Ten Tips for Avoiding Heat Stroke While Hiking in Phoenix


Firefighters have rescued 10 people from Camelback Mountain because of heat-related illness since Friday, and even more from other local hiking trails in the last two weeks.

Not all 10 on Camelback needed rescuing, (read full details on our previous post today), but several of the hikers looked to be suffering from heat exhaustion. One 13-year-old boy from Missouri was hospitalized after he ran out of sweat and doubled over with cramps.

You don't want that to happen to you or your family members -- and you sure as heck don't want TV cameras in your face, broadcasting your wimpiness to the world.

So with the grip of summer heat still weeks from breaking, and in the interest of preventing more injuries (and more expenditure of taxpayer-funded resources), we offer these tips for people venturing out:

1. Go early or late, when the sun's rays aren't slamming into the top of your head. That being said: If you go early, try to finish early. And if you go late, think about taking a flashlight.

2 .Wear a long-sleeve shirt. We never do that because it's uncomfortable. But it keeps the strong sunlight off your skin and the trapped sweat near your skin, which keeps you cooler. When the air is dry, we sometimes will soak our shirt in the drinking fountain at the base of Echo Canyon before going up.

3. Wearing a hat is crucial, especially in direct sunlight. Wide-brimmed, floppy hats are the best. You'll be less likely to succumb to heat exhaustion, but the goofy thing may also prevent you picking up on that nubile, young hiker you've been eyeing.

4. Pack a water bottle with ice (and a little water) before you head up. Even if the ice melts before you summit, the cool water helps bring down your body temperature and improves your morale. Bring more than enough water, in general, and don't wait to drink it.

5. Acclimate. Start hiking early in the summer season and keep it up. That'll train your sweat glands to work harder and ensure your fitness level doesn't plummet. Just before the hike, we'll occasionally turn off the air conditioner in our car so the difference in air temperature when we arrive at the trailhead doesn't feel as dramatic.

6. Don't drag your pets or children up a mountain when it's this hot, (unless you know they can do it). Kids don't regulate their body temperatures as well as adults.

7. Like a Himalayan mountaineer, consider keeping to a turn-around time. Two of the three groups rescued since Friday had been on a Camelback trail for five hours. If you're not in shape, the mercury is soaring above 100, and you've been ascending for two hours, you may already be in trouble.

8. Stay inside and play Wii Fit Plus summer. As long as the power stays on, you'll be fine.

9. Stick to the mist-spewing faux-avenues of a place like Tempe Marketplace or Biltmore Fashion Park. You could still keel over from the heat while walking from the parking lot, but it will be less expensive to rescue you there.

10. Don't be from out of town. Y'all think you know what heat is, but you don't.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.