by Staff Writer
Hiking in the summer is a great way to see nature and get some exercise. A hiker must take precautions, though, to avoid heat injuries and other hazards that one faces in hot weather. With this advice for protecting yourself from heat injuries and sunburn during a hike, you can avoid many of the common pitfalls associated with hiking in hot weather.
Plan out your route. Make a note of landmarks along the way that you can look for in case you get disoriented. When you know where you're going and how long your hike will be, you can prepare better. It is best to stay close to well-used trails and public areas until you are an experienced hiker. As you are hiking, stay close to the group. If you are alone, let people know what your plans are and make sure you have a means of contacting help in case of emergency.
Prepare all of your gear. Make sure that you have everything that you need in your backpack. Make sure your hiking boots are not too tight or too loose, as this can lead to blisters and poor circulation. Wear a hat or a bandana to protect your head from the sun and to shade your eyes. Sunglasses are also a good accessory for hot weather hikes.
Protect yourself with sunscreen and insect repellant. Apply sunscreen before leaving; sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 is best. Insect repellant should be applied beforehand as well. Be certain to follow the instructions on these products as different formulas will have different requirements for safe use. Certain universal rules always apply: Keep the product away from your eyes and do not ingest the product. If you sweat a lot as you hike, be sure to re-apply your sunscreen and bug repellent.
Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water the day before setting out, in addition to the day of the excursion. Be certain to rest often and sip water frequently. Do not drink the water quickly as this can lead to stomach cramps and even vomiting, depending on how strenuous the activity is.
A light snack is a good way to keep your energy up. The familiar "trail mix" makes a good, light meal: Nuts, dried fruit, and some oats or other grains can go a long way to keeping you energized and will digest quickly to avoid cramping.
Warm up properly. Be sure to stretch and do warm-up exercises before hiking, such as leg lifts and jumping jacks, for at least 10 minutes to keep your muscles limber and avoid cramps. After you have reached your destination, it is a good idea to stretch for a while and rest. Stretch again when you are finished and be sure to have plenty of time to recuperate from your exercise.