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Hike Survival


   Hike Survival

Summer hiking can be an enjoyable experience if one makes appropriate preparations. Just as you would equip yourself for cold weather hiking, the same principles apply in being prepared for summer hikes. Following are some useful tips to help you get ready.

Check List

  • broad-brim hat.
  • sun-blocking lotion if you have sensitive skin.
  • light – colour and cloth weight –clothing that is loose fitting.
  • plenty of liquid refreshment – minimum 2 litres, preferably water.
  • proper footwear – boots that have good ankle support.
  • walking stick

Print version (PDF)


Lightweight, loose-fitting clothing is preferable to snug-fitting pants and tops for several reasons. As your body perspires, the sweat is absorbed into the clothing causing it to cling to your body, creating an uncomfortable situation. Loose-fitting clothes allows air to circulate in the space between your body and the garments. Tight-fitting clothes also restrict your body movements causing you to expend more energy, and hence perspire more, than is necessary.

A study (1998) by University of Alberta researchers found that polyester and polyester-blend cloth offered the best protection from the harmful UV rays of the sun. While the same study found that dark colours offered slightly more UV protection than light-coloured clothing, you may want to consider another known fact that insects are more readily attracted to dark colours than light ones. Consider wearing clothes made of natural fibres (cotton, wool, rayon, etc.) As they have far better wicking properties than do man-made fibres.

Wool or wool-blend (more than 50% wool) socks are best as they will not chafe your sweaty feet to cause blisters. Wool absorbs sweat. A heavier weight wool sock is preferable to a lightweight dress sock.

Capping off your attire should be a broad rim hat to protect your face and neck from UV rays.


There is an inclination to go with lightweight footwear in the summer. But this is not necessarily a smart move. Skyline Hikers of the Canadian Rockies hikes travel routes that traverse a wide variety of terrain. It is therefore recommended that participants wear sturdy footwear that affords good ankle support and gives good traction. Absolutely no street shoes, running or jogging shoes.


Bring plenty of fluid refreshment. Water is all you need to replenish the fluids you will loose during a hike (see dehyrdation). Cool water is best; your body absorbs it better. If you enjoy a flavoured beverage such as a sports drink, that’s fine too. Do avoid drinking fluids that have a high sugar content.

For a refreshing cool drink of water on the trail, place overnight in your freezer the container (e.g., plastic bottle) filled about half full with water. In the morning top up with water. To make the taste of the water different, add several drops of lime or lemon juice.

Avoid drinking coffee, tea or alcoholic beverages before and during the hike--instead drink milk, fruit juice or water. The former beverages act as agents (diuretics) that promote premature draining of body fluids and hence bring on thirst.

Sun Screen

If you have sensitive skin that easily burns in the sun, bring sun screen lotion.


Factoids on Sweating

  • The Body has 2 - 4 million sweat glands and most are lcoated on the bottom of your feet.
  • Women have more sweat glands than men, but men's sweat glands are more active.
  • It is commonly believed that people who sweat a lot are out of shape, but in fact the opposite is true.
  • Your sweat glands respond to exercise by becoming larger, allowing them to release more water and cool your body more effectively. This means as your fitness increases you sweat sooner and sweat

The human body is approximately 55 - 65 per cent fluid, and when some of this fluid is lost through sweat, it affects the cardiovascular system and the body's ability to control temperature. If these fluids are not replaced as they are lost there is a real danger of cramps, exhaustion or heat stroke.

Do not exercise strenuously when the temperature is over 32 degrees Celsius or the humidity is over 75 per cent. It is especially important not to work hard when both the temperature and humidity are high. Your body cools off through perspiration. When humidity levels are high, sweat does not evaporate as quickly and your body's temperature can reach dangerous levels.

Stop exercising if you feel dizzy, faint and/or nauseous. These conditions may be signs of heat exhaustion, which occurs when stress from heat begins to overpower your body's ability to regulate its temperature.

Heat Stress: Heat stress is defined as an illness, which occurs if body temperature becomes too high. The spectrum of disorders related to heat stress includes heat cramps, which are relatively mild, heat exhaustion which is more severe, and heat stroke which is life threatening.

Dehydration: Look for Body Signals

The effects of dehydration, or loss of body water, are progressive: thirst, then fatigue, next weakness, followed by delirium, and finally death. Although you need to pay attention to the signals of water loss, all these steps won't happen over the course of a single day.

Loss of Body Water by Total Body Weight Progressive Effects of Dehydration
(partial list)
0 to 1% thirst
2 to 5% dry mouth, flushed skin, fatigue, headache, impaired physical performance
6% increased body temperature, breathing rate, and pulse rate
8% dizziness, increased weakness, laboured breathing with exercise
10% muscle spasms, swollen tongue, delirium, wakefulness
11% poor blood circulation, failing kidney function

Signs & symptoms : Signs and symptoms of heat stress illness which can occur alone or in combination include:

  • headache
  • nausea
  • hot / dry skin
  • tingling in extremities
  • malaise (a general sense of feeling unwell)
  • pallor (paleness or loss of colour to the skin)
  • lack of coordination (increasing difficulty making one’s arms and legs work smoothly or properly)
  • confusion and aggression

Note: Lack of thirst is not a reliable sign of heat stress. Exercise dulls your thirst sensation. Your body's drive to drink is not nearly as powerful as its drive to eat, and the thirst mechanism is even less powerful during exercise. The body's thirst mechanism is only triggered when it is partly dehydrated.

First aid treatment : Anyone suspected of suffering from heat stress illness requires the following first aid measures carried out immediately.

  • cease all activity
  • remove to shade
  • remove all unnecessary clothing
  • place in prone position with feet elevated
  • encourage drinking water if conscious
  • sprinkle water on body
  • fan with shirt or other suitable item.

Water sources:

Are You Eating Your Water?
While drinks — plain water and other beverages — supply a good portion of your water needs, solid food also provides a surprising amount.

% Water
by Weight

% Water
by Weight
Lettuce (½ cup) 95
Kidney beans, boiled (½ cup) 67
Watermelon (½ cup) 92
Pasta, cooked (½ cup) 66
Broccoli (½ cup) 91
Chicken, roasted, no skin (3 oz.) 65
Grapefruit (½) 91
Beef, lean, roasted (3 oz.) 64
Milk (1 cup) 89
Cheddar cheese (1 oz.) 37
Orange juice (3/4 cup) 88
Whole wheat bread (1 slice) 38
Carrot (½ cup) 87
Bagel (½) 29
Apple (1 medium) 84
Honey (1 tablespoon) 17
Cottage cheese, low-fat (½ cup) 79
Butter or margarine (1 tablespoon) 16
Yogurt (1 cup) 75
Raisins (1/3 cup) 15
Potato, baked w/skin (1 medium) 71
Pecans, dried (2 tablespoons) 5
Tuna, canned, drained (3 oz.) 70
Vegatable oil (1 tablespoon) 0
Rice, cooked (½ cup) 69

Source: Calculated from Bowes & Church's Food Values of Portions Commonly Used, 16th Edition, Jean A. T. Pennington, Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company.
(Top banner photo: Overlooking Little Cub Bay, Bark Lake, from viewpoint on Eagles trail.)

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