Yes, it’s warm out. OK, hot.
But don’t let the beginning of summer keep you from continuing to hike. You just have to be smart about the heat, pick the right places to hike, and pick the right times to go.
Hot hiking tips
1. Drink! Drink, drink, drink. Hydrate before your hike, hydrate during your hike, hydrate after your hike. A good rule of thumb: Take a liter of water for every hour you plan to be on the trail. And make it cool/cold water. Put a half-full water bottle in the freezer the night before a hike, top-it off right before you leave. You’re much more likely to drink cold water than water that should have a tea bag steeping in it.
2. Wear light, comfortable pants or shorts. Convertible pants — those with legs that zip off — are especially good: keep the legs on in terrain where you might be brushing up against brush (and thus, picking up ticks or encountering poison ivy), zip ‘em off when the trail opens up to let your legs breath.
3. Wear a light, comfortable shirt. Generally, the rule of thumb is to avoid cotton because it gets wet, it stays wet, it sticks to your skin and, in cool/cold weather, can drop your body temperature. In the heat of summer, however, that cooling effect can be a big plus — provided you don’t get caught in a summer storm accompanied by dropping temperatures.
4. Hats. A topper can be good protection when hiking in exposed terrain. Keep in mind, though, that the top of your head is one spot where your body vents heat: a closed vent will keep the house warm.
5. Socks. Hiking socks are not created equal. Among other distinctions, there are heavier wool socks for winter hiking and lighter socks for when the temperature rises. Make sure you aren’t hiking in heavy winter socks, lest your feet get hot/sweaty/blistery/unhappy.
6. Bandanas. Bandanas or the popular Buff can be dipped in a stream and tied, loosely, around your neck to help keep you cool.
7. Sunglasses. Shades are good in exposed terrain but can hide trail obstacles — rocks, roots — in the shaded woods.
Go high. Various conditions can affect this formula, but basically, for every 1,000 feet of elevation you gain, the temperature drops 3.5 degrees. So if the temperature is 90 in Raleigh, elevation 300 feet, it would be in the upper 60s atop Mount Mitchell, elevation 6,684 feet. Again, keep in mind that clouds, rain and other factors can further influence in the difference.
Get wet. Find a hike that involves water, one that follows a stream, skirts a lake, visits a swimming hole. You’d be surprised at the options available.
Early. In summer, when daytime temps routinely flirt with the 90s, the days often begin around 70 degrees. Seventy: that’s about the ideal temperature for a fall hike. Drawback: your window for cooler hiking is roughly 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. Also be aware that some of your favorite hiking haunts may not officially open until 8 a.m. or later.
After work. Temperatures generally peak mid to late afternoon, and it can take a while for the heat to subside. But even by 7 p.m., the temperature typically will have backed off by 5 degrees or more. Couple that with the 10-degree shade reduction you get from the forest canopy and you’re looking at a feels-like temperature in the mid 70s on a 90+ degree day.