to feel what I had pushed down for so long. I cried- I cried so much, years worth of tears I never allowed to flow. I wrote in my blog and I started to feel myself healing. I started to feel like me again. I also understood how healing and important hiking was for me and knew it was something I really wanted to be able to do again and would not take for granted. I had a deep awakening and my perception really changed. I realized I had been living a life I didn’t want anymore and that I could change it as I create my own reality. The magic was already inside of me to do so, and all I had to do was turn it on.
I truly believe that everything in life (whether you perceive it as “good” or “bad”) happens for you and not to you. It took a severe injury and months of recovery and then five years of walking a new path to really understand the beauty in that. I’m still healing in so many ways, as we all are, and am grateful I am able to get in nature and hike as much as I can. Hiking is the one thing that puts my perspective back in a healthy place when I start to feel the old people pleasing, perfectionist, anxious, stressed out me show up. It truly is magical and now I get to share that magic with so many people through Hike It Off and even more with the launch of the magazine. This is my purpose. This is who I really am and I am so thankful for this journey, even the really tough and painful parts. So happy birthday to me and thank you for following me on this incredible journey we call life.