7 Hiking Safety Tips For Your Next Summer Adventure

Summer is the season when many people venture out of their urban environments and into the great outdoors. It might be a day hike in a nearby State Park, or an extended backpacking trip in the wilderness, but summer is definitely a great time to fill your lungs with the fresh air that can only be found far from the hustle and bustle of civilization.

Related: 6 Ways Hiking Will Improve Your Life

Unfortunately, a good portion of the people who choose to hike in the summer time fail to adequately prepare for the challenges of physical exertion in elevated temperatures (not to mention altitude).

In June 2016, at least five hikers died in separate incidents in Arizona where temperatures soared to record levels in some areas.

“It really shows how critical this heat can be and how it can really sneak up on you,” Capt. Larry Subervi, a Phoenix Fire spokesman, told the Arizona Republic. “When we deal with temperatures like this, it can just really be unpredictable how your body is going to respond.”

The hikers in Arizona set out on the trail despite triple-digit temperatures that would keep most of us inside, but the need for vigilant preparation before any summer hike applies to all of us, in any type of heat.

1. Start Early In The Day

Far too many people wake up late on a Saturday, have a leisurely breakfast, then head out for a day hike around 12 or 1 pm, the hottest part of any day. Smart hikers know that starting early gives you more hours in the relative coolness. Remember, hiking of any kind gets your blood pumping and your core temperature rising, no matter what the outdoor temperature may be. Aim to start by 5 or 6 in the morning, depending on the length and intensity of the hike. This will also ensure that there are fewer people on the trial, enhancing your wilderness experience.

2. Hydrate Constantly

Dehydration starts long before you’re thirsty and can quickly incapacitate you if not addressed. The last thing you want to be is hot and dehydrated out in the wilderness with no shelter. Start early and bring plenty of water (both plain and with electrolytes) with you.

“One of the biggest mistakes hikers make is to start the hike dehydrated by not being fully hydrated the day or two prior to the hike,” explains Your Hike Guide. “It is nearly as important as drinking water while on the hike. Stay hydrated. Even if you don’t feel thirsty, drink.”

3. Eat Salty Foods

Right after proper hydration on the trail comes the need to give your body adequate fuel for the task at hand. Don’t be that guy who brings a single protein bar on a 5-hour hike. “Balance your food intake with fluid consumption, else you run the risk of becoming dangerously debilitated and severely ill,” advises the National Park Service. ”Food is your body’s primary source of fuel and salts (electrolytes) while hiking…Eat a salty snack every time you take a drink.”

4. Cover Up

Summer is the season of tank tops, shorts and sandals, but on a summer hike this type of minimal clothing leads to disaster.

“The more of your body you can shield from the sun, the happier you’ll be. Loose-fitting long sleeves and pants paired with a wide-brimmed hat will do wonders on a summer hike. Remember to shield your eyes with some UV-blocking sunglasses and slather that sunscreen on every exposed part of your body – especially if you’re hiking at altitude,” explains Modern Hiker.

5. Bring Extra Socks

Your armpits aren’t the only thing that will be sweating on a summer hike. Your feet sweat too, and ignoring it for too long can create an uncomfortable situation at best and a crippling problem at worst. Experienced hikers always throw an extra pair of socks in their pack. When you start to feel “hot spots” in your boots, it’s a sign that blisters are on their way. Stop in a shady spot, take a swig of water and put on your dry pair. Hang the sweaty socks on the outside of your bag so they can dry, in case you need them again.

6. Prepare For Bugs

Blisters aren’t the only things that come along with sweat. Biting insects love to feast on hot, sweaty hikers. Always bring along a safe, powerful bug spray and apply it frequently while you’re sweating to keep bites at bay.

7. Know The Signs

Dehydration, heat exhaustion, heat stroke—all of these potentially fatal conditions have early warning signs. If spotted and dealt with properly, you can prevent them from becoming dangerous problems.

Be watching for and asking your hiking partners about:

– Thirst
– Increased sweating or lack of sweating, despite hot temperatures
– Nausea
– Extreme fatigue
– Dark urine or lack of urination
– Throbbing headache
– Dizziness
– Muscle cramps
– Disorientation or confusion

If you notice these symptoms, STOP right away. Find a shady spot. Have the person sit down and encourage them to take small sips—NOT GIANT GULPS—of water. Fan them with something to decrease their body temperature. Don’t start hiking again until the symptoms have completely disappeared. If they don’t, find a way to get help.

What’s your best summer hiking tip? Share it in the comments!

Image credit: Thinkstock

240 comments

Christine J
Christine Jabout a year ago

Extra socks; very useful tip.

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John B
John B1 years ago

Thanks Beth for providing the information.

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Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 years ago

thanks for the article.

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federico bortoletto
federico b2 years ago

Grazie dell'ottimo articolo.

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Virginia Belder
Virginia Belder2 years ago

ty

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Elizabeth O.
Elizabeth O2 years ago

Thanks for the article.

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S J.
S J2 years ago

thank you for the useful tips

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Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 years ago

thanks for the article.

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