As I prepare for my fourth Camino trip there is one thing on my mind, the heat. All of my previous Camino's have taken place in May or October when the Spanish sun is still hot, but quite comfortable. Even so, I still managed to get sunburnt and I also suffered from terrible nose cold sores which were caused by the heat. If you live in the UK then you will appreciate that we are not accustomed to hot, dry weather for long periods of time.
On my first Camino trip, I remember sitting in my bunk in Zubiri chatting to a young girl from Hawaii. She was wearing a thick puff jacket and two pairs of socks to keep warm. The Brits were in shorts and t-shirts!
Paranoia set in as I started planning for a hot July Camino
I became obsessed with Camino blogs about the heat. This led me to endless YouTube videos about hiking in the desert and the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail). I discovered lots of tips and advice which I will share with you today. I will not discuss the obvious tips about staying hydrated and adding sun cream. The following tips are a little more creative. I will write a blog upon my return to let you guys know how these tips worked out.
Tip #1 – Think of the time of day to hike
Avoid the hottest time of day: The hottest time of day is usually from 2 pm onwards. Most Spanish residents will take a “siesta” during these times, so it makes sense to best avoid this time altogether. My plan is to leave early in the morning (around 6.30am at the latest) and ending my days hike by early afternoon.
Tip #2 – Dress appropriately for hot weather hiking
Choose light colours: Wearing light colours that reflect the sun rather than absorb them (as dark colours can) helps keep you cool. I have purchased two Columbia shirts, one in white the other is a light aqua colour. My Craghopper trousers are grey and I have grey lightweight running shorts.
Wear loose, breathable clothing: Lightweight, loose-fitting clothing that breathes well will help your body regulate temperature. Nylon and polyester are good choices. My Columbia shirts are loose fitting and extremely breathable. They are also made with Omi-wick material, which means that the shirt wicks away moisture which helps with sweat build up, unlike cotton which soaks up the sweat (not nice).
Open vents: Some shirts, shorts and walking trousers that are designed for hiking incorporate air vents. Opening these up on a hot day helps improve airflow. The Columbia shirts have vents in the back, but I do not have vents with my Craghopper trousers (perhaps I should just walk around with my flies undone?).
Choose UPF-rated clothing: All clothing blocks the sun’s rays to a certain extent, but clothing that has a UPF rating is guaranteed to provide protection. The Columbia shirts have an Omni-shade(TM) rating of upf 40 sun protection. I hope that it works!
Neck gaiter & Sun Sleeves: It may seem counter-intuitive to put extra clothes on in hot weather, but the added coverage can provide necessary protection from UV rays. A lightweight long-sleeve shirt, sun sleeves and a neck gaiter can provide effective protection. The Columbia shirts have an extendable collar for additional protection. In addition, I have my buff, which I can use to protect my neck from the sun.
Cool your neck: Two of my nordic walker friends mentioned a neat little gadget called a Mission MultiCool (they were both talking about a product called a Cobbler, but I struggled to find one of these online). As I type, Amazon is shipping my new Mission MultiCool next warmer, so I will be posting a review about this product after my trip.
Wear the right socks: Traditionally I have always worn walking socks, however, they are thick and they make your feet hot and sweaty. I now have some Coolmax socks that you can wear as liners or just regular walking socks.
Tip #3 – Be Aware of Heat-Related Health Conditions
My research also took me down a rabbit warren of health-related conditions that hikers can endure when out on the Camino. Here are a few to think about:
- Heat cramps – Heat cramps are painful muscle contractions that can happen suddenly during exercise in hot weather. Listen to your body and stop and rest if you are suffering from heat cramps.
- Heat exhaustion – Heat exhaustion is your body’s inability to cope with the stress of heat. It can occur after lengthy exposure to high temperatures and is often accompanied by dehydration.
- Heat stroke – Heat stroke occurs when your body literally overheats. It is a serious medical condition that can strike fast and requires immediate medical attention. If you see a fellow Pilgrim displaying symptoms of heat exhaustion combined with a change in mental status, he or she may have heat stroke.
Tip #4 – Purchase a Trekking Umbrella
I purchased a trekking umbrella a few months ago and not only is it fantastic for the British rain, but its main purpose was to reflect the sun and allow me to have some shade during my July Camino hike. I walked the whole of the Cotswold Way with this umbrella which is attached to my rucksack and I did not notice the additional 8oz in weight. It is brilliant and I will never leave home without it.
Being sensible and listening to your body, as well as resting a lot, drinking a lot of water and keeping out of the sun as much as possible should help towards and enjoyable hike across Spain. I am keen to learn more, so if you have any tips about walking in the hot sun then please share!