Since it is Summer here in New England; I will start this article off by saying these tips on thriving outdoors are geared around hot climates (maybe I will do another one this winter for thriving, and surviving the cold.)
One moment comes to mind when I think about surviving the heat; it was Catawba mountain in Catawba, Virginia, United States– day 71 of my 180 day trek on the Appalachian Trail. The goal was McAfee Knob; undoubtedly one of the most photogenic scenes on the entire trail, but have you ever been to Virginia in June?! That year, we barely got any rain; which made hiking days more bearable sure–but in a time like this, I was overheating.
What are some tips to save you from heat exhaustion on your next adventure? First and foremost would be to hike as early as possible, to beat the dead heat of the day. Hike early or late; the hottest part of the day is typically between 10:00am – 4:00pm (yes, pretty much the whole “day,” time to implement a new schedule!) When you are hiking in places like Death Valley and desert settings this is especially crucial to your survival. While McAfee Knob is not in the desert; it is about a 4.5 mile hike with an elevation gain of 1,740 ft. for a total elevation of 3,197 ft. The direct sunlight, and heat at the time was unbearable. I slowed my pace, as I started to feel the onset of dizziness and disorientation setting in. Every spring I came across was dried up; I grew more and more frustrated and exhausted, I knew I needed to stop. I sat on top of a rock in the shade; took off my shirt (luckily at this point I was still wearing sports bras underneath!) and changed into some Under Armour briefs to minimize the clothing on my body.
Which leads me to stopping to take breaks; eat, and rest for at least 15 minutes for every hour of hiking in the heat. As you can see I started to feel dizzy and nauseous, when you start to feel these symptoms stop as soon as possible. IF you have water, drip some on your head, neck, torso, and wrists to instantly cool your internal temperature. Slowly sip on water if you have some to your disposal do not chug; it will only come right back up. Once you have done this for 5–10 minutes slowly start eating (it will be difficult trust me, basically the last thing you will want to do.) Slowly chew; salty snacks such as RXBAR or Natural Jerky for hyponatremia (due to drinking too much water — causing the sodium in your body to become diluted.) Rehydrate with water or sports drinks for dehydration (I kept pre-portioned ziplock bags of Gatorade powder with me on the trail for basic times of need, and as a treat.)
By me taking off my already breathable lightweight clothing, it allowed my body to regulate it’s temperature naturally. Starting out, you should choose light-colored breathable clothing I chose The North Face razorback which was light-weight and breathable. By protecting your head, face, and neck with a hat is also an excellent way to cool your entire body, again choosing a tan hat over one that is black or dark green.
It may be rather obvious; but let’s just assume it’s not–apply sunscreen! Liberally. Every 3–4 hours not forgetting your scalp if it is exposed, ears, hands and feet if they are uncovered as well. Some clothing such as UPF-rated have UV-blocking capabilities which makes life just all that much easier!
You lose .8 to 3L of sweat per hour; it is important to pay attention to how often you are running off into the woods to pee as well, every 10–15 minutes is too frequently and it will basically be clear. Ever 2–3 hours is usually just right depending on individuality and it has a slight yellow tint to it (I know, it is hard to tell out in the woods sometimes when you are not staring down at a porcelain bowl.) If you are not urinating more than twice a day; you are in trouble, and it probably is the color of RedBull…not good, just like RedBull itself.
While this was not possible for me while hiking the Appalachian Trail (per-say) if you can get a head start; begin acclimatizing between 10–14 days prior to your trip. Adaptations should still be evident for around a week or two prior to doing so.
I hope this information was beneficial to you in some way; if it was, please comment below if you would like me to compose a similar article for winter climates and surviving the cold. Now please excuse me as I sip my iced coffee in the air conditioning!