As I plan my PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) hike I stumbled across an article which talked about using sunscreen for Thru-Hikers. The research sent me down a rabbit hole of discovery which I thought I would share with you all.
Overall, most hikers who walk in the heat will receive the best protection from the sun by simply “covering up”. Suggestions such as:-
- A long-sleeved shirt that is breathable, or a sun hoody is one of the best ways to go. If you are purchasing a sun hoody then avoid 100% polyester as they tend to et very stinky quite quickly.
- Long, but lightweight trousers.
- A sun umbrella. You can purchase special “silver” lightweight trekking umbrellas which can reduce heat by up to 20°.
- One study showed the use of a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or higher is the most effective.
- The Sun’s rays are strongest between 10 AM and 2 PM. Hikers who are walking trails like the PCT will often start early in the morning (4/5am) and then have a siesta in the afternoon. They will then start hiking in the late afternoon and finally set up camp in the evening.
- When hiking on snow or even sand, the sun reflects from the ground. This increases your chances of getting a sunburn. I hadn’t considered the possibility of getting sunburn from the ground!
- Don’t forget to apply sunscreen to your neck and ears! Those areas are often forgotten.
- Protect your lips with lip balm with an SPF of 30 or higher. Also have lip balm and sunscreen in a hip belt pocket or bum bag (fanny pack) so that it is close to hand. If you have to dig into your backpack to apply sunscreen etc then it is highly unlikely to be applied on a regular basis.
- Reapply sunscreen about every two hours or according to the directions on the bottle.
- Carry enough sunscreen so you don’t run out on your hike.
If you are planning a hiking trip where you will be walking in the heat, then I hope you find these tips helpful.