In many parts of the world, it's that time of year where the spring is drawing to a close and the call of a long hot summer beckons. Well, hopefully a hot one with plenty of nice sunshine to soak up and enjoy.
The longer days of summer and the nice weather of course provide the hiker with lots more opportunity to get out on the trail. I like hiking any time of year but it is hard to beat hiking on a beautiful summers day. Not only is the weather a lot more amiable but the views can often be much better as your chances of a clear blue summers day sky increase.
However, as with all good things in life, you can have too much of a good thing and you need to remember to respect the sun when you're out on the trail.
Drink Plenty Of Water
The first thing to mention is that when you're hiking in a hot sun, you're going to dehydrate a lot faster than normal. As a rule you should drink water regularly on the trail anyway but on a hot summers day, you should have some extra water supplies with you.
If you're really heading out into the wilderness, it's a good idea to know where your next available water source will be just in case you run into any problems.
As a separate note, would you like to have ice cold water with you out on your day hike on a hot summers day? If so, check out this post for a neat tip!
Use Sun Screen
Whether you're hiking on a trail or lying on a beach, this is a given. Bring lot's of sun screen with you to protect your skin from burning. Be sure to cover all exposed areas. Many times prime areas that are just ripe for burning can be omitted by accident. Places like the tips of your ears, your nose, that type of thing. Be sure to top up regularly too.
Having after sun with you is also a very good idea!
Wear A Hat
There are lot's of different hat options you can choose from to protect you from the sun. This is especially important if, like me, you have a bald head.
It will burn fast if you don't cover it up properly with a hat as well as using sun screen. Hat's also serve other useful functions too like keeping the sun out of your eyes or protecting your whole neck, depending on the hat you choose of course.
No, this isn't to make a fashion statement but that can be a side benefit 😉
In bright sun, you can easily get blinded for a few seconds and that can lead you to lose your footing or make a bad call on a piece of terrain or the like. Also, if you're hiking high up enough, you will possibly have snow to contend with and the sun reflecting from it can be too much for your eyes to handle.
This is wear sunglasses really play their part. You need the right kind of pair though so it is worth investigating to get the right ones. I might do a piece on this in the coming weeks to provide some more information on what to look for as I will be purchasing a pair for my Mont Blanc trip in the next week.
Cover Up Where Appropriate
Yes indeed, this can sound a little bit odd as surely when the sun is out you want to bask as much of your body in it as possible! Well, yes and no. If you're out on the trail all day in the sun, you may be better off to cover up by wearing pants and a long sleeved shirt or tee.
I am of course referring to ones purpose built for wearing in the sun. These are loose fitting, moisture wicking, light colored, very breathable, lightweight and have some level of UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) protection in the material. Convertible hiking pants are also great for hiking in the sun as they give you the option of wearing shorts for a time. as and when you need.
Getting purpose built gear for the sun is important as it takes lot's of issues you normally take for granted into consideration. Chaffing is one example that springs to mind. When you're sweating that bit more in the heat, chaffing can be a real problem if you're not in the right kind of gear.
Somewhat ironically, the hotter the environment you're hiking in, the more you may need to cover up as you really need to protect your skin as it's just too hot. I am thinking here about deserts and some places where the sun is particularly strong ( New Zealand is one example of where you can be out in not excruciatingly hot sun but you burn quite easily and very quickly.
This is apparently due to the ozone layer being that bit thinner further south closer to Antarctica, therefore the same would apply in other southern regions on the same latitude e.g. places in South America ).
Finally, and this would really be for the more adventurous hiker, you may not always be in hot environments when you have to contend with the sun. As referred to above, if you're high enough, you'll likely be surrounded by snow and need to cover up appropriately. The power of the sun will still take it's toll whether it's cold or hot.
You need to watch out for this one among yourself and fellow hikers. Often times people can just overdo it and not even realize before this starts to impact them, especially if they've been out in hot sun for several days. There are two things that can help cause this 1. water depletion and 2. salt depletion.
There are many symptoms to watch out for e.g. fatigue, excessive thirst, dizziness, nausea, headache, rapid heartbeat to name just some of them. To treat heat exhaustion, get out of the sun, drink plenty of fluids, remove any unnecessary clothing and try and cool down as much as possible.
If you don't see signs of improvement within 30 minutes you should contact a doctor. If not treated it can lead to more dangerous problems like hyperthermia. I think this topic probably deserves a whole post of its own as there is a lot more to it.
In short, as mentioned above, drink water regularly and have some salty snacks to keep you ticking over to help avoid this.
Hiking in the sun especially in summer can be just stunning. You can enjoy some of the best views you're likely to see all year round and it's nice to be able to put the rain jacket into your pack for a while!
However, as with all good things, you can have too much! You need to respect the sun. It's beautiful but very powerful, and it can cause you problems if you don't prepare yourself properly. I hope these few simple tips will help you enjoy your hiking experiences in the sun all the more!
Remember, sometimes it can be just too hot and humid to hike in and it might just be better to leave your hiking trip for another day. As always, be sensible as while hiking in the sun can be beautiful, if it's too hot, humid etc. you will get uncomfortable very quickly.
Have you any good tips for hiking in the sun? We'd love to hear about them in the comments below.