The sun is beating down, you hear the roar of a waterfall, and just around the corner is a cool, secluded waterhole. It's time to make the most of the warm weather with a summer hike.
But before we do, let's revise the basics. When the sun is out, there’s a good chance you’ll be warm and sweaty before you even start hiking. To stay cool and safe, you should be prepared with a few hot-weather hiking essentials, plenty of water and a few safety tips.
Materials & technology:
Before we launch into clothing essentials, here’s a few things to look out for to keep cool and comfortable:
Synthetics: It might seem counter-intuitive to wear synthetics in the heat, but materials like nylon and polyester are light, loose and breathable. Nylon and polyester is also durable and dries fast — essential when you’re sweating uphill.
Merino wool: It might be wool, but this natural temperature regulator will keep you cool when it’s hot outside. It's worth learning a bit more about the benefits of merino wool.
Moisture-wicking: Clothing with moisture-wicking technology will help move moisture away from your skin so you can stay drier for longer.
Anti-pong technology: It might not be labelled as such exactly, but technology that fights odour is useful for obvious reasons. It's particularly useful in garments made of nylon and polyester, which are great for lightweight hiking gear, but have a hard time managing odour on their own. Keep an eye out for clothing labelled with Polygiene or driMOTION.
UFD shirts: Most clothing will help block the sun from your skin, but UV rays have been known to penetrate some fabrics. Make sure you’re fully protected with clothing that offers UPF 15, UPF 30 or UPF 50+ sun protection.
Ventilation panels: Concealed mesh ventilation panels will improve airflow on a hot day. Look for clothing that will allow you to unzip ventilation panels on either your shirts or shorts.
A breathable shirt
A breathable long-sleeved top is a good idea on high UV days to protect your skin, and there's a couple of different options that will help keep you cool.
A good place to start is the Flinders Merino Top. Designed for hiking, it features flat seams and panelling for ventilation. Merino is also a natural temperature regulator, so this wool will work to cool you down.
If you prefer something a little lighter, the Tapah Women's Hiking Shirt is lightweight, offers UPF50+ protection and provides excellent moisture management. It also dries quickly, so you can feel fresher for longer.
At a minimum, we’d recommend a shirt to keep your shoulders protected from the sun and from any potential friction or chafe from your backpack. A good option is the Barros Men's Hiking Shirt or the Vipan Women's Hiking Shirt. The fold-up collar visor will help protect the back of your neck from the sun.
Shorts or pants designed for hiking
For most people, these are the go-to for summer hikes and there's plenty of options to choose from.
A simple pair of lightweight, quick-dry shorts like the women's Maraba hiking shorts make for an easy, comfortable hike, while the Men's Trailhead Hiking Shorts are both moisture-wicking and quick to dry.
If you want to throw in a little running during your hike, opt for shorts with a mesh inner like the Drimotion shorts to keep dry and fresh.
Long pants might seem like a risky choice on a hot day, but they offer a lot in terms of protection. If you burn easy, long pants will protect you from the sun, as well as any falls on the trail.
They’re also ideal on hiking trails where you might brush against up against branches, weeds, prickly barbs, and whatever else the trail can throw at you.
Breathable, seamless socks:
Heat is a breeding ground for blisters, so opt for material with temperature regulation like merino wool. Don’t wear cotton socks as they won’t have a chance to dry out. Seamless isn’t essential, but you should consider them if you’re hiking over a couple of days or if you have blister-prone feet.
A wide brimmed hat
Protect your face and neck with a wide-brimmed hat. Some hats will offer UPF protection and/or ventilation to help keep you cool. The Buzzguard wide-brim hat even has a sweatband on the inside edge.
At a minimum, you should wear a cap; just make sure you apply sunscreen at regular intervals to the back of your neck and your ears.
A neck gaiter
Quick drying, odour-resistant and lightweight, a neck gaiter is perfect for extra sun protection around your neck. When the mercury is high, you can also soak a gaiter in some water and wrap it around your head or neck to help keep you cool.
A backpack with a hiking harness
A hiking backpack with the right harness will allow air circulation between you and your pack so you can stay cool and more comfortable. A typical day pack will start at 28L and go all the way up to 75L for longer hiking adventures.
For a day pack, the Katabatic 28L pack ticks a lot of boxes. The breathable harness even features climatic zoning to help prevent overheating in the body's hotspots.
Water bladder — You'll need a water bladder that can hold at least 2L of water. See our safety tips below.
Sunscreen — it should have no less than UPF 50 rating. Apply before you get started but bring it along so you can reapply along the way.
Electrolytes — we sweat on hot days to help cool down our bodies. But prolonged sweating can mean we lose a lot of important electrolytes in our system, such as sodium, potassium and chloride. Take some oral rehydration solutions to pop in your water bottle when you’re feeling a little tired and dehydrated.
First-aid kit — accidents happen, even to the most safety-conscious hikers. Don’t risk it. It should have some band-aids (blisters), tweezers (splinters) and compression bandages (sprains and snake bites) at a minimum.
Walking poles – typically taking the load off your legs, walking poles can help reduce your energy expenditure. If you’re working less hard, we like to think you sweat a little less.
An emergency rainjacket — depending on where you live, summer can often bring unexpected tropical storms. Not so bad if you're on the trail for a few hours, a bit of a pain otherwise. Also good for keeping your phone dry in a pinch.
Safety tips for the heat:
Avoid the hottest part of the day. Avoid the burning-middle-of-the-day sun and set off first thing in the morning or later in the afternoon. As a bonus, it usually means you'll encounter less people on the trail too.
Bring enough water. A good rule of thumb for a hot weather hike is 500ml per hour for each person. However, this can depend on a few things like how hot it is, and how much you sweat. Make sure you account for all the variables, and if in doubt, bring more rather than less.
Pay attention to your body. If you experience dizziness, nausea, disorientation or strong headaches, don't push on. Find shade, cool yourself down, and take as long you need. Make the right call if you feel unwell.
Pick a smart route. If you haven’t been hiking in a while, don’t pick a long, exposed trail in the middle of the day. Instead, find a trail with plenty of shade and options to stop and rest. Bonus points if water is available on the way. If you're not sure where to start, look up your local Parks Authority.
Stop for breaks. Tiring yourself out by racing to the finish line isn’t what hiking is about. Stop to admire your surroundings, give your muscles a stretch, and cool down before getting on your way again.
As long as you are prepared, a summer hike can bring the kind of memories that stay with you forever. Get ready for a summer full of adventures with these hiking essentials.