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Essential wellness tips for summer hiking

  • Jun 10, 2017

In theory, you can hike at just about any time of the year. Some seasons are much better suited for it than others, of course, and summer is definitely one of these - or at least it can be. Unfortunately, a summer hike can be dangerous if you don't properly prepare. Don't forget to bring along your PRW3100Y-3, fully equipped with a navigational compass. One must also dress in sufficient clothing to withstand any summer heat.

It is necessary to stress the importance of proper preparation for any rugged trail expedition during late May to mid-September, depending on where you live. As long as you've planned ahead and packed exactly what you need, however, you'll have a fine time hiking at the height of summer. 

Hydration, hydration and furthermore - hydration
While we hope you take all of our advice to heart, if you were to ignore most of our summer hiking tips and stick to this one, we could live with that. In all seriousness, the importance of proper hydration during hiking - or while doing any other high-energy outdoor sport or activity - cannot possibly be understated. The National Park Service pointed out that hikers need water for cooling purposes as much as drinking, and thus recommended carrying a spray bottle to periodically cool your face with as well as potable water in a canteen.

The loss of fluid and electrolytes from the bloodstream is considerable while hiking if you're not careful to replace these substances through hydration. According to the NPS, as many as 2 quarts of electrolytes per hour can leave the body if you're moving uphill during the day's hotter hours. Excessive dehydration leads to fatigue, and can even bring about heatstroke. Carry at least a half gallon of water and drink at regular intervals - but don't over-hydrate either, as this can cause its own problem by flushing too much sodium from the body. Finally, try to hike during the morning, late afternoon or early evening to avoid the periods of strongest sunlight.

Don't underestimate the sun
Sunburn is no laughing matter. It's extremely painful, and any overexposure to the sun's ultraviolet rays can contribute to skin cancer. Everyone needs a certain amount of protection for their skin when hiking during the summer, but some will need more than others.

According to REI, if you have particularly fair skin, are hiking at an especially high altitude or happen to be near one of the equatorial regions, sunscreen won't be enough on its own. You will likely need clothing with an Ultraviolet Protection Factor rating if any of these factors apply to you. Those who have darker skin probably won't, as average clothing will prevent sunburn to covered areas in such cases. UPF has an effective range of about 15 to 50.

However, everyone can benefit from the proper application of sunscreen on their bare skin, regardless of its tone. REI noted that hikers should stick to sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor of 30 or higher, if you'll be hiking for two hours or longer and choose a product that is "broad spectrum" and protects your skin from both UVA and UVB rays. The latter are the most dangerous of the two, so if you're in a sticky situation at the pharmacy, UVB-only will work, but these days the majority of sunscreens are broad-spectrum.