Summer hiking: some love it, some hate it, some really, really hate it.
It’s understandable why there’s so much disdain for it; if you’re already a bit of a reluctant hiker, then you’re not exactly going to be thrilled by the idea of doing the same thing while you’re overheating, sweaty, and stepping over snakes.
Still, there’s a lot to love about hiking in the summer—it’s a great chance to see all types of wildlife unique to the season and really shake up your hiking experience. However, your enjoyment of any given summer hike (as well as, you know, your health afterwards) will completely depend on how well you plan, pack, and know what you're up against.
Organizing Your Summer Hike
If you're new to hiking in the summer and you just plan to walk around the heat for a couple hours, it's pretty likely that you'll get (if you'll excuse the pun) burned out fairly quickly.
Unlike a regular hike where just idly walking around your trail can be plenty of fun in and of itself, it's extremely easy to wear yourself down if you don't enter with a plan. New hikers should really spend some time ironing out a plan for their hike.
A great first step is figuring out who, if anyone, you plan to hike with. Hiking with a group isn't just a fun bonding experience; it's also a great way to make sure you're pacing yourself and make sure that you've got a safety net if things go wrong. Having some friends around to help if you start getting too hot or tired.
Figuring out the type of hike you want to do, as well as where and when you want to do it, is another obvious but important step. Depending on where you live, you could have a ton of options, from a daytime mountain nature hike to late-night tarantula hunting in the desert.
You may also want to set a realistic time estimate for yourself. Don't over-exert yourself; plan for what you think you'll be able to handle!
Of course, you may also be able to crush all these birds with one stone by going to a group hike organized by your community or city. These can set you up with guides, groups, and a nice set route and itinerary, making them great for first-timers!
Packing Accordingly for Your Summer Hike
Break out that drawstring bag and start filling it to the brim; it's time to start packing.
Well, maybe not to the brim. Overpacking can definitely make an easy hike much more strenuous, so do your back a favor and try to pack primarily the essentials.
A power bank for your phone is never a bad thing to have around; it can be a literal life-saver or just provide a few extra hours of music. Speaking of: if you're the type to listen to music while you hike, make sure to bring a nice set of headphones. Avoid headphones that have big, thick material or padding. Not only can these types of headphones be a hassle to lug around, they also tend to irritate and chafe your ears when you start to sweat. Small, cheaper headphones will do just fine!
Your choice of clothing is also important. Light, easy-to-maneuver-in clothes, a hair tie and a hat, and a reliable pair of tennis shoes all go a long way into helping you remain comfortable during your hike.
Finally, you might want to bring a few small first-aid supplies, especially if you’ll be on a longer hike. Things like bandages and alcohol wipes won’t take up too much space in a bag or weigh you down too heavily, but they can help out a lot in a pinch.
Water and Sunscreen are Absolute Musts
There is no possible way to understate this point; even if every single sentence in this article was just “Bring water and put on sunscreen!” over and over again, it still wouldn’t be enough.
The fact of the matter is that summer weather can be harsh—dangerously so. Heat exhaustion and even heat stroke are two incredibly real problems that will strike at you if you’re not careful. And if you’re far out on a hiking trail with few to no hiking partners, it can easily go south.
You need to bring water; you need to bring a lot of water; in fact, you should bring more water than you think you will ever actually need. Bring enough water that you’ll have some left over by the end of the hike. It’s far preferable to carry around too much water in your bag and have to head back early than to get deep into a trail with no water at all.
Put on sunscreen, too. A nasty sunburn can have some even nastier long-term detriments to your health; plus, nobody likes to deal with their skin peeling and aching for days.
No matter where or when you’re hiking, how hot or sunny you think it will be, or how strong you think you are: drink water and wear sunscreen. Getting cocky is exactly how a lot of heat-related problems start!
Don't Be Afraid to Cut Your Hike Short
There’s no shame in backing out of a hike.
Hiking is supposed to be a fun, healthy way to get active and immerse yourself in nature. If you’re putting yourself or your health in danger just to spend more grueling, miserable hours out in the heat, it’s time to ask yourself: what’s the point?
Feeling a bit overheated? Foot hurts a little too much? Ran out of water? Phone starting to die? Just a bit bored? All perfectly good reasons to head back!
It’s possible that you’re going to walk out of your first summer hike or two not liking it. Maybe even after a few hikes it still won’t be your thing! That’s completely understandable. Still, with the right amount of planning and prepwork, you’ll be putting yourself in the best spot for you to enjoy your summer hike safely.