Hiking in hot weather: 12 Expert tips to stay cool when hiking in summer

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Hiking in hot weather comes with multiple challenges and sometimes it is all about knowing your limits, the heat conditions, and making the right choice on whether to go on that hike or wait until the temperatures drop a little.

Summer hiking is great, but sometimes, you can’t go on the hike you would like to, or you must take extra precautions so that you avoid heat stroke.

I have traveled extensively in tropical destinations and hiking has always been a big part of my travels. I have also based myself in one of the hottest areas in Europe for the last 10 years, so I have a lot of experience when it comes to hot weather hiking.

Hiking in southern Spain in the hottest months of the year has taught me a lot. It has made me turn around more than once because I underestimated the heat, the amount of water I brought, and even the hiking clothes and gear.

It is not fun to turn around because of any of these reasons, and even worse, it can be right out dangerous to hike in hot weather.

That’s why I’m here to help you avoid the same mistakes that I’ve made and to make sure you hit the trails in a safe way when hiking in the heat.

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Hiking in hot weather

7 Leave No Trace Principles

Tips for hiking in hot weather

Check the weather forecast

My first piece of advice for hiking in hot weather is to check the weather forecast before you choose which day you go hiking.

When hiking in the summer, you can see huge differences in temperatures from one day to another and by checking in advance, you can avoid the hottest days. And even worst, heat waves.

If you don’t have any other days you can go, you need to make a sound decision on whether you should go or not. Sometimes, you have to realize when to skip that hike and either go to the beach or choose a refreshing river hike instead.

Be flexible

One thing is to be flexible before going on the hike, but you also need to be flexible while you are on the trail. If you get overheated, run out of water, or find it physically exhausting, change the route or turn around.

I can’t count the times I started a hike in the scorching summer heat and had to turn around before I reached the end because it got too hot.

Even as a seasoned hiker, I notice how much more exhausted I get when hiking in the heat. You don’t want to risk it and trust me when I say that those hills feel a lot tougher in the summer heat than they do in the cooler periods of the year.

Hot weather hiking

Choose trails with water and natural shade

Another of the top tips for hiking in hot weather is to choose your trails carefully. To avoid overheating and rather stay cool while hiking, pick trails that have natural water sources and shade.

I love going on river hikes in the summer, just make sure you have a sturdy pair of river hiking shoes and you will stay cool walking in the refreshing water during your trek.

Walking through canyons is also a great alternative when walking in warm weather as they will naturally be shaded. Or why not combine canyons with rivers?

Some of my favorite hikes in the summer in Andalucia are the Rio Chillar, Rio Verde (Istan), Rio Verde (Otivar), and Rio Borosa.

Hiking in the summer - Rio Chillar

Bring enough water

I can’t stress this enough. Whenever I hike with someone new, they bring way too little water. A half liter of water from the gas station isn’t going to cut it when hiking in summer.

You will be out of water after 30 minutes.

I admit that I failed to bring enough water way too many times, and that might be the reason that I’m so obsessed with this. It is not fun to turn around just because you run out of water and feel like you dry up on the way back.

Not only will you need water to drink, but if there are no natural water sources on the trail, you might need to pour some on your head and neck too.

Make sure you bring more water than you normally would and if you hike with dogs, you need to double that. I highly recommend bringing a 3-liter hydration bladder besides a couple of big bottles of water if you bring your pooch.

Hiking in summer

Bring a water purifier

If there are natural water sources on the trail, you don’t need to bring as much water. However, you will need a water purifier to refill water. Even so, make sure you always fill up water from places where the water is in movement, preferably waterfalls.

I have been using a Steripen for years, but you can also get bottles with a purifier in them, like the GRAYL GeoPress water bottle. Others like to use purifying tablets.

No matter what you prefer, it will save you a lot of hassle when hiking in hot, humid weather. But make sure you know that there are natural water sources on the trail. In hot weather destinations, a river on the map might be a dried-out river in real life.

Summer hiking

Go early or late if you can

Another hot weather hiking tip is to go early in the morning, preferably starting off before sunrise with a headlamp. This way, you avoid the heat and you can see the sunset surrounded by nature.

Alternatively, head out an hour before sunset to get the sunset from the mountain and walk back down with a headlamp.

I used to go in plain summer to hike in Sierra de Mijas, choosing a 1-2 hour route that was mostly in the shade on the way up to get the sunset from the mountain. Usually, I would even make it down before it got completely dark. It’s all about timing.

Wear a hat

Maybe one of the most important hot-weather hiking tips for any trail with little shade is to wear a hat or a baseball cap to cover your head.

Personally, I’m not a big fan of hiking hats, so I use a baseball cap, but it has its flaws, and if I’m to say what gives you the best protection, it is definitely a proper hiking hat with a UV filter.

Not only will the UV protection protect your head from the sun’s harmful rays, but you will also cover your face, neck, and shoulders a lot better than a baseball cap manages to do.

Walking in warm weather

Wear sunscreen

Whenever you hike in hot weather conditions you should put on sunscreen, especially if you have fair skin. But even though you usually don’t get a sunburn, the mountain sun can bite a lot harder than elsewhere.

Besides, it protects your skin against the harmful effects of the sun. I always recommend using reef-safe sunscreen and preferably eco-friendly to protect your skin and nature from unnecessary chemicals.


Wear the right clothes

The clothes you wear when hiking can make a huge difference. Try to avoid dark colors and jeans (I know I’m known for wearing jeans shorts on shorter hikes, but to my defense, they are worn out and comfy, and super short, so I don’t notice the effect of jeans in hot weather.)

Instead, use light colors and lightweight material that dries quickly. It is also a great alternative to get hiking clothes with UV protection.

Whether you like to wear long pants and a hiking shirt or shorts and a tank top, it is up to you what makes you most comfortable.

Personally, I prefer to wear as little as possible, but again, I’m more exposed to the direct sun. I don’t get an easy sunburn, and if you do, you might consider covering up a little bit more.

Make sure you read my complete guide to what to wear when hiking in hot weather before you go.

Hiking in the heat

Bring salt and sweet snacks

To take up the water you drink, make sure you bring salty snacks like nuts. But sweet snacks like fruit and berries is just as important to keep the blood sugar sane.

One of my favorite snacks for hiking in hot weather are dates. Consider that they come from the desert where the weather is hot and desert nomads have survived on them for as long as we know.

Turn around if you need to

Summarizing a few of the above summer hiking tips, it is important to know when it is time for you to turn around. When you’re hiking in hot weather you can’t jeopardize by pushing on if you are exhausted or you run out of water.

Make sure you know the signs. Stubbornness and walking in warm weather conditions have nothing to do with each other.

I know how tempting it is to keep going, but you need to know your limits and make a decision before you reach your limits. You must walk all the way back – so you need both water and energy for that.

Hot weather hiking tips

Walk slowly

Walking too fast when it’s hot will exhaust you faster, you will sweat more, and you will need more water. Taking it slow will help your body to keep up with the exercise and the heat when hiking. Hot weather hiking should not be underestimated and it is so important to listen to your body.

Take breaks often, if possible in the shade, so that you can keep cool while hiking. I love to pour water over my neck and head as it helps cool down my body temperature. But it also feels extremely nice and refreshing!

Reflections on hiking in summer

While there are a lot of things to consider when hiking in hot weather, it is extremely rewarding to go hiking in summer.

There are usually different trails to explore than in the winter months and you can indulge in all those refreshing water-filled hikes.

If you choose your hikes wisely, there is nothing like hiking in the summer months, even in hot destinations like Andalucia.

Here in the region, I would recommend going in the high part of Sierra Nevada’s 3000-meter peaks or on river hikes where you can swim or/and walk in th river during large parts of the trail.

Happy hiking!

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