How to Safely Hike in the Summer

Camping expert Hannah Kaufman runs through tips and tricks for staying active in the summer heat.

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Summer. A time for coastal hikes and warm nights with a cold beer in a tent. But for some, the heat that comes with this time of year is simply a hurdle for safe hiking. As a Los Angeles native, dealing with hot weather is just a normal part of daily life (mostly year-round). Some people like myself thrive in this heat. I personally love how the hot temperatures relax my muscles and give me a little sweat all day. But for others, that may sound horrible and, to an extent, dangerous.

Hiking in warmer temperatures can be dangerous. For those who don’t want the weather to stop you from enjoying the outside, here are some tips and tricks that I’ve used to stay active in the Los Angeles summer temperatures.

Time of Day

Photo Mindaugas Vitkus

A classic tip to avoid the heat is to beat the sun and hike early. Starting the trail by 3 or 4am to end before sunrise or shortly after is always recommended. If you don’t live close to the trailhead, camp nearby the night before to get some extra Z’s. If waking up that early makes you cringe, wait until later in the evening. Midnight hikes are a great way to beat the heat and crowds. The trail will often be quieter during later and earlier hours, allowing you to enjoy your time with nature and find that inner peace.

To stay safe on the trail during early or late times, don’t forget to bring your headlamp and remember it’s okay to move at a slower pace. It is completely natural to slow down when our sight is impaired and we don’t know the terrain. Hiking in the dark also means that you might miss out on some views but don’t fret, the starry sky will definitely make up for it.

What to Wear

Photo by Holly Mandarich

Layers! Right, we hear that all the time when it comes to cooler temps. Layers in summer are just as important, especially if you start hiking early in the morning when it may be cooler. Here is a great article with helpful info and tips on what to wear and what materials are best.

In summertime, I love a good pair of zip of pants that can easily transform into shorts. If you don’t have any, consider packing a light layer into your pack. If I start hiking early, I normally start in pants and change into shorts when I get warm. I also will wear a lightweight short sleeve with a lightweight long sleeve layer that I can smash into my pack.

It may be tempting to wear a tank top in those summer temperatures. For some that works, but I personally don’t recommend this for a few reasons. I always burn easily on my shoulders, regardless of how much sunscreen I put on, so to avoid this I just cover them up. I also don’t like hiking in tank tops if I’m carrying a pack. Many packs are made with great materials, but some may rub on your skin causing some discomfort. But it all comes down to personal choice—listen to your body and what feels good for you.

Socks! Socks are super important year-round for hiking. I’m a fan of merino wool and pretty biased towards the Darn Tough brand. These are made of merino wool, nylon, and spandex. These are great options if you want shorter socks for sneakers instead of hiking boots.

If you are hiking with a doggo in the heat, bring along a cooling vest to avoid heat strokes and keep them comfy.

What to Bring

Summer hikes come with a unique list of what to bring. First off, bring more water than you think you need (and some for your doggo as well). In the heat, we sweat more and that means we lose more water and we lose it faster. As my best friend says, “hydrate or die-drate.”

Sunscreen! Say it with me, “no burns today sun.”

Bug repellent. Summer time means more mosquitos and ticks. These, in my humble opinion, are the rudest of the bugs. These aren’t the type to “leave you alone if you leave them alone.” They will just constantly not “leave you alone.” If you don’t like DEET and want a more natural approach, try some peppermint oil.

Sunglasses. A lot of people don’t realize that your eyes can get sunburnt, yikes. Cover those bad boys up and try not to think about the sunglasses tan line you may or may not (but probably will) get.

Heat proof snacks, like trail mix and granola bars. Check this list out for some good options.

Hat. Even if you hate hats, wear a hat. This one is super chic.

Where to Go

Photo by Dirk Von Loen Wagner

This may be super obvious, but head to trails that are decently shaded. Avoid the desert landscape and head to the forest. And of course, you can always escape the heat and travel to a cooler region. SoCal natives will often head up to NorCal. As Mark Twain once wisely spoke, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.”

If you want to stay as local as possible, try to hike near a stream or river. There will be more bugs, but when you get overheated you can just jump right in. Coastal hikes in the summer will be beautiful and the ocean breeze will help cool you down. And if it’s too hot still, you can always spend the day at the beach instead. Seems like a win-win situation!

While weather often dictates our activity level, there is a lot we can do to enjoy any season. So fill up your water bottles, bring a hat and sunglasses, apply many layers of sunscreen and bug repellent, and get on your merry way. Jump in the river, eat your peanut butter and jelly sammy, and stay in the shade. Any tips you have for summer hiking? Hit me up through my profile and let me know.

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Written By
Although I've been hiking for most of my life, I didn't start backpacking and camping until college when I joined the University Outdoors Club at my school. My first backpacking trip was ambitious, the Batona Trail in the Pinelands in New Jersey done in two days. To do that, we had to walk a maratho...

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