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!