There are always things to think about when you head out for a walk and that might be as simple as flat shoes, some water and your key. However longer walks, whatever the time of year, require some thought and planning so that the experience is an enjoyable one for everyone involved. In this blog we are looking at what needs to be front of mind when walking in the summer.
Check the weather
Not just for where you actually are but for where you are walking as many places have microclimates and, especially in the hills, the weather can change quite quickly and you need to be prepared. The weather you will be walking in can easily affect your choice of route and what you carry with you.
Avoid the Hottest Part of the Day
The hottest part of the day is between midday and 4pm, so you will need to consider where you may be in your walk at that time. Can you be in a shaded area then? Will you have finished? Could you plan a late afternoon walk or start early?
Although being woken to that alarm especially on a day off may not be what you want, if it allows you a more rewarding walking experience it might just be worth it. Often once you are up and moving that rude awakening is soon forgotten. And of course, you might be a natural early riser which makes this easy.
By doing this you can walk when the world is waking up, get on the road when traffic is lighter and you may get the bonus of a
stunning sunrise! It also means that you can finish earlier.
At the other end of the day it’s sunset that can be your reward and you will have had a day to do other things. Walking in twilight brings its own rewards, but do take a head torch so you can see where you are going if walking in areas not well illuminated.
Perhaps another bonus of considering things here is that you shake it up and do something different from the norm.
Choose the Right Route
When thinking about your route, there are 4 things to think about and it is really important to take them all into consideration. Use them to decide whether the route you had in mind is the one you really should follow.
The 4 factors are:
How long a walk do you want to take?
Any elevation on your route?
Is there shade?
Can you refill your water bottles or how much should you carry?
In the UK, we have such a mix of wonderful scenery and in a small country it’s not that hard to find a shady route if the weather leads you to that. In other parts of the world, it’s perhaps not as easy.
In countries where the weather is seasonally hot many people do walk inside for this very reason. While most people’s ideal is to get their steps in nature, when it gets too hot steps inside are better than none at all.
Generally hills and mountains mean that you are much more exposed to the sun with little to shade you from the midday sun, whereas forest and woodland provides shade and cool places to stop. Walking by the coast can offer breezes and in some places shade too. You might consider somewhere you can cool off such as a lake or river where you can paddle your feet or even indulge in a spot of wild swimming.
It may be a good idea to take note of good walks that suit different times of the year and keep these handy for times when your route requires certain things.
It’s a good idea to choose a route that’s near civilisation. This is important in case you need help or you run out of water.
Light colours reflect light and dark colours absorb it so if makes sense to wear lighter colours if you want to stay cooler. Wear clothing made of breathable material and one that wicks moisture away from your skin.
I will opt for shorts or cropped leggings/trousers and short sleeved or sleeveless tops. Though some believe that it is also better to cover up as much as possible when walking for long periods in the sun saying that lightweight, loose-fitting clothes are essential and long sleeves are recommended. I am not convinced of this from my own experience, and you may just want to try it out. Having said this though I am not usually walking in extreme high temperatures.
Nowadays many outdoor shops stock shirts and t-shirts with built-in UPF protection so it’s definitely worth adding one of these to your gear collection. As I always advise, build up your gear using the sales and bargain outlets if you have a limited budget.
Remember to wear a wide-brimmed hat and cover your eyes with a pair of UV-blocking sunglasses as they will help to keep you protected, cool and comfortable.
For more information on this, see our blog post specifically on ‘What to Wear When Walking in Hotter Weather’.
Allow Time for Extra Breaks
A walk that would take you four hours on a normal day could take you quite a bit longer on a really hot day and the heat can drain your energy too so take this into consideration in your planning. It is better to take a number of shorter breaks in my experience than to push on. For a stop, always look for that little bit of shade if you can, even if just stopping for 5 minutes.
Listen to your body and if you are with others do listen to them too. This is not the time for heroics.
Get into the habit when you stop of taking a drink and perhaps even a small snack. It’s also a great opportunity to look around and see where you are, what’s ahead and often forgotten, where you have come from.
You might also use this stop for a few stretches.
In hot weather be much more intentional about your pace. You want to enjoy your walk and in most cases, there is no rush. You’ll enjoy it much more if you’re cooler and less exhausted.
In hot weather, this is your number 1 priority as this underlies everything else. It is why knowing your route and stopping places, places to refill bottles etc is mentioned at the start.
Sipping regularly really helps and is better than only drinking when you stop. If you can make sure your bottle is easily accessible and if in a side pocket on your rucksack, do ask your walking buddies for help in getting to it and help them too. I love a waist belt that has a bottle holder on it, so easy to keep drinking then. A hydration pack is good for this too.
Experts recommend drinking four to eight ounces of water or another non-caffeinated beverage about every 15 minutes when exercising outside during warmer months. Sweating during hot weather causes water loss, so make sure to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and avoid overheating. You do not want to get dehydrated as returning to full hydration can take a long time.
Remember that if you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated!!
For more detailed information here, see our blog post on the subject.
Carry Some Snacks
It’s important to replace the salt that you lose through sweating. Your body needs salt to retain water.
Make sure that you have some salty snacks such as crisps, crackers and nuts. The best ones are those that will give you a slow-release of energy (try trail mix or oat-based bars). Bananas are great, though do carry in a banana guard otherwise you may have a very messy pack! Also note, you can take snacks that have a naturally high water content, such as watermelon and cucumber sticks. Apples and oranges are other good choices.
To rebalance electrolytes you can carry sodium and potassium-based sachets that are poured in with your water. Electrolyte gels work in much the same way.
Remember your Sunscreen
Just applying sunscreen in the morning, or before you set off, is not enough as even a good sunscreen will only last around 2 hours before you need to reapply. Add to that the fact that walking in hotter temperatures means that you are sweating, so diluting it.
Now note that sunscreen has an expiration date on the bottle so if you carry one in your pack, it may be past its sell by date.
Keep the Bugs at Bay
Hiking in Scotland between the months of May and September means the ‘midges’ so avoid it if you can. If not make sure you have an insect repellant to make it easier and to protect yourself. A strong deet-based insect repellent can take care of that, but the midges and mozzies aren’t the only pests out to torment you in the great outdoors.
Please note though that some of these can be very harsh and you may want to research more natural alternatives.
The other thing to watch out for are ticks as a tick bite can lead to Lyme disease, something that is sadly on the rise. If your route involves areas of meadow, long grass or heather – particularly if there are grazing sheep or herds of deer around – wearing long trousers is a good idea.
Get yourself a specialised tick remover which can be in the form of a credit card type implement or a set of special tweezers. I recently got a tick on my stomach after picnicking by a river and I am now the proud owner of a tick remover!
These implements ensure that the entire tick is removed as leaving any mouthparts in the skin, or squeezing the body in the process, can cause infection or cause the tick to regurgitate infected blood into your system. It’s crucial to keep calm and remove it carefully.
Everything mentioned here is aimed at making sure that your walking experience is a safe and pleasurable one. If you feel you would benefit from more information on planning your walks of all lengths and at all times of the year, get yourself a copy of our Walking Toolkit.