It’s the Dog Days of Summer. Ambassador Lauren tells us how we can out and enjoy the outdoors without letting the Dog Days of Summer get us down or keep us inside.
Don’t let the heat or humidity keep you inside this summer. There are ways to enjoy the outdoors, even when the mercury rises.
This summer I had the chance to spend a few weeks in my home state of Virginia. I quickly realized one thing – I’d forgotten how to summer. It was hot. It was sticky. It was hard to get motivated.
I grew up with hot and humid summers, but moved to Alaska shortly after college. In Southcentral Alaska, we’re lucky to see 70. So it was a bit of a shock to go to 90-100 degree temps and over 90% humidity.
Here’s some tips based on how I coped with the heat and humidity.
Seriously, get out there early. For most of my day hikes, I tried to be at the trailhead just after dawn. Getting an early start allows you to be finished before the midday heat kicks in. And you’ll usually see a lot less traffic on busy trails if you’re out there early.
Or Hike Late
Honestly, where I was, I didn’t notice a significant drop in temperature until around 11 pm. An evening or sunset hike can be a little cooler in the summer. Just be aware – the bugs love dusk too!
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Night hikes are also a great option! For your first night hike, choose a trail you’ve done before and are familiar with. Grab your headlamp or flashlight and hit the trail. Allow for more time to cover the miles than you would in the day time.
Drink Your Water
Make sure you carry and drink plenty of water on summer hikes. Keep your water handy. I use a water bladder, so I don’t have to stop to take a drink. Others use add-on water bottle holders, to keep their water more accessible. You can also set a timer for 20 or 30 minutes to remind yourself to stop and take a drink.
Pre-hydrate and rehydrate. That means drink water before your hike, so you start hiking hydrated. Don’t forget to drink water after your hike too. If I sweat a lot on my hike, I’ll add electrolytes to my water. You can use an electrolyte replacement sports drink. Tablets, drops and powders are also available to add electrolytes to your water.
Choose Hikes Near Water
I did quite a bit of waterfall chasing on this trip. Most of them involved following a trail along the stream. It usually feels a little cooler by the water. I’d also frequently dip my hat into the creek and put it back on soaking wet. I’ll also soak my feet in the creek when I’m eating lunch or at the end of a hike.
A side note about waterfalls. Swimming above waterfalls is very dangerous! You may have heard news stories about people who lost their lives this summer when they were swimming or wading above waterfalls and were swept over the falls.
Swimming below waterfalls can be dangerous too! It can be a great way to cool off, but be sure to assess the water (how turbulent is the water, can you see the bottom, how strong is the current, etc.) before hopping in. Moving water is powerful and doesn’t usually give you a second chance. So be careful out there.
I also purchased a small cooling towel. I’d soak the towel in water, then throw it over my neck and shoulders. I mainly used this when I was working in the yard or around camp.
Swimming holes are another great option for summer hikes. If I know I’m hiking to a place to swim, I’ll carry a bathing suit, Chaco sandals and a towel. Nothing beats a dip in a cool mountain lake after or during a hot hike.
Choose Hikes With Shade
If you can’t get out early or late, look for hikes with shade. Forested hikes, usually have decent shade along the trail. Of course, shady hikes aren’t an option everywhere. I have seen some hikers carry an umbrella for shade.
Pace Yourself/Adjust Your Mileage
It’s a good idea to take more breaks during hot and humid weather. Try to take your breaks in the shade, or where there is a breeze. You may also want to consider choosing shorter trails.
Try Other Outdoor Activities
Summer is a great time for canoeing, kayaking or stand up paddle boarding. The benefit of these activities is that you’re on the water! You can always swim or wade to cool off.
Summer is prime time for ticks, chiggers, poison ivy and sunburn!
For bugs – use bug dope (bug spray/insect repellant) or treat your clothes with premetherin. Do a tick check when you get home.
For poison ivy and other poisonous plants – learn how to identify them, so you can avoid them! Wash yourself and all your clothes/gear when you get home.
For sun exposure – apply sunscreen regularly and consider wearing long sleeves and pants for sun protection.
I’ll often change clothes and shoes when I get back to my vehicle. It gives me a chance to do a quick tick check. If I’ve gotten poison ivy oils on my clothes – it keeps me from spreading those oils to my vehicle. Plus, it gets me out of my stinky hiking clothes, so I don’t feel as bad stopping for a bite to eat in public. ☺
Dogs and Kids
If you’re bringing your dogs and/or kids on a hike, make sure you pack enough water for them, too! Know the warning signs of heat illnesses and how to treat them. Adequate hydration goes a long way in helping to prevent heat illnesses. You may also want to take more breaks than normal. Always try to break in a shady or cool spot.
Some dogs are more at risk for heat illnesses, based on their breed, coat or disposition. I wet my dog down with water before we start hiking on hot days. I’ll encourage her to wade or swim in safe spots to cool down. We take breaks in shady spots. Click here for some more info on heat illnesses in dogs.