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!
Whosoever is delighted in solitude is either a wild beast or a god -Aristotle
As most of us hikers know by personal experience and proven by recent scientific studies, not only is hiking good for your body, it is also beneficial for your mind as well. It turns out, in a study done by Stanford in 2015, hiking in nature contributes to lower depression. (http://news.stanford.edu/2015/06/30/hiking-mental-health-063015/) So in a time where we have so many everyday distractions that can cause anxiety and stress, hiking is a great way to get outside, disconnect, and feel good, both physically and mentally. Hiking for many, is also a social experience, as hiking with a group offers a way to connect with others and share the same passion with like-minded people. But what happens when you don’t have someone to hike with or you just want to get away sans your hiker friends? Go solo!
Solo hikes, for me, are even more beneficial to my mind and reconnecting with myself through nature than group hikes. All those distractions of life we try to escape from by hiking sometime sneak along with you on the trail in the form of your hiking partners. Maybe someone is little grumpy, or wants to complain about their significant other, or just won’t stop talking. Maybe someone is having a bad physical day and needs to turn around ending your hike too. Don’t get me wrong, hiking with friends is amazing, but can be distracting, causing that connection with nature to be lost. When I hike solo, it’s just me, the trail, and the weather; no distractions and a perfect time to re-connect with myself and hike off some of those stresses and anxiety. Solo hiking becomes much more of a spiritual experience for me and I notice how much I am one with the earth. I come back feeling so rejuvenated and grounded at the same time.
But what about the dangers of hiking solo? I can’t tell you how many people freak out when I tell them I sometimes hike by myself. “Aren’t you worried about psycho killers on the trail? What about getting eaten by a mountain lion?” I always smile to myself when I hear this and think about my husband’s favorite movie quote in a scene from Heat where Al Pacino yells at Snitches “You can get killed walking your doggie”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=575xM6Uljw4 Al Pacino’s quote really holds some truth when you look at the stats. On average, around 5,000 people a year get killed by being hit by a car. Compare that to the roughly 35 people a year that die hiking and it doesn’t seem so dangerous. And those mountain lions that everyone is afraid will eat me? According to Wikipedia, since 1890, there has been less than 25 fatal mountain lion attacks in the entire U.S. More people died from contaminated cantaloupes in 2013 than mountain lions since 1890! The facts are mountain lions just don’t eat people and it’s extremely rare to even see one (I’m still waiting to see one even after the 1,000’s of miles I’ve hiked in cougar country).
When I go out on a trail alone, I feel so free- so connected. It’s such a great feeling, knowing I am capable of doing something that scares most people and loving every second of it. When you think about it, it’s only been a couple generations since everyone became so disconnected from the wild and somehow it became “scary”. My Grandfather lived in a time where normal people lived in the wild, slept under the stars, and hiked every day because they didn’t have access to horses or cars. Oh what a time that must have been to live!
Now don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting solo hiking is for everyone but I do think everyone should try it at least once and see if it is for you or not. If you’re new to solo hiking, here are some tips for your first few solo hikes:
Sun protection (sunglasses and sunscreen)
Insulation (extra clothing)
Fire (waterproof matches/lighter/candles)
Repair kit and tools
Nutrition (extra food)
Hydration (extra water)