How to Stay Cool While Hiking [19 Things to Know]
One of the best seasons for hiking in most places is during the summer months when the trails are open and the sun is shining.
But what about on those days when the sun is beating down and temperatures are nearing unbearable highs?
Are you tempted to get out on the trail but aren’t exactly sure how to stay cool while hiking?
In this post, I’ll give you 19 ways to help yourself stay comfortable on the trail, even when temperatures are high.
How to Stay Cool While Hiking
If you’re looking for ways to not get too hot on the trail, look no further than the list that you’ll find below!
1. Start in the Early Morning
During the summer, the coolest time of the day is in the early morning.
To avoid the heat in the middle of the day, I recommend starting at early as you possibly can!
For me, this means sometimes being up and on the trail by 6:00 am to prevent myself from getting stuck in that mid-day heat.
It’ll really save you from that annoying and painful sunburn and wishing you were off the trail when it’s 90 degrees out there.
Plus, if you’re visiting during the summer, it’s likely the peak tourist season.
Many of the tourists won’t be up and at ’em at 6 am, so you’ll get to avoid some of the crowds!
2. Stay Hydrated
It’s so important to stay hydrated anytime you’re participating in some sort of exercise.
But in the summer, dehydration can set in a lot faster, so you want to ensure that you’re staying hydrated and drinking enough water.
It can help prevent headaches and lack of energy and can prevent dangerous situations.
It’s recommended to be drinking about 1/2 liter (about 16 ounces) of water for every hour of hiking.
You may drink even more than this if it’s really hot outside.
But also be aware of overhydration and be sure that you aren’t drinking too much more than the recommended amount.
3. Stick to Shorter Trails
When it’s really hot outside but you still want to get on the trail, try choosing a shorter and easier hike.
Being out there for a shorter amount of time will help in keeping you cool and can help prevent dangerous heat-related illnesses.
Plus, climbing up those big hills in the heat is no fun. Trust me.
4. Choose a Shaded Trail
While in the winter you’re searching for the trails with no shade to stay warm, in summer, you want to find those shaded trails.
Hiking on a trail with tree coverage is really going to help keep you cool.
It’ll take the sun off of you for periods of time and will allow you to cool down for a while.
If you’re on a trail with minimal shade, take advantage of the moments that you have some and take a break for a while.
I personally would recommend leaving those desert trails with absolutely no shade for a cooler day or the winter.
5. Use a Cooling Towel
Cooling towels can be a total lifesaver during a hike.
These super lightweight towels pack up nicely in your bag and when they’re wet, instantly provide some relief.
Dip it under the sink, into a stream, or under your water bottle before placing it around your neck.
This Mission towel stays cold for hours and is UPF 50 so it’ll protect you from the sun’s harmful rays.
6. Stay Away From Cotton
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again.
Cotton is an awful choice for when you’re on the hiking trails!
It is really heavy and soaks up a lot of water very quickly.
I recommend staying away from it in all seasons because it can just be very uncomfortable and doesn’t dry quickly at all.
7. Eat Salty Snacks
Another summer hiking tip is to pack salty snacks in your backpack to munch on while you’re on the trail.
When you’re drinking a lot of water, the salts and electrolytes in your body become depleted faster.
To replenish them and ensure that you continue sweating how you should be, eat things like pretzels, potato chips, and salted peanuts.
Along with these, be sure to bring protein and carbs to stay energized all day along.
8. Freeze Your Water Bottle
If you use a water bottle instead of a bladder, fill your bottle up halfway the night before, and lay it sideways in the freezer.
In the morning, fill it up the rest of the way and then you’ll have nice, cold water to bring with you on your hike!
If you don’t use a bottle and just use a bladder, just consider adding a few ice cubes to it in the morning.
This will taste much better than warm water when the sun is beating down.
9. Use a Lighter Pack
If you’re going on a longer hike, of course, you’ll need to bring everything you need to stay safe on the trail.
But another reason why choosing shorter, easier hikes is great, is that you can bring a lighter pack.
Any weight that isn’t needed and can be left at home is great.
The heavier the backpack, the harder you have to work, and the harder it is to hike in the heat.
So rather than choosing a big, bulky backpack that is heavy and will make you sweat, choose something lightweight like the Osprey Daylite Plus.
I also like my Osprey Tempest 20 because the frame keeps the bag off of my back and it can hold a water reservoir.
10. Carry a Mister
I know this might sound silly, but carry one of those mister bottles that you use for your cat, plants, cleaning products, etc.
Fill it with water and carry it along to spritz yourself with a little water when you start to get warm.
It’ll cool you down and is also a nice way to surprise your friends.
Or, you can get one of these little O2Cool fan mister bottles to bring with you.
11. Use Sun Protection
When you’re trying to figure out how to stay cool while hiking, don’t just think about staying cool.
Remember to protect your skin as well.
Using sunscreen and taking other precautions for protecting your skin is extremely important.
I like to use sunscreen that has at least 50+ SPF, sunglasses, and a visor to keep the sun off of my face and eyes.
Sometimes, I’ll wear a UPF long sleeve shirt to protect my arms even more.
12. Go For a Sunset or Sunrise Hike
This goes off of the fact that the coolest part of the day is in the morning and at night.
One way to stay cool is to instead head out for a hike at either sunrise or sunset.
Aside from the fact that you won’t get as hot, you’ll also get to see a beautiful view that is usually much better when there’s a sunset or sunrise over it.
13. Wear Lightweight Clothes
Of course, wearing lightweight clothes is going to help you stay cool on hot summer days.
Choose clothes that are loose-fitting.
Usually, the ones made of polyester or nylon are best because they’re typically pretty lightweight and dry quickly.
14. Use a Water Reservoir
Using a water reservoir is my favorite way to carry water when I’m hiking any time of year because it makes drinking easy.
Water bladders fit nicely in backpacks and don’t hurt your back the way that a heavy water bottle can.
The straw that comes out of the bag and feeds through the top makes it easy to drink your water.
Plus, you don’t need to stop every time you need a drink.
15. Take Breaks More Often
Taking breaks more often may be necessary when it’s hot outside to keep your energy up.
Whether it’s stopping to just catch your breath, take a drink, or take a seat to cool off, the breaks will probably come often.
As I mentioned above, when you do want to take breaks, utilize the shade and stop out of the sun.
16. Hike With Friends
Because of the dangers that can come with hiking in the heat, it’s really smart to hike with a friend or someone you trust.
This way, if one of you were to have any issues with any heat-related illnesses, you would have someone there to help.
You can help each other stay cool by misting each other with the small mister or by reminding each other to drink water and apply sunscreen.
17. Avoid Dark Colored Clothing
Along with wearing clothes that are loose-fitting and lightweight, choose ones that are light-colored.
The darker the color, the more heat those clothes will absorb.
Choose whites, light grays, or light pinks for the coolest clothing.
Stay away from navy, brown, and black.
18. Bring Drinks With Electrolytes
Because of how much water you’ll likely drink when on the trail, your electrolytes will likely be depleted.
It’s important to keep them replenished, so bring a drink with electrolytes.
This could be Gatorade or something like NUUN hydration packets, which can easily fit into your bag and be mixed with water.
19. Wear a Wide Brimmed Hat
A lot of people like to wear a baseball cap on the hiking trail, but a wide-brimmed hat is a much better option.
They tend to protect your neck, ears, and face better because they just provide more coverage.
This Mission wide-brimmed hat has UPF 50 and is able to cool you off if you dip it in the water.
What to Wear Hiking In The Summer
Wearing the proper clothes for hiking in the summer plays a major role in staying cool all day long.
Below you’ll find a few of the best items to make your summer hiking more enjoyable.
Wear tops that are lightweight and breathable to stay the coolest.
Tanktops are also great options, and I typically wear the ones with a built-in bra because it takes away another layer to wear.
Long sleeves are also good for sun protection, specifically if they have UPF protection.
These are a few options that I really like.
T-Shirts —> Women’s Columbia Zero Ice T-Shirt & Men’s Under Armour Tactical Tech T-Shirt
Tanktops —> Women’s PrAna Momento Top & Under Armour Cut-Off Top
Long Sleeve —> Women’s Baleaf UPF 50+ Shirt & Men’s Baleaf UPF 50+ Shirt
As for bottoms, some people like pants, but I personally can only go with shorts during the summer.
I’ve listed some shorts that I like along with the lightweight pants that I wear in the fall time.
Shorts —> Baleaf Women’s Hiking Shorts & Baleaf Men’s Hiking Shorts
Pants —> Gopune Women’s Hiking Pants & Men’s Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible Pants
Aside from the basic tops and bottoms that you’ll need to wear, there are a few other things that can be helpful.
Each of these is great for summer and aids in you staying cool!
Wide Brimmed Hat—> Mission UPF 50 Cooling Hat
Cooling Towel —> Mission UPF 50 Cooling Towel
Sturdy Shoes —> Oboz Sawtooth II Women’s & Men’s
Hiking Socks —> Darn Tough Micro Crew Socks
Learn more about hiking in the summer here!
Dangers of Hiking in Hot Weather
Even though summer is the best hiking season, there are some dangers that you must be aware of when hiking in the heat.
Here are the top things to be concerned about and a couple of symptoms to look out for.
We all know what sunburn is and how it happens, but so many people out there forget to protect themselves.
Your skin is so important and is the largest organ in your body.
Letting it get burnt puts you at a higher risk for skin cancer.
Look out for skin turning red and skin that is hot to the touch. More severe cases may have blistering.
When you’re out in the sun, especially during the hottest part of the day, always use sunscreen and other methods of protection.
Sunscreen, sunglasses, a wide-brimmed hat, and UPF protection clothes are the best things you can use.
Dehydration is caused by losing more fluid than you’re taking in, so when you aren’t drinking enough water on the trail.
Symptoms include extreme thirst, fatigue, confusion, and dry mouth.
It’s most common in older adults and children.
Prevent dehydration by drinking plenty of fluids, especially when it’s hot outside.
The opposite of dehydration, overhydration doesn’t happen as often, but can still be potentially very dangerous.
This happens when you drink or retain too much water and your electrolytes and sodium are diluted in your body.
Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, and headaches.
It’s recommended to drink about 1/2 liter of water per hour, and some people might drink a bit more.
Try not too drink too much out of this range to prevent overhydration.
Heat Cramps, Exhaustion, and Stroke
These 3 heat-related conditions can all be incredibly dangerous and uncomfortable.
Heat cramps are most often caused by doing a strenuous activity that reduces the number of electrolytes in your body.
Symptoms include muscle cramps, pains, and spasms.
Drink plenty of electrolytes when exercising or hiking to replenish them.
Heat exhaustion is similar and is caused by the loss of excess water and salt.
Symptoms are nausea, vomiting, headaches, weakness, and more.
Heat stroke is the most serious of the 3 and occurs when the body can’t control it’s own temperature, therefore overheating.
Confusion, loss of consciousness, profuse sweating, and seizures are common symptoms.
All of these can be serious and should be taken care of immediately. For more information, visit this website.
FAQ: Hot Weather Hiking
Before you head on the trail, read these few FAQs about hot weather hiking to help you stay cool on the hiking trail this summer.
How Hot is Too Hot For Hiking?
Hiking in very hot weather can be very dangerous and can result in a variety of problems, such as the ones I listed above.
Personally, I typically don’t hike when the temperatures rise above 90 degrees F.
This is in part because it’s just not comfortable, and partially because I like to be cautious of temperatures I’m outside in.
Sunburn, dehydration, and heat-related illnesses can set in quickly in hot temperatures.
Is 80 Degrees Too Hot For a Hike?
No, 80 degrees is not too hot for a hike, as long as you are comfortable out there.
If you decide to hike in 80 degrees, I would recommend following the tips that I outlined above and really focusing on drinking water and protecting your skin.
Do still be aware of the dangers of hot weather hiking and prepare yourself to deal with them.
Is 100 Degrees Too Hot For a Hike?
100 degrees is definitely getting to be too hot for hiking.
This temperature combined with humidity and a lack of water can be highly dangerous.
I personally don’t recommend hiking when it reaches over 90-95 degrees F.
How Do You Not Overheat on a Hike?
Following the tips that I outlined above is the best way to not overheat while hiking.
Basically, drink enough water, stay out of the sun as much as you can, cool yourself off with water, and eat snacks to replenish your salt.
Also never forget to protect your skin when you’re out there in the heat and sun.
Wrap-Up: How to Stay Cool While Hiking
There are so many great hikes to be done in the summer months, but what happens when the sun is just too hot?
Either you stay inside for your safety, or you venture out and use these tips.
If it’s safe to head out for a hike, I recommend following all of these tips on how to stay cool while hiking.
They’ll surely help you enjoy your summer hiking season more and won’t have you dreading the heat so much!