We’re huge fans of hiking, yet hiking in hot weather can present unique challenges and risks that require careful planning and preparation.
With the sun beating down, temperatures soaring, and intense humidity, hikers must take extra precautions to stay safe, hydrated, and comfortable on the trail.
We’ve experienced many hikes in the heat and humidity and understand the difficulties.
Since living in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and going on weekend hikes with a local hiking group, there is no escape to the heat once the sun rises after 6:30am. It feels like summer in South Vietnam all year round!
Even when in California, U.S. for the summertime, the dry heat can be uncomfortable on a hiking trail with little shade.
In this blog post, we’ll share 19 of the best tips for hiking in hot weather, from choosing the right clothing and gear to staying hydrated and avoiding heat exhaustion.
Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or new to the trails, these tips will help you make the most of your outdoor adventure in hot weather conditions.
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1. Plan ahead and start early.
Before setting out on a hike in hot weather, it’s important to plan. This involves checking the weather forecast and choosing the best times of day to hike.
Typically, early morning or late afternoon are the best times to hike in the heat, as the temperatures are cooler.
We know, it’s hard to get up early on the weekends after the weekday grind. Yet, it’ll be worth it to experience hiking in cooler temperatures.
Additionally, hikers should plan their hiking route and consider the hike’s terrain, elevation, and distance. By planning ahead, hikers can prepare themselves mentally and physically for the hike ahead.
Plus, you’ll need to figure out other logistics such as transportation, the amount of time it takes to drive to the trailhead, and where to park.
TIP: We recommend that you share with a friend or family member about your hiking plan. They can be used as emergency contacts in case something happens to you on the hike.
2. Wear lightweight hiking clothes.
The right clothing can make all the difference when hiking in humid, hot weather.
Hikers should choose lightweight, breathable clothing that provides adequate sun protection.
Synthetic technical materials are ideal as they wick away moisture and dry quickly.
Also, many moisture-wicking clothing has a UV protection factor (ie: UPF 50) built into the material to lessen UV rays exposure.
Do not wear clothes made from cotton as sweat doesn’t absorb!
TIP: Consider wearing long-sleeve shirts or arm sleeves for extra coverage of the arms, and long pants to cover the legs. You don’t want to burn!
Our typical hiking attire is a technical short sleeve or long sleeve, long hiking pants, technical undergarments (underwear and sports bra), and wool hiking socks.
It’s also recommended to wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses to protect the face and eyes from the sun.
3. Wear breathable footwear.
Choosing the right shoes is important when hiking in hot weather.
Hikers should choose lightweight hiking footwear that is breathable, and provide good traction.
Open-toed shoes or sandals are not recommended as they do not offer adequate support or protection from the terrain.
Our current hiking shoes vary depending on the terrain. We wear Altra Superior Trail Running Shoes which are convenient for non-technical routes.
Or, we wear ankle-length hiking boots for more challenging routes. I wear the women’s Lowa GTX boots and Justin has the Vasque Breeze GTX. They are heavier but will protect your ankles in tough terrain.
4. Use sunscreen.
Sunscreen is a crucial tool in protecting the skin from the harmful effects of the sun.
Hikers should choose a high-SPF sunscreen (ie: SPF 30 and up) and reapply regularly to prevent sunburn and skin damage.
Cover areas exposed to sunlight such as the face, neck, arms, hands, ears, and legs (if wearing shorts).
TIP: Applying sunscreen before setting out on the hike is important, even if it’s overcast, as UV rays can still penetrate through the clouds.
5. Choose a shaded trail.
When possible, hikers should choose a trail that offers plenty of shade.
Trails that are shaded by forests or canyons offer relief from the sun’s heat, making for a more comfortable and enjoyable hike.
Hikers should also be aware of the direction of the sun and plan their hike accordingly.
6. Take breaks and rest in shaded areas.
Some people may just want to hike and continue as fast and as far as possible. Yet, taking breaks is vital when hiking in hot weather.
Resting in shaded areas or under trees allows the body to cool down and recover, preventing fatigue and injury. During the rest break, drink fluids and eat a snack to refuel.
Hikers should take breaks as needed and not push themselves too hard, especially in hot weather conditions.
It’s important to avoid direct sunlight during the hottest parts of the day.
7. Stay hydrated.
One of the most important aspects of hiking in the heat is staying hydrated.
Dehydration can cause fatigue, headaches, and dizziness, and in severe cases, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
To avoid these conditions, hikers should drink water or electrolytes before, during, and after the hike.
Remember to take small sips of water instead of huge glugs of water since it takes time for your body to process the liquids.
It’s recommended to bring along a sufficient supply of water in a reusable bottle or a hydration pack.
TIP: Hikers should also be mindful of their urine color, as clear or light-colored urine indicates proper hydration.
8. Bring electrolyte supplements.
As a follow-up to above, electrolyte supplements such as sports drinks or tablets can help replace the electrolytes lost through sweating.
Hikers should bring electrolyte supplements on the hike and consume them as needed to maintain proper hydration and energy levels.
We use Nuun tablets whenever we go on a hike. Just pop one table into a reusable water bottle and swish it around for the tablet to completely dissolve in a few seconds. We use 1 tablet every 2 hours, depending on how fast we finish the water.
Gatorade, Vitamin Water, and Powerade are easily available in the U.S. But, you’ll need to try a variety of sports drinks since many of them leave an odd aftertaste.
9. Eat healthy snacks.
Eating the right snacks can help maintain energy levels and prevent fatigue during a hike. You don’t want to “bonk” in the middle of your hike due to a lack of energy and low carbohydrates.
High-protein and high-carbohydrate snacks such as trail mix, granola, energy bars, and fruits are ideal to refuel.
However, hikers should avoid salty or sugary snacks that can cause dehydration.
10. Check for signs of heat exhaustion.
Hikers should be aware of the signs of heat exhaustion, such as dizziness, headache, nausea, and cramps. Recognizing these symptoms early can help prevent more severe conditions like heat stroke.
If experiencing these symptoms, hikers should rest in a shaded area, drink water, and cool down their bodies with a damp towel or by soaking in water.
11. Bring a first aid kit.
Carrying a first aid kit that includes essentials such as bandages, antiseptic, and pain relievers is an important safety precaution when hiking in hot weather. Moleskin is also helpful to have to prevent blisters.
Hikers should be prepared for potential injuries or emergencies to prevent complications and ensure a safe and successful hike.
12. Hike with a buddy.
Hiking with a friend or group is not only more enjoyable but also safer when hiking in hot weather.
Having a hiking partner can provide support in case of an emergency or injury and encourage rest and hydration breaks to prevent overexertion or heat exhaustion. Plus, the hiking partner can help with navigating the hiking course.
13. Pace yourself.
Hikers should pace themselves during the hike to avoid overexertion and heat exhaustion.
Walking at a steady, moderate pace allows the body to acclimate to the heat and maintain energy levels.
Hikers should also be aware of their physical limitations and adjust their pace accordingly.
It’s helpful to wear a GPS tracking watch, such as a Garmin watch, which can track your hiking trail duration and provide data such as hiking speed per mile/kilometer and current heart rate readings.
Some of the GPS watches also leave breadcrumbs of your hiking trail, so you can refer to them if you go off-course.
14. Use a cooling towel or paper fan.
Cooling towels or a paper fan can help you stay cool while hiking and help regulate body temperature.
These cooling towels are designed to retain water and cool down the body when placed around the neck or on the head. Hikers can bring a cooling towel on the hike or purchase one at a nearby outdoor store.
Another option is to use a paper fan. It’s small, portable, and can be used throughout the hike. You probably have one lying around the house so you don’t need to buy something extra.
15. Be aware of wildlife.
Hot weather conditions can cause wildlife to become more active, making encounters more likely.
Hikers should be aware of the potential for encounters with snakes, insects, and other wildlife and take necessary precautions such as staying on marked trails and wearing appropriate clothing.
Please do not disturb the wildlife as you don’t know how the wild animals will react.
16. Bring a lightweight backpack.
Carrying a lightweight backpack allows hikers to bring along essential items such as water, snacks, and a first aid kit without adding unnecessary weight or strain.
It’s recommended to choose a backpack with a hydration system or separate water bottle pockets for easy access to water.
Our favorite hiking daypack is the Osprey Talon 22 (men) and Osprey Tempest 20 (women). The backpacks are light and have enough pockets to hold our hiking gear. The backpack straps are also comfortable for a day hike.
17. Plan for emergencies.
Even with careful planning, emergencies can still occur.
Hikers should bring a first aid kit, a charged cell phone or satellite phone, and a map or compass in case they become lost or injured.
It’s also important to let someone know the planned route and expected return time.
18. Practice Leave No Trace Principles.
Hikers should follow Leave No Trace principles to minimize their impact on the environment. This includes packing out all trash, staying on marked trails, and respecting wildlife and other hikers.
By practicing Leave No Trace, hikers can help preserve the natural beauty of the trail for future generations to enjoy.
Please speak up if you see anything disregarding these principles.
Since we’ve done many hikes in Southeast Asia, this concept of Leave No Trace is still foreign to local people. It’s a lack of education from the government and local hiking agencies to spread awareness about not littering.
For example, in Vietnam, we’ve seen plastic bottles collected on the mountain, wrappers, and other waste on the trails. It’s quite a shame since the bottles will not get recycled and will get burned for easier disposal.
So, please encourage others to dispose of trash properly.
19. Bring a change of clothes when you’re done hiking.
After finishing a hike, you may want to change out of your sweaty hiking clothes. It’ll be a more comfortable ride back home in fresh clothes.
As a part of the hiking prep, we suggest that you bring an extra set of clothes to leave in your vehicle.
You may also consider leaving a pair of sandals, flip-flops, or another pair of shoes in your car. Your hiking boots or trail shoes need to air out after the hike.
Hiking in the heat demands proper planning and preparedness.
By following these 19 recommended tips, hikers can ensure they remain safe, hydrated, and comfortable throughout their adventure.
It’s important to keep in mind that hiking is a physically demanding activity that requires respect for the environment and caution.
By choosing the right gear, gaining knowledge, and cultivating the appropriate mindset, hikers can relish the natural beauty of the outdoors, even in the hottest weather conditions.
Have an enjoyable and memorable experience on the trails!
If you’re looking for inspiration on hikes that we’ve done, check out our Hiking section here.