5 Tips for the Beginner Hiker: Safe Summer Hiking

Recently, I went on a hike up to a famous spot in San Diego, Potato Chip Rock. (Another blog will tell the details of that adventure.) And, it just so happened to coincide with the beginnings of the first heat wave I’ve experienced while in Southern California. I observed during the hike that too many people were taking on the steep incline and 8 mile round trip hike without so much as an 8 ounce water bottle. This shocked me, and as I talked about it with a friend, we determined that it must be because the spot has become particularly famous for cool social media pictures. In fact, it was probably these individuals’ first time hiking such a distance in hot weather. The views at the rock are almost 360 degrees of the San Diego skyline, so I don’t mind it becoming so popular among those looking for a cool social media picture – but I was worried for these individual’s safety.

Make no mistake, it is very unsafe to hike in the full sun, in almost 90 degree weather without the proper amount of water, especially during long hikes. Our group had the proper amount, and we all ran out of water at the end of the hike, even though we packed more than we thought we would need.

This got me thinking, if beginners don’t respect the dangers of hiking in such heat, maybe I should write a few quick tips on what you should do if you go hiking in the summer to get that cool Instagram picture. I know it seems like common sense to a lot of us, but it’s important for those enjoying their first high intensity hike to respect nature and protect themselves from the elements.

  1. Hike early in the morning – We planned ahead and knew when the temperatures would be the worst, so we could get down the trail before temps rose. Even though we hiked in the coolest part of the day, it still felt really warm!
  2. Carry 1 gallon of water when hiking in weather over 80 degrees PER PERSON – It sounds like a lot, but you will be so thirsty and will need to replace everything you are loosing through exercise and sweat. If you bring your dog, you need to pack AT A MINIMUM twice as much water, or only hike out 2 miles and turn back. It hurt my heart to see too many dogs on the trail who were overheated, and trying to take refuge in what little shade was available – all because their owners hadn’t been giving them enough water.
  3. Hat, sunscreen, and sunglasses – These items will help keep you cool, and help prevent sunburns. They also help with preventing headaches and heatstroke.
  4. Proper shoes – Regular tennis shoes work okay for flat terrain without any loose dirt. But most trails that lead to summits have steep inclines that require a running trail shoe or hiking shoe. Your feet will thank you if you invest in the proper shoe. Many hiking shoes will last you years, so they are a great investment.
  5. Take your time – Hiking in direct sunlight is tough even for the most experienced hiker. If you find shady spots are rare on the trail, take a moment to stop when you find one, look at the view, and catch your breath. This helps to ensure that heatstroke won’t set in, and you will be a much happier hiker anyway! 🙂

I hope these tips help a few people so they are better prepared for their first high intensity hike. Remember, it’s not about how quickly you get to the summit, but rather, if you enjoyed the journey.

Until next time, happy trails!