Summer Heat and the Outdoors

summer-hot-hikes-by-mickyvdoSummer starts on Memorial Day, right? Or on the solstice on June 21st or so, or when school lets out, or maybe the first time you head out for a float trip with that sense of summer freedom.

However much you love summer and the outdoors, though, you have to admit that summer in the Ozarks can get hot.

Your body is designed to function best within a certain temperature range, and getting too hot can make you miserable. In fact, heat exhaustion can send your whole group back to town and you to the emergency room — and heat stroke has to been known to kill people.

To enjoy summer outdoor fun without overheating, be sure to drink lots and lots of water. Hydration will keep your body safe by allowing your body to keep itself cool through its natural mechanisms: perspiration and respiration. If you’re hiking and don’t have room in your pack for enough clean drinking water, make sure to take a water purification system with you, like the Steripen. Don’t let space be an excuse for not having enough water!

Avoid direct sun, especially between 11:00 and 4:00 when the rays hit you most directly. Plan hikes in shady, wooded areas and wear a summer weight hat. We recently got a shipment of new summer hats in at Uncle Sam’s, including Tilley hats, in so there are plenty of great options. Also be sure to select clothing that will keep you covered and cool with high UPF ratings and wicking materials.

When it’s really hot and humid, think about spending the hottest part of the day relaxing at the campsite with a good book, frolicking in the water, or napping so you can stay up late for a night hike. If you’re in or on the water, remember your sunscreen and sunglasses. Water reflects the sun’s rays, so it’s easy to get burned.

Tents can heat up, too. If you’re planning on a summer camping trip, look for tents with mesh tops and lots of ventilation built in. If you’re a bit more adventurous, try a hammock to swing in the breeze and stay cooler.

Keeping safe in hot weather is as simple as being aware of your body. If you feel you’re getting dizzy or sick, or you have a headache or a dry mouth, stop what you’re doing and cool off. These are signs your body is too hot. Most cases of heat exhaustion are completely cured by cooling off, resting, and drinking plenty of fluids. If someone in your party has gone beyond heat exhaustion to heat stroke — with pale, clammy skin, vomiting, or loss of consciousness — you need to get medical help immediately.

Never ignore signs of overheating, and you can enjoy the outdoors this summer and for many summers to come.

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