Summer is here. But heat does not need to slow you down.
Heat is among the hardest of adversaries in the outdoors. Hot weather can sap performance, wear you down, and, in extreme cases, the heat can kill.
We spoke with Chris Kostman, race director at AdventureCORPS, the organization that puts on the Badwater 135 through Death Valley. Few people know the consequences of heat — and how to mitigate its effects — better than Kostman.
On race day this year, it could be 120 degrees F during his STYR Labs Badwater 135 event. Kostman has tips for extreme racers, or anyone who wants to get outdoors when the temps creep high.
1) Get wet. Evaporative cooling works wonders, and Kostman recommends you spray your clothes with water before a run or hot hike. An easy hack: Run through your neighbor’s sprinklers along the way.
2) Mist in-hand? It may seem dainty, but Badwater racers (and others who run in extreme temps) sometimes carry a small water-bottle sprayer. Fill the bottle with ice water, and you’ll have a portable cooling unit in-hand to spray your face and head as you go.
3) Bandana trick. Ultra-runners know this one. When temps climb, tie a bandanna (or long tube sock) filled with ice cubes around your neck. It seeps icy water and can keep you cool in extreme temps.
4) Hat hack. A simple trick, many hikers/runners in the heat will put a baggy full of ice inside their hat.
5) Long sleeves. It may seem strange, but most Badwater participants dress in long sleeves and pants. It keeps the sun off and is often cooler than shorts. Our tip: Wear white, loose-fitting clothing. Cover your arms and legs to protect from direct sun (and allow air to circulate inside).
6) Water, and… On longer runs, don’t drink only water as that flushes the electrolytes from your bloodstream, which can be dangerous; imbibe a sports drink, too.
7) Happy feet. Keep your socks and feet dry; soggy feet blister quickly. Wear shoes with breathable mesh; keep your socks thin and low on the ankle.
8) Hydration in-hand. Carry hand-held water bottles and/or wear a hydration pack. You need the fluid in the heat.
Our GearJunkie editors also train hard in the summer for ultra-marathons and mountaineering trips. Here are a few ideas from our in-house team.
9) Buy a headlamp. There’s no rule that you need to train in the daytime. When summer temps soar, hit the trail late (or early) to make the most of dusk and dawn.
10) Aqua routes. Plan your training accordingly by choosing trails or routes that follow rivers, cross streams, or skirt lakes. Then, take time to immerse yourself during workouts — jump in!
11) Cooling shirts (they work!). Wear clothing with light colors that help cool your body. Polartec Delta is leading the charge. The material works by harnessing perspiration in the fabric next to skin to prevent flash-drying. It maximizes the body’s natural evaporative cooling process.
Polartec knits hydrophobic and hydrophilic fibers together, and the result disperses moisture, increases airflow, and (unlike wet cotton) reduces friction against the skin when you move.
12) Know when to take a knee. Hot weather is no time for heroics. When temps skyrocket, it’s smart, not lazy, to skip or shorten outdoor workouts. Recognize the signs of heat stroke: throbbing headaches, lack of sweat when hot, light-headedness, and red, hot, dry skin. Take it seriously.
Follow these tips and stay cool. It’s a scorcher out there.