For many people, it’s more enjoyable to go walking in the summer months than in the winter, as you’re generally likely to experience drier, warmer weather. This not only makes it feel more pleasant while you’re hiking, but also means you won’t have to deal with muddy or slippery trails.
However, there are some potential issues with hiking in the heat, so if you’re intending to book a trekking holiday during the summer months – or are simply looking at a destination that’s in a predominantly hot country – it’s worth bearing the following points in mind.
Prepare your body
If you’re not used to walking in hot conditions, make sure you help your body prepare for the exertion. This is a twofold process really. Firstly, you need to make sure you’re reasonably healthy and have a moderate level of fitness. This doesn’t mean you need to hit the gym – you simply need to be able to walk a decent distance in one go. You can build up to longer walks over a period of several months and, if the conditions where you’re training are cooler, make sure you walk further than you’ll need to in the heat.
Secondly, you should allow your body time to acclimatise to the warmer temperatures when you arrive at the destination for your walking holiday. The degree of temperature change and your fitness levels will dictate how long you ought to give yourself before you attempt any particularly challenging hikes. Be aware that if it’s hot and humid, your body will struggle more than in dry heat, as sweat does not evaporate as quickly from the skin when the air is moist.
Take appropriate equipment and clothing
There is a lot of very high-tech walking clothing on the market nowadays, with garments made from a wicking fabric particularly useful when you’re walking in hot conditions. What this kind of material does is absorb the sweat from your skin and draw it away from your body, allowing your temperature to cool more quickly.
If you’ll be hiking in direct sunlight, make sure you have sufficient protection; this doesn’t just mean sun cream, but also lightweight garments that can cover your arms and a hat with a brim to shield your face and the top of your head. Loose fitting clothes will generally be much more comfy than tight ones.
It’s also important to have sufficient water with you for the duration of your walk, so make sure you have a large enough daypack to carry your bottles. Check to see whether you can refill your drinking water at any point along the walk.
Know your limits
If you’re booking a walking holiday (like the ones featured here), make sure your tour operator is aware of any underlying health problems you have that may affect your ability on the trek. Heart disease can be a particularly problematic issue, as your heart rate will not only be elevated by the physical activity you’re doing, but also by the heat. Speak to your doctor if you’re unsure about the suitability of a specific itinerary. You should also talk to your chosen tour company about the details of the route you’ll be following so you can head off on your walking holiday confident that you’ll be able to enjoy it.
It’s also important to know how to identify the first signs of heat-related illness – things like dizziness, nausea, headaches and dry skin are the initial indications that you’re body is struggling. Make sure you pay attention and stop if you think you need a break. Taking things like sachets of rehydration salts in your daypack is advisable, as drinking these combined with water can help your body replace electrolytes lost through sweating.