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Summer Hiking Safety: How To Prepare for Heat and Terrain

Summer Hiking Safety: How To Prepare for Heat and Terrain

With summer in full swing, national parks and hiking trails are bustling with both seasoned and novice hikers and campers. Understanding basic summer hiking safety and first aid is crucial, enabling you to handle anything from minor blisters to serious falls or severe dehydration. Each trail comes with its own set of risks, so it’s essential to be aware and prepared for potential emergencies in rugged, unfamiliar terrain. Be ready to administer immediate first aid and know the most efficient ways to seek additional help if faced with a more serious injury.

Use the buddy system.

One of the most basic yet often overlooked safety protocols is using the buddy system. This is particularly important when hiking on unfamiliar trails or if either person is an inexperienced hiker. For added security, ensure both of you are trained in basic first aid. You can take online courses or find local training at reasonable prices. If you prefer hiking alone, there are other ways to stay safe.

A simple but effective method is informing someone about your hiking plans, including when and where you’ll be hiking. This is especially crucial for remote, unfamiliar trails. If you get lost or injured, the person you informed will know to raise the alarm quickly. While many people expect to have cellular service everywhere, it’s common to lose signal in remote areas. This makes it even more important to let a friend or family member know your plans beforehand.

Wear proper clothing.

Summer Hiking Safety: How To Prepare for Heat and Terrain

Proper clothing and footwear are crucial for both the enjoyment and safety of a summer hike. Wearing bright colors is essential as it makes you more visible in case of an accident, facilitating quicker identification and assistance. It's generally wise to dress in loose layers, which help regulate body temperature, improve breathability, and protect your skin from bug bites and other irritants. Summer hiking differs from fall hiking due to the heat, making it challenging to dress in layers. However, the heat is no excuse to forgo appropriate footwear. Wearing sturdy, well-broken-in hiking boots is vital, as they can prevent serious falls and provide stability on the trail.

UPF 50+ Tops

When selecting hiking shirts, personal style and comfort are key. For summer adventures, opt for fabrics with moisture-wicking and quick-drying properties to ensure you stay cool and comfortable on the trail.

In hot weather, making proactive clothing choices is essential to cool down quickly. If you prefer more coverage, choose a lightweight, UPF 50+ Tops to protect against the sun.

During colder seasons like fall, winter, and spring, any breathable fabric will work. If you choose long sleeves, look for ones with thumb holes for an added touch of warmth to your hands.

UPF 50+ Bottoms

Whether you prefer pants, leggings, or shorts, choose bottoms made from quick-drying synthetic materials like polyester or nylon. If rain is in the forecast, pack waterproof rain pants to stay dry and comfortable, especially near wet areas.

Before you head out, check for local wildlife. If bugs and poisonous plants are common, pants offer extra protection. Be prepared for temperature changes by wearing shorts under your pants, allowing you to easily adjust your layers and stay comfortable.

Prioritize comfort and freedom of movement in your clothing choices to fully enjoy your hike. Layering is key. Add or remove layers as needed and store them in your backpack.

Hoodies and Jackets

It might surprise some, but including hiking jackets and hoodies in your summer hiking gear is essential. Relying solely on basic base layers can leave you chilly when temperatures unexpectedly drop. To stay warm and cozy, opt for a lightweight synthetic or down jacket that provides warmth without taking up too much space in your backpack.

Hiking jackets are designed to perform, shielding you from the elements without adding unnecessary weight. Whether facing rain or wind, ensure your jacket is weatherproof. A good tip is to pack an extra layer for warmth, like a cozy sweater or hoodie, especially when rain is not in the forecast.

Consider lightweight insulation, such as a fleece, for those unpredictable weather moments. If your hikes take you to higher elevations, a windproof jacket is essential and can be paired with an additional layer for extra warmth and safety.


When choosing hiking shoes, consider the different options available. Trail runners, which resemble casual sneakers with a light tread, provide stability on easy terrains. For easy to moderate hikes, sturdier trail shoes with robust tread are a better choice. Light hiking boots, featuring a classic boot shape and ankle support, are suitable for all terrains. For challenging hikes and strenuous climbs, heavy hiking boots made from heavy-duty materials with stiffer midsoles and strong tread are ideal.

Prepare an emergency kit.

Summer Hiking Safety: How To Prepare for Heat and Terrain

Regardless of your hiking experience, it's important to carry an emergency kit or assemble one with essential safety items: bandages, gauze, tape, an ice pack, antibacterial ointment, antimicrobials, and more. These tools can help treat minor injuries and provide temporary care for more serious injuries while awaiting further assistance. If you’re concerned about the kit's weight, use its contents as a guide for the supplies you should bring on your hike.

Bring a whistle and flashlight.

An essential tool to carry is a whistle, which is easier to hear than a shout and more likely to attract attention in the event of a severe injury. Three short whistle blasts are the universal distress signal, alerting others that you need help.

Flashlights are useful beyond night hikes and are essential for summer hiking safety. In an emergency, a flashlight can create a distress signal, especially if it has a strong beam. A mirror can also be used to reflect sunlight and signal for help.

Hydrate and rest to avoid heat stress and fatigue.

Staying hydrated is crucial, especially in summer, so always carry water and replenish electrolytes with snacks or sports drinks. Hiking can be very dehydrating, particularly on long trails. Cold water is more effective for hydration, so using an insulated water bottle helps. Alternating between water and a sports drink boosts your electrolytes and improves your body's utilization of water.

Heat stress can escalate to fatal heat strokes. Prevent heat stress by staying hydrated, wetting a cloth to cool yourself, and taking breaks when needed. If you experience heat stress, use an instant cold pack on your forehead, underarms, and groin area to regulate your temperature.

Use marked trails.

Staying on marked trails is a general rule in most national parks. Straying off the path can lead to injury or a steep fine if caught. If you hike an unmarked trail or go off-trail, bring a compass to stay on course and avoid getting stranded in the wilderness.

Another useful tip is to mark your trail if you go off the path. You can do this by dropping leaves or sticks or snapping small twigs along the way. Ensure your markers are easy to recognize—dropping leaves, for example, won’t be effective in the fall.

Bring an insect repellant.

Summer Hiking Safety: How To Prepare for Heat and Terrain

Insect repellent is especially important in the summer when more skin is exposed. Bugs are drawn to densely wooded areas because of the shade and dampness. Using insect repellent while hiking in these areas will help prevent itching and irritation.

Be prepared but not overpacked.

While over-preparing isn't possible, over-packing is. There's a limit to how much you can carry, but not to how prepared you can be. Do extensive research on both universal hiking tips and specific trails to plan your route and gear. It's better to travel light. Carrying too much gear can lead to quick exhaustion. Ensure you only bring what you absolutely need. For a short day hike, we recommend energy bars or other snacks, a water bottle, a sports drink, and first aid supplies. Not much else is necessary.

Beat the Summer Hike Heat

Getting to know these summer hiking safety tips is an excellent way to fully enjoy the season, reconnect with nature, and make lasting memories. With the right preparation and tools, hiking can be a safe and enjoyable activity for everyone.

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