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Conditioning for Extreme Heat?
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Matthew Thomas
(caramelmarx) - F

Locale: Southern California
Conditioning for Extreme Heat? on 10/11/2010 15:38:05 MDT Print View

The past two times I have been backpacking were easily the worst I have ever had. On both trips I planned to hike a simple 13 mile section of the Backbone in the Santa Monica Mountains. But for some reason on both these weekends I decided to go out, the temperatures exploded into the high 90's or even the 100's (you may have heard about Los Angeles's record breaking day a few weeks ago, well I was hiking in that O.o)

So at this point I am kind of thinking that my body may not be suited for hiking or backpacking, and it is not in my destiny to be either one of these things. But is this true? Or can you train your body to deal with extreme temperatures? While hiking during these temps I can only hike about 2 or 3 miles (less if it is all uphill, or no amount of shade at all) and then I sit in some shady area and check my pulse. It's around 216 and it sure feels dangerous.

So anyway to get to the main question I have, what can I do to condition my body to deal with this heat? Or should I hang up the (very light) backpack for good?

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: Conditioning for Extreme Heat? on 10/11/2010 16:27:08 MDT Print View

Hi Matthew,

From what I can tell, only consistent heat exposure can develop heat tolerance. By July each year I've acclimated to the summer and can cycle, hike, etc. in 100+ temperatures, whereas the earlier season heatwaves knock me flat. The flip side is when camping at 10k feet, cold can feel COLD.

I suspect most healthy people can indeed develop heat tolerance by building up to it. If you're lucky enough to live on the foggy coast you're going to get hammered backpacking up a sunny mountain in 95-degree heat. But if you live inland, try to get out in the heat regularly enough that your body can get used to it. Regardless, it's good to hike early and late when its hot, rest in the middle of the day, and work hard at staying hydrated.

Good luck!


Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Conditioning for Extreme Heat? on 10/11/2010 17:08:08 MDT Print View

It is more of an acclimation issue, than conditioning. When I first moved to the desert I suffered the first year. Now I can hike or work outdoors in the heat of the summer. But hiking in 110F + is no fun. If I have plenty of water I can do it easily, but most people cannot. On the flip side, I do poorly in cold weather, but do not have to give it up.

Most important is to rest when it is hottest (11 am til around 3 pm or 4). Try to stay out of the sun in the heat of the day. Stay hydrated, and wear clothing to minimize evaporation.. long sleeve shirts and a WIDE BRIM hat. Last but not least, there is little margin for error in the heat. If you get dehydrated you can actually die in a single day.

Adan Lopez
(Lopez) - F

Locale: San Gabriel Valley
Challenges on 10/11/2010 17:26:59 MDT Print View

Please dont quit. I'm sure you dont hike because its easy. Heat is a challenge. learn the skills to deal with it, overcome it, and you will grow as a hiker and as a person. it happens to all of us, you can do it.

Ed Schmidt
(suttree) - F

Locale: ON, CANADA
Heat Training on 10/11/2010 17:56:24 MDT Print View

I'm told ultra-runners preparing for Badwater regularly practice Hatha (hot) Yoga to acclimate. I have no personal experience, but see the Badwater website for an interesting series of articles on Heat Training.

Matt Lutz
(citystuckhiker) - F

Locale: Midwest
Re: Heat Training on 10/11/2010 17:57:16 MDT Print View

Ed beat me to the Badwater mention.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Conditioning for Extreme Heat? on 10/11/2010 18:19:14 MDT Print View

I personally would cancel if it got that hot--even if I could take it, it would definitely kill my dog!

A viable alternative is to get on the trail at the first glimmer of dawn, hike until about 11 am, hole up somewhere in the shade for the rest of the day and hike a few more miles after sunset. I've done this quite a bit during hot spells in the Pacific Northwest, where even up in the mountains the daytime highs are well up in the 90s. Up here in the Pacific NW we of course have longer dawn and twilight, which helps. Night hiking can be a pleasant option, too.