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Backpacker Magazine – October 2009

Stay Comfortable in Any Weather: Heat

Think like a desert dweller to stay cool and comfortable.

by: Molly Loomis

PAGE 1 2 3

Pick Your Conditions

On the Trail | In Camp | Key Gear


Stay hydrated. You know this, but every year dozens of hikers get into trouble.

1. Store water in multiple containers, so you can never lose your entire supply. 2. Keep water accessible and sip often. 3. Use drink mixes (like CamelBak's Elixir tablets; $10,, to replace the electrolytes you lose through sweat. 4. Shoot for at least one liter of liquid per hour; your urine should be clear. 5. Eat salty snacks to avoid dangerously low sodium levels, a condition called hyponatremia caused by overhydration.


Hike north. Plan your route so the sun is generally at your back. Your pack will absorb heat instead of you.

Adjust your schedule. Start before dawn to take advantage of the coolest time of day (after sunset, heat from the day still lingers). Get your miles done before noon, or take a long lunch layover in the shade and continue hiking after dusk. "There's a reason why people all over the tropics take siestas during the hottest part of the day," notes Bruce Smithhammer, a veteran NOLS instructor in Mexico. If you're climbing out of a canyon, time your ascent so that the trail will be shaded. Note: Avoid night hiking in rattlesnake habitat; they come out when the temperature cools.

Shade your legs. Sun at your back? Hang a shirt from the bottom of your pack so that it shields your legs.

Air out your feet. Take off your boots and socks during rest breaks.

Protect your head. If you don't wear a hat (or opt for a visor), put sunscreen in the part of your hair.

Eat light. Your appetite might decrease in hot temps, but you still need fuel. Replace greasy summer sausage with a chicken pouch, and have smaller, more frequent meals.

PAGE 1 2 3

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Dan S.
Feb 10, 2010

It's a good idea to have a water purifier in case you run out of water.

Michael Rysenaer, Belgium
Feb 10, 2010

Correction of my previous comment : please read "by very HOT weather" and nor "old weather".

Michael Rysenaer, Belgium
Feb 10, 2010

By very old weather it may also be interesting to wear one or two tennis wristbands, so you can wip off the sweat on your forehead.

Feb 07, 2010

I have been hiking in the height of Australia summer 40 degrees celcius and 1 item i would never consider leaving without is my "KOOL IT" neck band. They last 2-4 hrs b4 you have to soak them in water again and boy do they work!

I swear by these things im not sure if they have a website or what country they are made but they can be found here http:


well worth the $15 Aus

Dec 28, 2009

Drinking hot tea on hot days, I'm told, is a trick used by Salt Merchants in North Africa. Apparently, there is some physiological reason why it works. This is what I heard: the tea heats up your core, and your body responds by pushing blood away from your core nearer the skin and into your extremities to compensate. Because more blood is passing near the skin, more blood is cooled by the effects of sweat evaporation. Presumably, this works best when humidity is lowest (< 50%).

Nov 02, 2009

The umbrella trick is a good idea but realize that nylon is tranparent to UV and you can still get a sunburn. Cover the umbrella with a piece of mylar emergency blanket and secure at the points. Very cool.

Oct 23, 2009

We kept our tent cool in the afternoon by placing a sleeping bag over it. It really made a difference.


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