Tips for Walking in Hot Weather

by Sarah Rowell

Heat Wave WalkingIt might not have beaten 1976, but recently we have had summer heat that has allowed us to ditch our waterproofs and head for the hills, devoid of worries about wind, rain and cold.

Hot weather, of course, brings with it a different set of conditions that walkers need to be aware of: ones we are not perhaps as well versed in coping with in the UK. So, here to help are some hot weather walking tips.

First, a bit about sweating. We sweat to let us stay cool, hence the hotter it is or the harder we are working, the more we sweat. It is not, however, the action of sweating that cools us, but rather the evaporation of the sweat that does, and during hard exercise this can account for 80% of the heat lost by the body.

In adapting to cope with heat, our bodies not only get better at producing sweat, but also at producing more dilute sweat (think of sweat as water with added electrolytes, such as salt and potassium). You might have noticed therefore, that after this recent period of hot weather, that you have started to sweat earlier and more heavily, and (if you lick your skin) it is more dilute – if this is the case, that’s great, you have been acclimatising to the heat.

Top Tips

1. Drinking

Heat Wave WalkingDrinking little and often reduces the level of dehydration experienced over the length of the walk, caused by the sweat you have lost.

Drinking fluid which has some salt (electrolyte) and sugar, is preferable to drinking plain water. Not only will this help to replace the salts lost when you sweat, it will also be absorbed by the body more quickly than plain water. For a DIY drink, add 50 grams of sugar, plus a large pinch of salt to 1 litre of water.

2. Wild Swimming

Wild SwimmingWhat can be more attractive on a hot day than a quick dip in a sheltered tarn or beck? Not a lot, but take care, wild water by its nature is often very cold and related accidents/deaths are most often due to the sudden change in temperature from exceptionally hot to cold – so, get in steadily and save the beer to post dip (or better still, post walk).

3. Clothing

Traditional advice is that clothing should be light, both in weight and colour, as well as loose fitting, with a loose weave to help sweat evaporation. Cotton t-shirts should be avoided as they will become heavy and sodden with sweat. More recently, with the advent of so called ‘intelligent clothing’, some may prefer to use tighter fitting hi-tech fabrics which are designed to wick the sweat away from the body, making it easier to evaporate and hence transfer the heat away from your body.

4. Extremities

Take care of your head; ideally via a sun hat with visor and potentially a mesh neck cover. Likewise, sun glasses with UV protection should be used.

5. Sun Protection

Ensure that the bits of you not covered by clothes are covered by sun cream which has a high sun protection factor (SPF) and is designed for physical activity.


6. Quick Cooling

One quick way to help cool your inner body temperature is to stick your wrists into cold water. This cools the blood as it passes from your inner core, close to the surface at the wrist pulse point.

Hopefully, by following the above, you will avoid heat related problems, the signs of which are headache, excessive fatigue, dizziness, tingling skin, weak rapid pulse, nausea or vomiting, pale and moist cool skin or shivering despite the heat. Should these signs become apparent (and often the last person to notice them is the one suffering from them), then the key things to do are to rehydrate (ideally using a solution with some sugar and electrolytes, such as an energy drink) and cool the person with ice packs or wet towels, in a shaded area before seeking medical advice.


Originally published 22/07/14

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