Play it safe when hiking in the heat

Hikers enjoying view atop tent rocks in New Mexico.

Hikers enjoying view atop tent rocks in New Mexico.

Roberta Arpan

Hiking in the heat comes with very specific challenges. To help ensure a safe hike this summer, think SHADE: Selection, Hydration, Avoid, Dress and Educate.

Selection: When the temperature soars, select your hike carefully. Drive to a higher altitude where it will be cooler and more likely to be shaded by trees. Choose to hike where you won’t have to climb steep terrain adding to heat exhaustion. Stay closer to home so you can get an early start on your hike before the heat of the day sets in.

Hydration: Start hydrating your body the day before your hike. Carry at least two quarts of water and when half of your supply is gone, turn back. Partially freezing your water or putting ice cubes in your water and carrying it in a thermal container will help ensure a cool drink. If you begin to run low on water, don’t eat. Digestion uses up water and your body needs hydration more than it needs food. Using water additives will provide necessary electrolytes and an energy boost.

Avoid two things: First, don’t bushwhack. Staying on the trail will lessen your chance of disturbing the natural habitat of venomous critters or a nest of bees. Leaving a marked trail will also increase your chance of getting lost and decrease your chance of being found if necessary. The second thing to avoid is walking on sand or in a rocky wash. The reflective surface will result in half of the sun’s rays reflecting back on your skin.

Dress: Wicking apparel should not be worn in the heat because you want moisture to stay on your skin. Instead of brands such as Wick Away or Flash Dry, chose light colored, cotton materials that breathe and are loose fitting. A long sleeved shirt is recommended. Also, a scarf will keep the heat off your neck and can be watered down as a way to cool off. Wearing a wide brim hat, sunglasses and plenty of sunscreen are absolutely mandatory.

Educate: Learn the early symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include nausea, weakness, cramps, cold and clammy skin, profuse sweating, dizziness, thirst, shallow breathing and headache. If not treated, heat exhaustion can lead to a heat stroke, which is marked by a rapid pulse, confusion, disorientation, hot and dry skin and a red face. At the first sign of any symptoms, lay the victim flat and loosen or remove clothing. Cover the victim with cool wet clothes or, if possible, immerse in cool, not cold, water. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, seek medical help.

The Sun Lakes Hiking Club will kick off the 2016-2017 season with a welcome back picnic and first meeting on November 4. Watch future issues of the Splash for information about SLHC open houses in October. In the meantime, you can learn more about this club by visiting the club website at