Summer is here, and with it comes the season of outdoor adventure! The kids are out of school, vacations are planned, and excitement is high. You may have beach days planned, pool parties to attend, mountains to conquer, or camping trips to enjoy. There’s just one thing that could hold you back: the heat.
One of the biggest concerns I hear when spending time in the heat with little ones is “How do I keep everyone cool and safe?”. Fear not, it’s totally doable, and we are here to help you figure it out. Read on for tips on staying safe in the heat and dressing for the weather along with staying cool on summer hikes and camping trips.
Starting with the most important topic, here are some tips for keeping your family safe when adventuring in the heat:
Keep an Eye on the Weather
This may sound obvious, but with how quickly summer thunderstorms can roll in, it’s not enough to check the weather the night before your adventure. Right before you head out the door, check for these three important weather aspects to ensure you’re prepared for Mother Nature’s current mood (Tip: most weather apps offer this information and more on your smart device):
- Precipitation: This can change rather rapidly, so be sure to check for the chance of rain and potential thunderstorms.
- Feels-Like Temperature: Have you ever stepped outside and thought “Man, it feels way hotter than the predicted temperature!”? That’s because the temperature we feel can be affected by other factors (especially humidity), making it feel much warmer than the listed temperature.
- UV Index: The UV index was created to inform people of the risk of ultraviolet radiation exposure while outdoors. The index ranges from 1 (the lowest exposure) to 11+ (the highest exposure). It is generally the highest between 11:00 am and 3:00 pm, which is also the hottest part of the day. You’ll want to seek shady areas or be sure you are protected (with sun-protective hats and clothing) during times with high UV ratings.
On especially hot or humid adventures, you may be surprised at how much water you need to drink to stay sufficiently hydrated. The general rule of thumb is that an average adult should drink about half a liter of water per hour during moderate exercise in moderate temperatures. On especially hot and humid outings, this number can double to 1 liter per hour!
Kids will need about half as much as adults based on body weight, so about 1-2 cups per hour in moderate temperatures and 2-4 cups per hour in hot or humid conditions. A great way to stay hydrated is using a backpack with a water reservoir. It keeps the water within easy reach and allows you to measure the water intake.
Tip: If you have a hike planned for an especially warm day, pre-hydrate the day before by drinking plenty of fluids. When your body is already well hydrated, you’re able to better keep up with the fluids lost through sweat on a hot day.
Bring Plenty of Snacks
While it’s important to hydrate, you lose more than just water through sweat. To replenish what is lost, eat snacks rich in nutrients such as sodium and potassium to help restore your electrolytes. Good options include nuts, trail mix, granola bars, pretzels, etc.
Know the Signs of Heat-Related Illnesses
While there are various heat-related illnesses, heat exhaustion and heat stroke are especially worrisome. Even when you follow all of the above safety tips, it’s important to know the symptoms of these illnesses along with how to treat them. Check out this infographic for more information and stay safe this summer!
Note: Even though heat exhaustion is less severe than heat stroke, seek medical attention if symptoms get worse or persist for longer than one hour.
What to Wear
You may be of the mind that higher temperatures equal less clothing, but that isn’t always the best option. Summertime is hot for a reason. It means that your part of the world is tilted towards the sun, allowing more of the sun’s radiation to reach you. Choosing the right clothing items can keep your family protected and comfortable in the heat. Here’s what we recommend:
- Sun Hats: They may look goofy to some, but they are still essential. Especially since the face, neck, and ears are three of the most common areas that can develop skin cancer over time. Look for ones that have wide brims and a sun-protective rating of UPF 50+ (which translates to only 1/50th or less of UV rays penetrating through the fabric). For kids, it’s helpful to have a chinstrap to keep the hat in place (just make sure it either has Velcro or a break-away feature to prevent strangulation).
- Sun-Protective Clothing: For any parent who loathes the inevitable game of chase anytime they pull out the sunscreen bottle, sun-protective clothing is a sanity saver. It’s like a layer of sun protection that stays in place and doesn’t require re-application. There are lightweight, breathable clothing options on the market that offer sun protection (usually a UPF rating of 50+) while still keeping the wearer cool.
- Sunglasses: A cool pair of shades not only complete an outfit but also prevent damage to your eyes from the sun's radiation. This is especially important for kiddos (particularly if you have kids like mine who can’t seem to help looking RIGHT AT the sun anytime you say “Don’t look at the sun”). Thankfully, you can now easily find sunglasses with 100% UV protection for the whole family.
- Sunscreen: This may not be a clothing item, but sunscreen is essential on all exposed skin. Thankfully, the amount of exposed skin should be drastically reduced thanks to the items above. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends looking for a broad-spectrum sunscreen (meaning it protects against UVA and UVB rays) that has an SPF of 30 or higher and is water-resistant. For infants and children, using a mineral-based sunscreen (containing titanium oxide or zinc dioxide) is generally less likely to irritate the skin. Just be sure to reapply every two hours or right after swimming or excessive sweating.
Hiking in the warm weather doesn’t have to be uncomfortable. Here are some tips for making your summer hikes fun and memorable for the whole family.
Know When to Go (and NOT Go)
Hiking early in the day (before 11:00 am) or later in the afternoon (after 3:00 pm) will provide a much more comfortable experience for the whole family. Once the sun reaches high in the sky, the amount of solar radiation reaching you increases (as seen by the higher UV index rating). This also increases the “feels like” temperature along with the risk of skin damage.
Tip: Check the weather (especially the “feels-like” temperature and UV Index) for your hiking location rather than your house. You may be surprised at how different the levels are even 5 or 10 miles away.
Choose a Well-Shaded Trail
Reducing the amount of the sun’s radiation that is beating down on you can go a long way to making a summer hike more comfortable. Look for a forested route that winds through plenty of trees if possible. If you live in an area with few shade-worthy trees, consider shorter routes to reduce your sun exposure.
Seek Out a Water Source
There’s little better (or more refreshing) than taking a swim or splashing in a creek following a hike on a warm day. This could mean hiking along a creek or riverbed with spots for the kiddos to splash around. It could also mean hiking out to a beach for a swim before hiking back to your car. Having these splashy moments allows your family to cool off quickly and gives them something to look forward to on a hot summer hike.
Bring Some Cooling Accessories
Some pretty ingenious products on the market can help keep you cool when temperatures rise. Cooling towels (such as Frogg Toggs) are made with a super absorbent material that uses the science of evaporation to help you regulate your temperature and cool down in warm conditions. You can also bring along a portable fan or handheld mister that clips onto your pack to keep your family cool and comfortable on hot hikes.
Camping in the summer can be very different than camping in other months. Make sure you have a plan for beating the heat, and don’t be afraid to bail out if the heat becomes too much for your family. Here are some tips for staying cool on those summer campouts:
Look For (or Create) Shade
If possible, pick a campsite that provides lots of shade. This prevents the sun's rays from superheating your tent and making it feel even hotter. You can find out if your campsite is shady by either checking the site information online or calling the campground directly. If it’s not possible to find a fully shaded spot, you can bring your own shade in the form of a pop-up sun shelter, a canopy with poles, or even a beach umbrella.
Camp Near Water
A great way to beat the heat is to choose a campground with some sort of water source to splash in. This could be the ocean, a lake, a river, or even a creek that is safe for the kiddos to play around in to cool off.
Invest in a Portable Fan
If you’re like me, it can be difficult to sleep in warm temperatures. While you may not be able to turn on the AC if it gets too warm, you can invest in a portable fan to provide a nice breeze to cool you off. Look for one with a rechargeable battery like this affordable one from JINLICTE. For extra power and cooling ability, consider investing in a portable jobsite fan like this one from Milwaukee.
Have a Plan for the Hottest Part of the Day
You’ll find the temperatures highest between 11:00 am and 3:00 pm. During these hours, you don’t want to find yourself caught out in the sun with no relief from the heat! Plan on playing in the water, whether it be a beach, creek, or a nearby pool. You could also explore a museum, visitors center, or other indoor attraction that is close to your campground.
For mild-moderate nights, choose a sleeping bag that provides some ventilation and airflow. All of the synthetic Morrison Sleeping Bags (the 40-degree options), whether it’s the Little Mo, Big Mo, Mighty Mo, or Mega Mo, have open and close cuffs along with inverted (Little Mo) or two-way zippers that provide draft control and ventilation on warmer nights.
For hotter evenings that are expected to stay dry, consider removing the rainfly from your tent to allow maximum airflow throughout the night. Also, consider taking a dip in a nearby water source or a cold shower right before bed. This will help you cool down and relax before lights out.
Have a Back-Up Plan
When little kids are involved, there is no shame in throwing in the towel if the conditions become too much. This could mean packing up and heading home, finding a hotel nearby for an air-conditioned good night’s sleep, or whatever else gets your family out of the heat. Thinking of the options ahead of time will make them less stressful should you have to fall back on them.
Enjoy the Outdoors With Your Family This Summer
Don’t let the warmer temperatures keep you inside all summer! We hope these tips will motivate you to hit the trails and campgrounds with your family. Do you have any tips or tricks for staying cool on hot adventures? Let us know in the comments below!