9 Healthy Hiking Essentials for Summer

Mags at the American River
Mags at the American River

Walking in nature is one of the most healing habits for the mind and body.  Japanese doctors even prescribe time in nature; they call it “forest bathing.” Living in a natural paradise such as we do, we all want to get out and experience nature. Especially in the heat of summer, with long days, we want to go to the river and go hiking. It is always important to put safety first when enjoying the outdoors. Whether you are in the desert, forest, beach, or mountains , safety becomes even more important in dealing with the roasting heat and blazing sun of summer.   Here are nine essentials for your hikes short and long:

Sunscreen

Make sure you find a sunscreen that works for you before you rely on it during a long day of being outside. Some sunscreens go on too thick. All sunscreens should be reapplied often, at least every two hours. Make sure you get a sunscreen that meets your need, such as a water resistant sunscreen if you will be swimming.

Hat

A good sun hat will keep the sun off of your face, neck, and top of your head. These are areas that often get the most sun exposure.

Water

Make sure your pack enough water. From experience, I’d say to bring one liter of water per person for every two hours of the hike. So if you are going with two people for a four hour hike (round trip), bring four liters of water, or about one gallon. You can even leave some extra in the car in case you are all out at the end.

Experience will tell you how to adjust how much water to pack. It is better to pack too much rather than too little if you are not sure. For emergencies, it can be good to bring water purification tablets in case you need to drink from a water source. Any water source you use should be flowing and should always be purified.

Stretches

Do some stretching in the middle and end of your hike. You always want your muscles to be warm before you stretch. Stretching increases blood flow and flexibility.

Breaks

Pace yourself and take breaks! After all, you’re out there to enjoy yourself. Your break is a great time to enjoy a snack and the view. Make sure your snack has some salt in it to replace the electrolytes.

Early and Shady

Hike early in the day if you can, so you can avoid the worst heat of the day. Research your hike and pick one with shade. A shady hike in the heat is definitely more pleasant than a hike in the full sun!

Limits

Know your limits. If you are not in peak physical shape, it would be best to work up to that 10-mile hike rather than doing it this weekend! If you start to feel weak or light headed from the heat, take a break in the shade, drink some water, and plan your way out of there.

Tell Someone

Tell someone where you are planning to go, and when you will be back, before you leave. If you get lost, rescue personnel will have a much easier time of finding you if they have an idea of where to look.

First Aid

Accidents do happen, even for the most cautious. Buy a hiker first aid kit. They are light and have the essentials. You can get them at outdoor stores or online. You may even consider taking a first aid class! Also, bring a cell phone with you in case you need to call out for help.

Next time we will cover how to treat and prevent the most common hiking injury: the ankle sprain.