Last year, as temperatures soared into the triple digits in Texas, staff at 39 Texas State Parks handled 132 heat-related illnesses in humans and pets. Now that summer has begun and temperatures are steadily climbing, consider these six heat hacks for staying safe in the outdoors. Then read about heat illness and care of your four-legged friend while on the trail.
Plan your trip with these heat hacks in mind.
Here are the top six heat hacks recommended for park visitors:
Drink at least 16 ounces of water every hour in the heat to replenish your body and prevent dehydration. Don’t forget to bring enough for your four-legged family members too.
Block the Rays
Apply a generous amount of sunscreen before heading outdoors. Apply liberally and frequently and reapply every couple of hours and after swimming or sweating.
Wear light, loose-fitting, breathable clothing; a wide-brimmed hat (I prefer a Tilley), good walking shoes, sunscreen, and wet bandanas to keep you cool while in the sun. For pets, protect paws against blistering by hitting the trails during cooler times of the day when the ground isn’t hot or by putting booties on pets to help shield paws from the hot ground. Touch the pavement or ground with the back of your hand. If you cannot hold it there for five seconds, the surface is too hot for your dog’s paws.
Food helps keep up energy and replace salt lost from sweating. Eating snacks such as jerky, granola, trail mix, pretzels, tuna, and dried fruit is a fantastic way to nourish your body while on the trails.
Two brains are better than one. It’s beneficial to have someone with you in hot conditions so you can look after each other on the trail. With high temperatures hitting the US and Canada, heat-related illnesses are common, and having a friend around to help recognize the early symptoms can save you from getting sick.
Study a trail map and take it with you. Average hikers move at 2 miles per hour, so allow yourself sufficient time to avoid hiking in the heat of the day. Be sure to rest in a cool or shaded area to recover from the heat if necessary. It is also a good idea to let someone know your hiking route before you hit the trails and what time you should be back. That way, if you become lost, people know where to look.
Look for these symptoms of heat illness.
- Throbbing headache
- No sweating
- Red, hot, dry skin
- Nausea or vomiting
- Rapid, strong pulse
- Faint or dizzy
- Excessive sweating
- Cool, pale, clammy skin
- Nausea or vomiting
- Rapid, weak pulse
- Muscle cramps
If someone shows signs of heat illness, take these steps:
- Move person to a half-sitting position in the shade
- Call 911 immediately
- Treat based on humidity: If below 75 percent, spray the victim with water and vigorously fan; or above 75 percent, apply ice packs on neck, armpits, or groin
Heat and Dogs
Every year, dogs die after hiking with their owners in parks. Your dog will follow wherever you lead. But remember, your pet is wearing a fur coat and isn’t wearing shoes. Remember the five-second rule. Place the back of your hand on the pavement or ground. If you cannot hold it there for five seconds, the surface is too hot for your dog’s paws.
Dog’s Hiking List
- Leash (no more than 6 feet)
- Collar with tags
- Dog booties
- Plastic bags (for poop pickup)
- Foot care
For practical steps on staying cool in your RV this summer, click here.
“‘Heat, ma’am!’ I said; ‘it was so dreadful here, that I found there was nothing left for it but to take off my flesh and sit in my bones.”