What do Phoenix AZ, Oklahoma City OK, and Las Vegas NV all have in common today?
If you guessed that these places are forecast to have high temps over 100º Fahrenheit, you’re right! That’s the predicted high temperature IN THE SHADE. People and pets can die in this weather. Our motto at All Women All Trails is Safety, Support, Adventure. Safety comes first because at the end of the day, no matter how much fun, we want you to all come home alive!
Here are a few tips:
Plan it! Take a few extra minutes the day before to review your intended route. How much open sun will you be exposed to? Will there be a water source to resupply? What’s your backup plan if it’s dry? Will there be shade anywhere? What might your bail-out points be if it gets rough?
Know what’s up. Check the weather forecast! Cloud cover, predicted temperature, wind, expected humidity … all these can impact your hiking plans.
Call a friend … perhaps to go with you but ABSOLUTELY let someone KNOW YOUR PLANS! They need to know what you’re driving, where you’re going to hike, your general experience level, and what time you plan on returning. (also … Don’t leave your friend hanging; CALL when you’ve safely returned.)
Be prepared … with your TEN ESSENTIALS! This might vary according to your location and the season but basically:
Navigation (compass & map, PLB)
Illumination (headlamp, flashlight. NOT your phone!)
Sun protection (hat, sunglasses, sunscreen)
First aid (the basics)
Knife (small multi-tool will work)
Fire (matches or firestarter)
Emergency shelter (ultralight tarp, emergency space blanket)
Extra food (energy bars, jerky, nuts)
Extra water (and water treatment)
Extra clothes (depends on season and location)
Know yourself. Is it unseasonably hot and you know it typically takes you a few weeks to adjust to summer weather? How difficult is this hike? Are you biting off more than you can chew?
Stay low … when the temps are dangerously high, consider postponing your planned hike. There’s no shame in hiding from the heat and living to hike another day!
Go high! Temps are cooler at higher elevations! Shady places are cooler!
[As I write this, it’s 106º in Phoenix at ele 1,086′. A few miles east, you’ll find the Superstition Mountains where it’s “only” 93º at ele 5,059’. If you drive 150 miles north of Phoenix, you’ll find Flagstaff is a much more comfortable 81º at ele 6,909’. A 2-3 hour drive can get you from 106º to 81º.]
Dress the part! Wear a vented wide-brimmed sun hat, maybe one with a drape down the back to protect your neck. I know, they’re all soooo flattering, aren’t they? It sounds counterintuitive but more clothing can be cooler and safer than less. Consider desert peoples swathed head to toe. Go with loose fitting, light-colored fabrics that are lightweight, breathable, and quick-drying. Good choices are nylon, some polyesters, very lightweight merino wool, and yes … even cotton.
Cotton kills … except when it doesn’t! Cotton holds onto moisture, allowing it to evaporate slowly. While this can be very dangerous in cold weather, it might be just what you need in this heat. Test this yourself. Dip a cotton bandanna in water, wring it out until damp, and place it across the back of your neck. Feels pretty good, doesn’t it? (this was my mother’s secret trick for dealing with hot flashes) You can do this with a cotton tee shirt to cool your body down.
Start early. Like even before sunup! Think how awesome it will be to have the trail to yourself and watch the sunrise from the summit! (headlamp of course!)
Begin late … This can be trickier to judge temps and timing but anything close to sunset is going to be cooler even if only by a small amount. (yes … obviously a headlamp. PLEASE don’t count on your phone as a flashlight!)
Gimme shelter! Trekking umbrellas really make sense in hot bright sun! The shiny chrome side reflects sun and the black underside prevents light from bouncing around. If you know you’ll be out through midday, consider bringing a lightweight reflective shelter with you.
Cool it! If you do find yourself out in the heat midday, seek shade. Trees, a picnic shelter, the south side of an overhang can all be places for a bit of respite. Do this BEFORE you start feeling ill.
Water is life! The bodies of adult women are typically around 55% water. Losing as little as 1.5% of your body’s water can cause symptoms of dehydration. Most of us need about .5 liter per hour for moderate activity in moderate temperatures. Bring enough with you. Know where you’ll be able to get more. Bring extra! KNOW THE SIGNS OF DEHYDRATION.
Go on with your salty self! We don’t always need electrolytes when we hike but sweating a lot means we’re losing those electrolytes. Find a brand you really like. Being dehydrated or low on electrolytes can cause confusion and crankiness. Just drink it!
Tasty snacks! The heat can cause some of us to lose our appetite. Coax yourself to eat by bringing the tastiest snacks you can muster.
Hot damn! Understand the difference between heat exhaustion (pale skin, sweating) and the more serious life-threatening heat stroke (hot red skin), and know what to do. People can die of heat stroke.
Don’t rub me the wrong way. Chafing is possible any time but hot sweaty parts rubbing together? Maybe add in a bit of sand or dust? That is not the kind of hot you want your stuff to be! The moment you feel the burn, stop and address it. Pain means damage is occurring. Rinse the area with water, air dry, and apply anything that will lubricate the area and prevent friction. I like to stay dry with antiperspirant in the groinal areas where friction happens. (NOT on tender tissues!!!)
Hot foot? Skip waterproof shoes and boots. I know. They say they’re waterproof and breathable but I think they’re holding their breath! Lightweight wicking socks for the win! Air those tootsies air out during breaks. They’ll thank you!
Prepare for the end. Consider bringing along a cooler with a cold beverage and a package of wipes to leave in or under (shade 😉 ) your vehicle. How great will it feel to wipe off the grime and crack a cold one to celebrate a successful safe hike!?