PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- Yep, temperatures are climbing and summer is just around the corner – or maybe on the same street. It’s difficult for hikers to have to forego their favorite pastime just because it’s a little toasty outside. So if you must venture out on your favorite Phoenix or lower desert trails, Debbie Hendricks of Just Roughin' It shares some tips to stay cool and recognize when the heat is taking its toll.
Tip Number 1 – Don’t hike in Phoenix or lower elevations (i.e. the bottom of Grand Canyon) during the summer! Arizona has a vast number of trails and climates. Travel to higher elevations where the temperatures are cooler – super simple.
Tip Number 2 – Remember what the actual temperature is. Just because Good Morning Arizona is telling you it is only 70 degrees outside at 7 a.m., that is not the temperature you will be hiking in. Temperatures are taken in the shade. You might be hiking in the sun. If so, you need to add 15-20 degrees to the temperature. Your 7 a.m. hike may actually be in temperatures of 85 to 90 degrees.
Tip Number 3 – If you must hike in the desert – go early in the morning or later at night. It is best to be finished with your hike before 8 a.m. (or earlier if there is no shade on the trail). If you are a late riser, such as myself, hike late in the afternoon or at night if the trails allow hiking after dark. Just remember your headlamp.
Tip Number 4 – Drink water AND eat food. I don't know how many times I run into people on the trails with little to no water on their person. A half liter is not going to cut it. You need to carry at least 2 liters even for a short hike. Short hikes can turn into long hikes for various reasons I will not discuss here, but it is better to carry too much water than not enough.
And you need calories (salty and sweet) to replace all those electrolytes you lose when you sweat. You know, that grainy, white film left behind after your sweat dries within minutes after being exposed to our arid environment?
Oh, and if you tied one on the night before, it is better not to hike the next day. You are already dehydrated and drinking water on your hike is not going to be enough, you need to be sufficiently hydrated BEFORE you start you hike. TMI alert – if you are leaving the house to hike and your pee is smelly and dark – you are NOT hydrated.
Tip Number 5 – Protect yourself from the sun! Wide-brimmed hats and sun umbrellas provide shade. Sunscreen, good quality sunglasses and clothing with an SPF rating provide protection from the sun's UVA and UVB rays.
Tip Number 6 – Wear cotton T’s and stay wet! OK, go ahead. Tell me how cotton kills. And since you have been brainwashed by the marketing of numerous sportswear companies that want you to buy their $100 dry-fit shirt, I am here to remind you we live in an arid environment where clothing will dry faster outside on a clothesline than in a clothes drier.
We sweat to stay cool. As sweat (or water or whatever liquid you have doused your T-shirt in dries) it cools you down. When you draw wetness away from your skin with something that dries almost immediately, you have no chance to cool off. Cotton stays wet longer, thus giving your body a chance to cool as the dry air around you so desperately wants that moisture.
And if this still does not make sense, think about swamp coolers and mister systems – same general idea. Still not convinced? Come see me and I will provide you with a demo.
Detecting Heat Illnesses
This could be it’s own article so I will make this brief. If you, or your hiking partner has any of the below symptoms, drink more water, consume more electrolytes, seek out shade, get wet and/or get back to the trailhead.
• Increased heart and respiratory rate (at rest)
• Altered level of consciousness (i.e your brain is foggy)
• Hot, red skin that may also be hot, clammy, pale and wet.