How to Thrive Outdoors | Surviving the Heat

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.

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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!

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Hike Like a Pro

If only I knew this information before embarking on 180 days of walking in the woods; trial and error, networking, and so forth is how I learned–but now I can teach you!

Backpacking is putting one foot in front of the other over and over again; well we do that daily don’t we?! Yes, and no–backpacking isn’t really that complicated; but by no means is easy. Most of us read Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods or Cheryl Strayed’s Wild and think romanticized thoughts “I can do that!” “that would never happen to me” and so forth. But the truth of the matter is: your pack is heavy, blisters happen, bad weather and complications arise no matter what. So what can we do about it?

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Avoid some common mistakes, plan accordingly, and avoid at least hopefully (maybe) one problem because of it!

The most common question I get is “what did you eat?!” As if my response would be skinning deer, wild berries, and mushrooms. While this is a valid question; you need to remember to pack the right amount of food. Since I had support at home monitoring my food boxes being mailed to me; it was more than once I had to tell my Mom that if she is going to send this much food, she is going to come carry it for me. And while I am forever grateful for her planning, and support along the way, the reality was; whatever I ate weighed me down.

Individuals who have never backpacked, and especially beginners; worry about not having enough food. Abundance is a trait well-known in our day and age; but that wasn’t so for our ancestors, or even cultures outside of the Western part of the World. We can survive on less, but we don’t want to; and with burning so many calories a day–I wouldn’t recommend it. The average calorie consumption per hiker per day should roughly be 3,000 calories; I know some hikers that had that in one meal alone…HoneyBuns are a staple out there I tell ya!

If you can afford dehydrated meals like Mountain House (Pasta Primavera so good!) Good To-Go (Pad Thai yes please!) etc. then they are the way to go taste, and weight wise! Otherwise, items like Knorr Rice Sides were a staple in my bag at times, as well as Tuna packs and of course the best tasting bars around! Lay out all of your food by day to really visualize what it all looks like and most importantly what it will all weigh!

Have you heard of carrying a crayon in your purse or backpack as an emergency fire starter? Well, if you haven’t–now you have! Another way to make a fire starter is to melt down some candle wax, add a dryer lint sheet cut up (as a wick) in an old egg cardboard carton.

This may be pretty obvious to the seasoned hiker; but Ziplock freezer bags make for great companions, from lining your pot to omit dirty dishes, to waterproofing maps, guides, and journals.

Many times throughout my days on the trail I was told by fellow thru-hikers, people in town, and day hikers alike that I did not look or smell like a thru-hiker (my family begged to differ.) There is a reason for this however; I chose to obtain the extra weight of carrying a packet of baby wipes. Not only for general hygienic reasons, but for cleaning injuries, spills, but yes mostly to wipe the daily sweat off me at the end of the day in my tent before bed. (Trust me, you can clean your skin and feel cleaner but the next morning you still have to put back on those stinky clothes! Don’t feel like carrying wipes, or want to eliminated some shirt stench? Submerse in a nearby creek and lay out on a rock to let the sun dry and disinfect!

I could go on and on about trail like hacks and tips (and will with upcoming entries) but I will end this one with a How To Tape or Wrap an Injured Ankle because let’s face it, I had my share of injuries along the way!

 

  1. Position your foot at a 90-degree angle with your calf (such as sitting on the floor)
  2. Wrap tape or elastic fabric around your calf give or take about 2 inches above the injured ankle
  3. Loop 2 U-shaped stirrups around your heel and up both sides of the ankle. Wrap another around the calf to finish off
  4. Start from the injured side; wrap down your ankle, under your arch, and across the top of your foot–repeat this twice
  5. Make figure 8 paths by wrapping down the side of your ankle, across the top of your foot, across your Achilles and the other side of the ankle finishing back at the arch–repeat this twice and you’re done!

 

I hope at least one of these tips and tricks was or will be helpful to you in the future adventure you are about to embark on! Drop a comment below to share where you are off to–I’d love to know where my fellow hikers are adventuring to currently.

 

You need special shoes for hiking — and a bit of a special soul as well.

                                                                                                                       –Terri Guillemets