How to Deal with a Heatwave on a Long-distance Hike

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My feet are dangling in the water as I’m sitting on a dead tree trunk that lies stretched out in the water. The trunk lies right before a bend in the Roer Stream, in the Netherlands. During our 500K long-distance hike in the Netherlands we got caught in a heatwave and jump in water as often as possible.

The sun is behind me and filtering through the leaves of the vegetation on the shore, providing me with the perfect balance of not getting too cold nor hot. In the distance I see a canoe coming my way. I slide back into the water, after all I’m not wearing a bathing suit as I didn’t bring one with me on the hike. I wouldn’t want to shock people on a peaceful canoe trip with a (50-year old) naked woman on a dead tree trunk, after all.

Read More: Long-Distance Hiking Gear List

Deal with heatwave - go for a swim
Dawn in the Netherlands

I join Coen near the sandbank, where our packs and clothes are. We linger in the cold water until the canoes have passed, enjoying how the newbies are struggling with the strong stream in the bendof the stream , and climb out of the water to get dressed, eat our sandwich and brew a Turkish coffee.

Our bodies are cold now, exactly what we need on this scorching hot day and our 22-kilometers hiking stage for today. A heatwave is hitting the southern part of the Netherlands. Our country is not being known for having a particularly hot climate, a week or so of 30+ degrees is considered a heatwave. Today, 34 Celsius. Tomorrow, 38 degrees Celsius (93,2F / 100F).

How to continue our long-distance hike, the 500K Pieterpad, without succumbing to a heatstroke?

Deal with heatwave - keep your feet cool
Deal with heatwave - hike early in the morning

Tips on how to deal with a heatwave on a hike:

1- When to Walk

  • Start walking at dawn or right after sunrise.
  • Use the coolest hours to cover good distance. Take or make a breakfast that doesn’t require much of your precious time in the morning (or get up before dawn to prepare your oatmeal). While normally eating oatmeal, on these hot days we may now bring a sandwich or ‘kruidkoek’ to snack away as we walk.Stay home for the day.

2- Enjoy All the Water you Can Find

  • The obvious: take more water than usual. A Platypus hydration bladder can carry up to 3 liters. Check your map to see where you can refill your water bottles if need be.
  • Carry a pocket-sized water filter so you don’t depend on tap water but can fill up from streams or other water sources.
  • Check your map and find water spots. Going for a swim, multiple times a day if need me, are great for your body but also mental boosters. Even if you can’t go in for a swim, dangling your feet in cool water works wonders.

Carry enough Water

(click on the images to learn more)

Platypus Hydration Bag

Water Bottle

MSR Water Filter

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Deal with heatwave - laze in a hammock
dawn in the Netherlands

3- Take a Siesta

  • Walk in the morning, but rest in the afternoon. Find a park, anything with trees/shade. Hang a hammock (we carry one weighing as little as 180 grams). Take a nap, read, jot down notes, relax. Perfect situation: water AND shade.
  • We prepare dinner, or buy something if a town is on our path, around 6 pm. And only start seriously hiking again after 7 pm. The evening hours are glorious, even more so in Dutch summers because it doesn’t get dark until 10 pm or later.
  • Arrive at your campsite, paid accommodation or pitch your tent around 10 pm. Enjoy an early night in and next day, repeat.

4- Cool-keeping Clothes & Gear

  • Put a cooling-down type of towel in your neck, to soak your sweat, or better, make it wet and put it in your neck to help keep you cool. There are different types, like this one, or this one.
  • Walk with a sun-reflecting umbrella.
  • Wear a sun hat.
  • Make your shirt wet.

Gear to Deal with a Heatwave

(click on the images to learn more)

Sun Hat

Cooling Towel

Sun-reflecting Umbrella

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The Netherlands was quite convenient to end up hiking in a heatwave for a week of so. The Pieterpad passes and crosses plenty of rivers, lakes, canals and streams, as well as forestry parts where we could hang the hammock.

The deserts of Israel and Jordan required the tactic of walking even before dawn if it was too hot and carrying way more water than usual. On the rough surface and climbing on rocks we needed our hiking poles so walking with an umbrella was no option.

Each hike has its advantages and disadvantages. The strategy is to make the best of what’s available.

What are your tips to deal with a heatwave during a hike?

Read More: Hiking the 650K Jordan Trail

Forest in the Netherland
Deal with heatwave - go for a swim

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