1. Wear Clothes That Cover Your Whole Body While Hiking in Hot Weather
While touring ancient Roman towns and ruins in North Africa, I noticed that local herders wore a Jedi tunic. In fact, George Lucas modeled the Jedi cloak on this traditional garb. Many scenes of Tatooine were shot in Tunisia.
The herders wore a one-peace, dark brown tunic that fit like a dress with a hood. They looked like Jedi.
You don’t see nomadic peoples in dry, hot environments in flip-flops, board shorts, and tank tops. Think of the bedouin tribes of North Africa or the Middle East. They are wearing long flowing robes with head coverings and often scarves to cover their faces.
They are not wearing all of these garments to stay warm. They wear these clothes to avoid the sun and minimize water loss.
When hiking in a hot environment, you should wear clothes that cover your entire body. You should wear a wide-brimmed hat that shades your face and neck.
Covering your body reduces the amount of water lost through perspiration as you create a barrier between your skin and the environment. You also avoid getting sunburned.
Go here to see the hat, shirt, pants, and shoes I wear for hiking in hot weather.
2. Breathe Through Your Nose And Not Your Mouth While Hiking in Hot Weather
Researchers at the Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Göteborg, Sweden, conducted a study published in 2006. The researchers found that subjects that breathed through their noses lost 42% less water than subjects who breathed through their mouths.
When hiking in hot weather, water loss is your enemy. We lose water in three ways: respiration, perspiration, and down the toilet. While you are hiking, your respiration or breathing rate will be elevated. You will also be perspiring or sweating in hot weather as your body attempts to stay cool.
By shutting your mouth and breathing through your nose, you will dramatically decrease the amount of water lost through vapor in your breath.
With your mouth closed, you will lose less water through saliva drying out and being replenished. You will also lose less water because of more surface area through your nasal passage and a longer route for the breath to follow.
While hiking with your mouth closed, breathing through your nose, you will have to regulate your pace and activity level.
3. Hike At A Much Slower Pace in Hot Weather
When you are hiking in hot weather, water loss is a real problem. You will be losing water through sweating and breathing. If you hike slower, you will reduce water loss because you will be sweating less and breathing more slowly.
Plan your hot weather hike with a slower hiking pace. If you don’t know how fast you hike, go check out my simple guide for calculating your hiking speed.
Make sure to give yourself extra time to complete your hike in hot weather. This will allow you to slow your pace and avoid overheating.
If you follow tip number 2 and breathe through your nose, you will need to slow down anyway.
4. Take Hiking Breaks In The Dirt in Hot Weather
To quickly reduce your temperature while taking a rest from hiking, you can find a shady spot and remove the first few inches of dirt in a small patch of ground and lie on it.
The dirt beneath the surface will be significantly cooler than the ambient temperature and help draw heat away from your body and into the ground. This same mechanism is what makes you cold when sleeping on the ground.
Conduction is the process that causes you to freeze when sleeping on the ground at night. Cool earth pulls heat out of your body faster than you can replace it.
5. Wear White While Hiking in Hot Weather
More than wear white, I would say DO NOT WEAR BLACK. Darker colors absorb more heat from sunlight than do lighter colors.
You may remember that black objects absorb all colors of light from middle-school science class, while white objects reflect lighter colors. This fundamental difference is what causes a black object in direct sunlight to become hot to touch.
If you wear lighter colors while hiking in hot weather, you will avoid taking on extra heat by reflecting more of the visible light spectrum from the sun. Remember the image of the Bedouin tribes in the desert wearing white flowing robes.
6. Drink One Liter of Water Before You Hike in Hot Weather
Perhaps the most important part of hiking in hot weather is hydration. If you start your hike in a water deficit, then you will need to carry more water and drink more water to stay hydrated on your hike.
You should pre-hydrate before you hike. Drink small amounts of water continuously for one or two hours before you hike until you have consumed a liter of water or more.
While hiking, you will be consuming much more water than you normally would if you are sitting in an office typing away on a computer. By drinking plenty of water before your hike, you will start hydrated.
Drinking at least a liter of water before your hike will reduce the amount of strain on your body through water loss as you hike.
As a rule of thumb, your urine should be clear, yellow before you start the hike.
7. Constantly Scan Your Environment For Shelter From The Sun in Hot Weather
We are going hiking in the Big Bend National Park in 9 days, and from the pictures, I can see that there are very few shade trees. We plan to make the Emory Peak trail, which should take about six hours.
Along this open trail under the south Texas sun, it will be important to identify resting spots with shade. This may mean going off-trail.
Taking a hiking break in the sun is no break at all. Make sure you identify any shade possible for your breaks. Even partial shade is better than sitting under direct sunlight.
8. Wear Sunglasses While Hiking in Hot Weather
Reducing the amount of strain on your body is a key factor in improving your situation when hiking. A small blister on your heal is not a big deal, but the cumulative effects can become significant when you add other small problems.
Wearing sunglasses while hiking in hot weather provides a small benefit, but hiking for hours the benefit adds up when you have been hiking for hours. Of course, UV radiation on your eyes can lead to other problems later on, such as cataracts.
But while you are hiking in hot weather, sunglasses reduce the strain your eyes will experience. Like a small blister, this imperceptible strain can become an issue later on in the day when you are tired, hungry, and exhausted. Give your eyes a break and wear sunglasses.
9. Choose a Hike With a Water Feature in Hot Weather
If it is really that hot, then why not pick a hike that has some water along the way? Hikes with water features are more fun anyway. If it is sweltering, then a stream or lake can be an oasis from the heat.
At Beaver Creek resort this summer, we hiked an eight-hour loop with a stop at Beaver Lake in the middle of our hike. It was hot, and we were at high elevation, which meant that we were all dehydrated. My wife and I gave the rest of the water we had to our son and his friend.
When we got to the lake, I was hot and dusty, so I took a dip in the lake at 9,746 feet. It was ice-cold even in July. That refreshment in the lake rejuvenated my body and carried me through the rest of the hike.
A stream or lake on a hot weather hike can provide respite for dusty hikers! You can dip your shirt or hat in the water to cool off your body through evaporation.
10. Drink One Liter of Water Per Hour of Hiking in Hot Weather
You will be drinking an insane amount of water while hiking in hot weather. Be prepared to carry lots of water with you if you don’t have readily available water sources and a filtration system.
As you hike in hot weather, your body will be losing copious amounts through breathing and perspiration primarily. If you follow my advice on tip #2, you will lose less water through breathing because you will be inhaling and exhaling through your nose.
If you follow tip #1, you should lose less water from sweating if the Bedouin and desert peoples worldwide are right, and wearing clothes that cover their entire bodies reduces water loss.
I highly suggest that you figure out how much water you use while hiking in hot weather before hiking. I wrote a quick guide on how to figure this out.
11. Stop Hiking If You Feel Faint in Hot Weather
Heat exhaustion is dangerous. According to the Centers for Disease Control, common symptoms include tiredness, dizziness, headache, and fainting. The next stage is heat stroke, which can easily be fatal.
If you start to feel weird while hiking in extreme heat, then stop and take a rest until you recover. Find a shady spot, dig down a few inches in the dirt, and lie down to lower your temperature. Rehydrate.
Depending upon your situation, it may be best to wait until it is later in the day and the air temperature has cooled off. Hiking in the dark can bring on more issues. Know your abilities and use your head.
12. Cover Your Head While Hiking in Hot Weather
While hiking Ausangate Trek in Peru, I wore a wide-brimmed hat. It was not particularly hot, in fact, it was mild, but the sun was really intense. Sun beating down on your head in hot weather can accelerate the problems of heat exhaustion or dehydration.
Remember the Bedouin tribes of the North African and Middle-eastern deserts. They have full head coverings that insulate their brains from the scorching sun.
13. Hike Early Or Hike Late in Hot Weather
If you plan to hike in hot weather, perhaps the smartest thing you can do is avoid hiking between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM. These are the hottest hours of the day when the sun is the most intense.
Sunrise is usually the coolest point in the day. Your location has been in the dark for the longest amount of time, and the greatest amount of residual heat has dissipated at this point. The air is cooler. This is the time of day when you can really put some miles on the trail without as much risk of overheating.
Hiking later in the day is also an option, but the ground will still be hot from the sun, and the air may still be warm.
When hiking in hot weather, your priority is to stay hydrated and avoid overheating, leading to heat exhaustion and eventually heat stroke. These simple tips can dramatically decrease your risk of the ill-effects of hiking in hot weather.