Sunny summer days are perfect for lacing up your boots and heading out to chase waterfalls, a mountain summit, or a dramatic slot canyon. But, along with the perfect sun shining day can come intense heat, and if you don’t manage the combination of the two properly, your fun day can turn into a painful and potentially dangerous one. Here are some tips and tricks to stay cool and have a safe and happy summer.
Photo: Renata Bossi, Balega Impi
TIP #1: WEAR APPROPRIATE CLOTHING
Avoid anything that traps moisture against your skin. Wearing loose fitting clothing and light colors can allow sweat to evaporate more easily. Also, consider wearing clothing with UPF protection as well as apparel pieces like sun hats and sun sleeves. Also, don’t forget your back up layers even if it’s 90-degrees and sunny. If you’re going on a long hike, remember that the weather can change quickly, especially in the afternoons (hello summer storms!). Have a raincoat or a warm jacket ready and packed in you backpack if you’re going to be outside for long periods of time, and not able to get indoors quickly.
TIP #2: COTTON KILLS!
Avoid cotton. You’ve heard it before: cotton kills. Cotton is moisture absorbing and can take all day to dry, which can create an uncomfortable situation on wet and/or cold days. If there’s any chance you’ll be out when the temps dip in the evening, carry a change of clothes or choose to wear synthetics instead of cotton.
This advice applies to all clothing you wear, even those items that are not necessarily exposed to the sun (such as your socks). On the topic if socks, the same advice holds true - never wear cotton socks. Also, make sure your socks fit. Socks that are too big can lead to wrinkles that rub and socks that are too small can create pressure points and sock slippage, which with the added summer heat and sweat can more quickly lead to blisters. At Balega, comfort and performance are key and our socks offer temperature regulating and anti-blister features by combining nature’s miracle mohair with Drynamix® moisture wicking fiber to give you the ultimate protection against blisters. Some summer-time, lightweight favorites include the Hidden Dry and Ultralight.
Photo Credit: Balega Impi, Renata Bossi
Additionally, it is inevitable that your socks will get sweaty during the hot summer months. Although good socks will offer quick-drying features with the fibers they are constructed with, it can’t hurt to throw a fresh pair of socks into your bag. An extra pair of socks can really come in handy if your socks get soaked during a stream crossing or if an afternoon storm rolls in.
TIP #3: AVOID DEHYDRATION:
It’s important to drink adequate water when you’re hiking in hot weather to prevent dehydration. Dehydration can leave you feeling tired and can lead to other problems like heat stroke, cramps and heat exhaustion. It's important to hike with friends or with a group so you can monitor how much water everyone has been drinking. An article from the HuffPost recommends that active adults should consume 2 to 4 liters of water a day. However, there are many factors to consider such as the actual temperature, the amount of physical activity you’re doing and how long you’re exposed to the direct sunlight. A good general rule of thumb particularly in the heat, keep drinking!
One way to combat carrying 4 liters of water on an all-day hike is to bring a water filter or purifier with you, if you know that there will be a water source where you’ll be going. Many outdoor brands make portable, lightweight, easy to use water filters that allows you to filter dirty water into clean water on the go. This will cut down your pack weight and ensure you never run out of water (as long as the water source is confirmed!).
On the flip side to dehydration is overhydration, or hyponatremia. This is a fairly rare condition that mainly affects endurance athletes such as marathon runners, ultrarunners and triathletes, but it's something that everyone should be aware of in the outdoors. Hyponatremia sodium levels in the blood become so diluted that cell function becomes impaired.
TIP #4: ADD SALT
Keep your salt levels balanced by occasionally drinking a sports drink with electrolytes instead of plain water and/or eating a salty snack, such as pretzels. The reason that salt is important is because water actually depends on electrolytes for proper absorption in your body. Salts = electrolytes. Therefore, when salt dissolves into water, the ions that are created become electrically conductive and help receive and send messages throughout the body and help facilitate cell hydration.
Photo: Renata Bossi, Balega Impi
TIP #5: PLANNING YOUR ROUTE
When considering your route or trail for a run or hike, think about things such as where you can find shade, the elevation you’ll be doing (how much climbing), access to water and time of day. Choosing a hike that keeps you under the shade of trees or within steep canyon walls, rather than exposed directly to the sun, is a good idea. If there’s not much shade, but you’re near the ocean or a large lake, go for a hike where you can enjoy the cool sea or lake breeze. If you’re hiking next to a river, you can dip your hat, shirt or bandana frequently into the water and drape them on your body to keep you cool. Elevation gain is important to think about, especially in the heat. If your hike requires a lot of effort aka lots of climbing uphill, then you’ll need to bring extra water. Finally, in many areas of the country, the summer months often see afternoon thunderstorms which can be dangerous, especially if you’re hiking or running on exposed terrain. Lightning is a serious concern in the summer, so make sure you consider the time of day you start your hike and perhaps avoid hiking in the mid-afternoon.
TIP #6: SUNSCREEN SAFETY, PART 1
For those areas of your body that you can’t protect with clothing, protect yourself from the sun’s rays by wearing sunscreen. REI put together a comprehensive article about how to choose and use sunscreen. First, the SPF or Sun Protection Factor, is a number that indicates how well a sunscreen shields unprotected skin from damage caused by a particular type of UV radiation. A few things to understand about SPF ratings - don’t ever go below SPF 15, SPF ratings above 50 mean nothing and it is recommended by the FDA to reapply sunscreen every two hours, regardless of the rating or what the bottle says.
It is also important to note that there are two types of UV (Ultraviolet) radiation) rays - UVB rays, which cause sunburn and skin-cancer and UVA rays, which aging skin and also contribute to skin cancer. When looking at sunscreens, you’ll know you’re protected against both if it says “broad spectrum.” Another consideration is with sunscreens that say “water or sweat resistant.” Even though the FDA has approved ratings of “water resistant for 40 minutes” and “water resistant for 80 minutes,” remember that as soon as you use a towel to dry off after a dip in the ocean, or lay down on your towel after a few laps in the pool, the sunscreen wipes off. Reapplying after getting in the water is always a good idea to make sure you’re covered.
TIP #7: SUNSCREEN SAFETY, PART 2
Did you know that many sunscreens contain chemicals that can mimic estrogen in the body, disrupt the endocrine system, and play a significant role in breast cancer development? Our friends at Breast Cancer Prevention Partners (BCPP) feel strongly that you shouldn’t have to choose between skin cancer and breast cancer. Check out their list of sunscreen ingredients to avoid and other easy steps to minimize your exposure during the hot summer season.
The best way to reduce exposure to UV filters (Ultraviolet filters) is to avoid purchasing those that list chemical UV filters, such as octinoxate, octyl methoxycinnamate, benzophenone, oxybenzone, PABA and padimate O.
● Choose sunscreens that use sun-blocking compounds derived from minerals, such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, in a non-inhalable form.
● Avoid purchasing lipsticks, hair products, nail polish and other personal care products that list chemical UV filters such as octinoxate or octyl methoxycinnamate (OMC).
● When spending long periods of time in the sun, use good sun sense. Wear a wide-brimmed hat, lightweight long sleeves, and pants. Apply a mineral-based sunblock liberally and frequently.
“New U.S. Food and Drug Administration research shows that some sunscreen chemicals can penetrate the skin and end up in our blood at levels above FDA’s thresholds for safety testing,” said Nicole Parker Development Officer from BCPP. “Avoid sunscreen chemicals linked to breast cancer and stick to safer products with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide in a non-inhalable form.”
And that’s a wrap! We hope you take our tips seriously as you consider heading out into the heat of summer for whatever your next adventure might be.