Last year on a hot humid day, I was hiking an 8-mile long trail and encountered two exhausted hikers dressed in cotton t-shirts and blue jean shorts and their two exhausted dogs at about the 6-mile mark for me and the 2-mile mark for them.
The poor dogs’ tongues where huge and hanging low — a sign the dogs are getting over heated and needed water.
The hikers weren’t much better. They were standing at a deer trail that crossed over the real trail and arguing whether it was a trail they needed to turn onto. The official trail was about 4 feet wide and tramped down to hardened bare earth AND had a bench on it. One of the hikers was positive that they needed to take the deer trail, the other was positive they needed to continue on the trail.
I asked them if they were okay and if they needed water. They said they were lost and thought they were just going for a short hike but had already been gone for over two hours and they didn’t have any water.
I dug out my emergency bottle of water from the bottom of my pack, offered it to them, and then offered to guide them out of the woods.
They questioned my knowledge of the trail. Which I guess I can’t blame them, I had on my enormous sun hat and my Maxpedition side pack. I looked more like a wayward gardener than a “professional” hiker.
I told them who I was and that I would happily help them out. I gave them my extra copy of the trail map and again volunteered to have them follow me out of the woods.
They pointed on the map to where they thought they were, I showed them where they actually were and proved it with my Garmin GPS. They weren’t even on the trail that they thought they were on!
I asked them about water for the dogs and the hikers told me they figured the dogs could just drink any stream water they came across. However, it was near the end of summer when most streams are completely dried up. Plus, having your pet drink from a stream is a horrible idea and will likely lead to a vet bill later. I just nodded, sensing it wouldn’t be a great idea for me to point this out to them.
I offered again to lead them out however they decided to forge ahead on the trail. As one hiker said, “We only have 4 miles left.”
I again asked them to please follow me out. They declined and started hiking. I assume they finally made it out of the woods.
I tell this story during my presentations because it illustrates the hikers’ questionable choices and that you can only do so much before you put yourself in jeopardy. I felt pressing for them to follow me out was only making them angry.
Here are some basic tips that would have made for a better hike for them and can help you:
6P Axiom: Hot Day Summer Hiking Tips:
The summer hiking season is quickly approaching and with it hot and high humidity days — a perfect combination to get yourself in a pickle.
By far the scariest is hyperthermia. When your body loses its ability to cool itself hyperthermia, heatstroke, or heat exhaustion occurs. Basically, this means that your body can’t sweat enough to cool off and starts to shutdown. This is a medical emergency and requires immediate treatment to prevent death.
There are several ways to enjoy summer hiking and help prevent hyperthermia:
Cotton kills and not just in winter.
Wear loose fitting clothing that also wicks moisture away from your body. You can find a good variety at outfitters and if you are on a budget check out the clearance racks at Target in the fitness clothing areas. Dress in lighter colors to reflect the sun’s rays. Another benefit is you can easily spot ticks.
I also like to wear a wide-brimmed straw hat. It helps keep the bugs off and the sun off of my head, face, neck, and shoulders.
If you start feeling hot, take a break and cool off.
If you are planning a hike, start hydrating the day before. Avoid caffeine and sugary drinks.
When you arrive at the parking area drink plenty of water while you’re getting your gear together. Pack plenty of water based on how hot and humid it is and how long you are hiking. For that 8-mile hike, I had hydrated the day before and had drank about 16 ounces while I was getting my gear together. I packed one 32-ounce Nalgene, one 34-ounce Vapur Element Bottle, and one 12 ounce bottled water. I finished with only about 14 ounces left in the Nalgene. To be more efficient, I could have used my Camelbak but I had put it someplace safe the week before and couldn’t remember where I put it before I left for my trip. (I tend to do that.)
Hydration is important because when your brain and body become dehydrated you don’t think clearly and your body has a harder time doing anything including dissipating heat.
MAPS + NAVIGATION
You can never have enough maps. Trails change all the time. Land managers close or reroute trails to minimize damage to the natural areas or for safety when something has happened along the trail such as a landslide, wind storm/tornado damage, or significant damage from emerald ash borers killing the ash trees.
Always, get a copy of the map from the nearest physical location to the trail–such as the main office for the location. Don’t trust that the map you find online from the site is the most up-to-date edition. Often, it isn’t–however odd that is.
Ask the land manager about the condition of the trails you plan to go hike. It is far better to find out the creek is out of bank before you discover that 8-miles into a 9-mile hike of which the last mile is on the other side of a raging river instead of a tranquil creek crossing!
Take a moment to orient yourself with the map and then if you are with someone else have them do the same and see if you get the same results. If not take the time to figure it out before you start on the trail.
Use your compass or GPS unit to help guide you but try not to be a slave to the technology.
TIME OF DAY
If you are hiking during the heat of summer, hike in the early morning hours when it is cooler.
Look at http://aa.usno.navy.mil/data/docs/RS_OneDay.php. You enter the month, day, state, and city to find out the sunrise sunset times. This includes twilight.
I pulled the data for May 24, 2014. Civil twilight is when it is just starting to get light out and in most cases you’ll have enough light to see the trail. As a rule of thumb twilight occurs about a half-hour before sunrise and a half-hour after sunset. The amount of moonlight you have is also important. The greater the visible illuminated disk area during twilight means you’ll have just a bit more light to see by.
If I was hiking this day I would make sure I was at the destination at 5:20 a.m. to give myself enough time to collect my gear and get oriented before starting the hike.
U.S. Naval Observatory
Astronomical Applications Department
Sun and Moon Data for One Day
The following information is provided for Cincinnati, Hamilton County, Ohio (longitude W84.5, latitude N39.1):
Saturday 24 May 2014 Eastern Daylight Time SUN Begin civil twilight 5:47 a.m. Sunrise 6:18 a.m. Sun transit 1:35 p.m. Sunset 8:52 p.m. End civil twilight 9:23 p.m. MOON Moonset 3:46 p.m. on preceding day Moonrise 3:45 a.m. Moon transit 10:14 a.m. Moonset 4:51 p.m. Moonrise 4:20 a.m. on following day
Phase of the Moon on 24 May: waning crescent with 18% of the Moon’s visible disk illuminated.
Last quarter Moon on 21 May 2014 at 8:59 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time.