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Hot weather safety tips for hikers

  • Jun 15, 2017

The summer can be an ideal time to go hiking, as sunshine, dry conditions and warm temperatures can make for a more pleasant experience. However, summer can also be one of the most dangerous times to head out into the wilderness if you're not careful. Hot weather is one of the leading causes of weather-related fatalities in the U.S. According to the National Weather Service, each year more people die from the heat exposure than most other weather phenomenon. To put it in perspective, when annual fatalities from natural disasters such as flooding, tornadoes, hurricane and lightning are combined, the figure still amounts to less than the total number of heat-related deaths.

Heat is so dangerous because prolonged exposure can lead to conditions such as heat stroke and heat exhaustion, both of which can kill in extreme cases. Sunburn also increases one's risk of skin cancer and skin damage. 

Given the risk, if you are planning on hiking this summer it's important to take steps to stay as healthy as possible. Here are some surefire strategies for beating the heat and having a memorable hiking trip.

1. Keep an eye on weather conditions
Summer weather conditions will vary, contingent on the climate of the area in which you are hiking, although northern areas of the U.S. are still at risk for heat waves. The best way to plan for hot weather is to keep an eye on the weather forecast in the days leading up to your trip, Adventure Junkies advised. If the forecast calls for high temperatures with sunshine and humidity, you'll know to prepare accordingly. While hiking, also be sure to keep an eye on conditions with your WSD-F20BK

2. Wear light clothing
Opt for clothing that is light and loose-fitting. The American Hiking Society explained how clothing made of cotton should be avoided, because it doesn't remove moisture from the body as effectively as other materials. Also be sure to wear a hat to protect your shoulders and neck.

3. Drink plenty of water
Staying hydrated in hot weather is essential. Be sure to bring plenty of water, as well as some sports drinks, the American Hiking Society explained. These are good for replenishing your electrolyte levels. Furthermore, while you may be tempted to crack open a cold beer on your hike, try to refrain from doing so - alcohol can increase your risk of dehydration. 

4. Hike at cooler times of the day
One of the most effective ways to avoid heat-related issues is to hike during cooler times of the day - usually early morning or the evening. The National Park Service website for the Grand Canyon advised staying off the hiking trail from late morning until late afternoon - roughly 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. - as that is when the sun is strongest and temperatures are highest. This advice is also true for most other areas in the summer. Keep in mind, however, that hot weather can still occur in the morning and evening, so be sure to still plan accordingly.  

5. Bring other essentials
Don't forget to bring your sunscreen, which protects against damaging burns, as well as products such as bug spray, to deter mosquitoes and other insects, Adventure Junkies noted. 

6. Take it slowly
A simple but effective strategy for heat safety while hiking is simply taking it easy, the NWS advised. Walk at a slower pace, take regular breaks and stick to the shade when you can. This is important because strenuous exercise increases your risk of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

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