Hiking in the Heat
As we enter the late-spring and summer months, the Vancouver region generally experiences several days and sometimes week where temperatures are in the 30°C+ range (86°F+). While the sunny weather offers an incredible opportunity to experience the mountains around the southwest British Columbia region, hiking in the heat brings unique challenges and health risks that require proper planning and precautions.
Understanding the Risks
Some of the risks from hiking in the extreme heat can be heat exhaustion, heatstroke, dehydration, and sunburn. These can cause symptoms like dizziness, headache, rapid heartbeat, and in severe cases, unconsciousness. Therefore, it’s essential to be prepared and take the necessary precautions to prevent these conditions.
Hydration is paramount when hiking in hot weather. The body loses fluids through sweat, and this loss can be significant when temperatures rise. Dehydration can set in quickly, leading to fatigue, cramps, dizziness, and other more severe symptoms. Drink plenty of water before, during, and after your hike.
A good rule of thumb is to drink a half-liter of water per hour of moderate activity in moderate temperatures. When it’s hot, you may need to double that. Additionally, consider carrying a hydration pack for easy access to water without having to stop and grab your water bottle from your backpack.
Sunburn can be a painful consequence of a day out on the trails. Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF 30 to all exposed skin, and don’t forget to reapply every two hours, or more often if you’re sweating heavily or swimming. Sunglasses with UV protection are also essential to shield your eyes from harmful rays.
Choosing the right clothing is a game-changer when hiking in the heat. Opt for lightweight, loose-fitting clothing that allows your skin to breathe and sweat to evaporate. Light-colored clothing reflects sunlight, while dark colors absorb it. Clothing with built-in sun protection (UPF-rated) can also help protect against harmful UV rays. Don’t forget a wide-brimmed hat to shield your face and neck, and consider a bandana or neck gaiter that can be soaked in water for an extra cooling effect.
Plan Your Hike Wisely
When hiking in the heat, timing is everything. Start early in the morning to avoid the peak heat hours, typically between 12 p.m. and 4 p.m. Choose trails with shade or ones that lead to a refreshing body of water where you can cool off. Also, remember to adjust your pace to the heat. On hot days, slow and steady wins the race.
Take Regular Breaks
Taking regular breaks will help your body regulate its temperature. Find a shady spot, drink water, and eat a salty snack to replace the electrolytes lost through sweat. Breaks also allow you to assess your physical condition continually. Remember, it’s okay to turn back if the heat becomes too overwhelming.
Pack Heat-Specific Gear
Apart from the regular hiking essentials, certain gear can be particularly helpful for hot weather hikes. Insulated water bottles can keep your water cool, and electrolyte tablets or powder can be added to your water for replenishment. A cooling towel, which stays cold for hours when wet, can also be helpful on a hot hike.
The sunny months are the best time to hike around Vancouver but it’s critical to be prepared for the heat and ensure you stay well hydrated and plan for the hot weather. Before heading out, read our safety tips and don’t forget to pack the 10 Essentials.