It’s finally summer. The season for outdoor activities is finally upon us. We’ve recently been having quite the heatwave here in Ireland, with temperatures in the high 20s to low 30s. For all of you unfamiliar with Ireland, that’s quite unusual. We usually get rain. A lot of rain. Many of us aren’t prepared for hiking in such high heat and humidity, and it can be quite dangerous to hike when unprepared.
So how do you prepare for hiking in summer?
One of the most important things – heat or no heat – is to stay hydrated while hiking. Many people don’t drink enough while hiking in general, but it is absolutely vital during the hot summer months. Bring more water with you than is necessary, as you’ll discover that no amount of water is too much when hiking in the heat.
A hydration bladder is useful for quick and easy access. Failing that, some 2 litre bottles of water should do the trick. You may be tempted to drink from streams or rivers that you come across. Just bear in mind that this water may not be clean and require purifying before drinking.
Gear Up (or down)
Knowing the right gear for the situation is the mark of a good hiker, and it takes skill and practice to perfect. What works for someone else may not work for you, so get to know your own gear. When it’s hot, it’s not necessary to pack the same gear as you would for hiking in colder or wetter weather. Things that are vital for hiking in the heat may not come into play when hiking in cold weather. Make sure to pack sun protection in the form of suncream, a sun hat and sunglasses. Protection from the sun for your neck is also a good idea as the back of your neck can easily burn as the sun beats down.
You can also shed some weight in your backpack through minimising your spare rain gear, and substitute that weight for extra water.
You may be the type of person who loves to power on while hiking. Just keep walking, no matter what – that’s your motto. When hiking in the heat, it’s a good idea to take frequent breaks in shade to drink some water and break up the sun’s rays that are pounding down on you. Sun stroke, heat stroke and hyperthermia (elevated body temperature, the opposite of hypothermia) are very real risks when hiking in the summer.
Don’t get sunburnt!
Even on cold, windy or cloudy days, it’s easy to get sunburnt. Sunburn comes from the sun’s rays, not its heat. The harshest rays are generally between 12p.m. And 4p.m. – you could plan your hike to avoid hiking during the worst rays.
Sun can reflect off objects, such as the limestone rocks which litter The Burren, and bounce back to burn you. You’re effectively being burned from all angles!
Appropriate protection includes sun cream, a sun hat and sun glasses. Black attracts heat, so wearing white is a good strategy to reflect the heat away. Loose fitting and breathable clothing is also a great option as it allows you to cover your skin but still be cool and breathing.