Just like the harsh elements of cold temperatures can injure us or even cause death, the same is true of extreme heat. Whenever our core temperature is raised or lowered too high or low, our bodies can go into shock. When over exposed to heat, we could suffer heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
It is essential to know what to do to protect yourself, and it starts with being prepared. Always be aware of the temperature outside, and of the weather forecast. If you plan to be outside in a hot climate for an extended period of time, take these precautions in order to survive without becoming ill.
Water is the most important things you can pack to take along with you when expecting to be out in the heat. Sweat causes our bodies to lose water and if we are not replenishing at the same rate, we could suffer dehydration, not to mention our core temperature rising. If you are hiking long distances, and over days, packing water is not the best option. Since we need a gallon of water per day, it would be too heavy to carry. Instead open water sources, like streams and brooks, offer the best way to hydrate. Make sure to pack a water purification device to filter the water which could be filled with pathogens that will make you ill. If you do not have a purification device, you will need a way to heat the water in order to safely drink. That means having a way to start a fire and a heat resistant receptacle to boil the water.
In extreme heat, drink one quarter of water each morning, then again at each of your meals, and before, during, and after strenuous activity. Keep in mind your body size and activity, in addition to how much you’re sweating, and adjust water intake accordingly.
Spread your water drinking out rather than trying to gulp down most of it one or two times per day as this could lead to heat cramps.
You can keep your water cool by using bottle insulators, or wrapping your bottle in wet clothes. Keep your water out of the sun if possible. Drinking cool water keeps your core temperature down.
Replenish your salt at each meal in order to avoid muscle cramps. When you don’t drink enough water combined with not eating enough salt, heat exhaustion sets in. Try carrying around some Gatorade powder to add to your water in order to replenish electrolytes, if you don’t have salt with you. Both help your body remain in a homeostatic state.
Map Out Your Route
Plan to hike in the early morning and evening, versus in the mid-day heat. Check to see if there are tree lined paths to provide shade, and travel less during your first days of your adventure to acclimate your body to the heat. You can then gradually add more time to your trek each day.
You may think that the fewer clothes you wear the cooler you’ll be, but when the sun hits your bare skin it causes water evaporation, leading to dehydration more quickly. The idea is to keep your sweat on your skin and clothing will become wet with your sweat, keeping you cool. Also, a bad sunburn will lead to heat exhaustion. Be sure to wear sunscreen all over, including your hands and feet. Wear lightweight shirts and pants, in addition to hats and scarves to cover your face.
If you can find a stream or brook to swim in, it’s a good idea to bring your temperature down. Make sure none of the water gets into your mouth or nose. Parasites could be living in the water which can be deadly. Also, consuming the water can lead to illness due to bacteria and viruses in the water. Be safe with footing and never swim alone. Standing on the edge and splashing water on yourself is a great option. Wet your clothing as well to stay cool after you walk away from the stream.
Avoid heavy meals in the heat. Your body temperature heats up as your digest, and this can put you over the edge, and also make you sluggish when hiking. Keep your meals light and packed with energy sustaining ingredients such as protein bars, energy bars, granola, and jerky. Eat less, more often, rather than big meals.
While it may be hot, you still need shelter, mostly from the sun. Use your trekking poles and clothing or a tarp to create a shaded area. If you have a tent, make sure you have screens on the entrances to prevent bug bites.
Never under estimate the weather and always be prepared. Keep an eye on the temperature and any impending storms. Drink plenty of water, eat more often but eat smaller quantities, wear sunblock. and cover your body with light clothing and hats.