A Guide to Surviving Hot Desert Hikes this Summer

Winter, spring, and fall are the most ideal times to visit the desert. But between school being out and lax office hours, oftentimes it’s more convenient to getaway to your bucket list destinations in the summer. 

If you find yourself in the Four Corners region or elsewhere in Western America during the hottest part of the year, it’s important to stay safe and comfortable while hiking in arid desert conditions. 

Whether you’re planning an upcoming trip to the awe-inspiring Grand Canyon or the alluring  Arches National Park, here are some tips for preparing for hot desert hikes this summer.

Wear Breathable and Veiled Clothing

Less clothing may seem like the right solution when tackling hot temperatures, but you want your skin shaded from the sun as much as possible. Even though these layers may get a bit sweaty, it’s far better than getting too much sun exposure (which ultimately leads to more sweating and dehydration).

 When you’re gearing up for a hot desert hike, we suggest wearing breathable items with ample coverage such as the Suray Sun Shirt, Switchback Shirt, and Trailhead Pants.

Wear a Sun Hat

Covering your face is just as important as covering your limbs, back, and shoulders. Your face is the most sensitive area to sun exposure. Plus, a sunburnt nose and forehead is never fun.

A wide-brimmed hat such as our Bucket Hat is a great way to stay shady in the desert.

Wear Mineral Sunscreen

 The sun can still have an impact on shaded areas so in addition to wearing a hat, you should also wear sunscreen on your face and anywhere else your skin may be exposed. Don’t forget often-missed spots such as your ears, hands, neck, and toes!

So why should you try mineral sunscreen versus chemical sunscreen? The simple answer is mineral sunscreen is typically safer for the skin. A lot of chemical sunscreens use harmful ingredients deemed risky by the FDA. Whereas the active ingredients in mineral sunscreen (zinc oxide and titanium oxide) are considered safe and effective forms of sun protection according to the FDA.

Additionally, mineral sunscreen starts working as soon as it’s rubbed into the skin. Chemical sunscreens take 20-30 minutes to activate. By then, it may be too late and a sunburn can start to appear. 

Hydrate Before and After

Try to prevent yourself from getting too thirsty on the trail by drinking a couple cups of water beforehand. The sensation of thirst means you’ve already lost more water than preferred. Same goes for after a hike too. If you’re tempted to immediately drink a beer after a long day, make sure to stay hydrated with water too. 

Bring Electrolyte Tablets 

 Hydration is important when tackling the summer heat, but sometimes quenching your thirst with only water isn’t enough. For long strenuous hikes, you should bring electrolyte tablets to add to your water bottle. Anytime you’re sweating a lot on a hike for multiple hours, electrolytes will replenish your salt levels at a faster rate than just drinking water alone. This can also prevent you from feeling nauseous or dizzy during a long day in the sun.

Eat a Substantial Meal and Bring Snacks

Eating food is another way to keep your sodium levels in check. Make sure you feel full and content before going on your hike and bring extra snacks for rest breaks in between. Refreshing treats like watermelon slices, tuna, bananas, carrots, and hummus will taste extra scrumptious on a hot day.

Hit the Trail Early or Late

The best times to hike in the summer are early morning or late in the afternoon near sundown. The most intense sun exposure will occur around 11-1pm. But the hottest part of the day usually occurs around 3-5pm. Try to get out before or after these times to properly protect yourself from the elements. Bonus points if you see a sunrise or sunset!