There’s nothing like summer hiking. The beautiful flowers, refreshing lakes, and long days are what dreams are made of. But summer hiking can be a nightmare filled with sunburns, over heating, and bugs without the proper preparation. After years of hiking we learned that certain pieces of gear and a few tips make all the difference to squeeze the most out of those long summer days on the trail.
Our favorite piece of gear for sunny, warm weather hikes is a sun hoodie. Hoodies are great because they are lightweight and offer sun protection without any work/reapplication like sun screen. Yes we still use sun screen, but a proper sun shirt offers all-day protection from the elements. Margaux loves this sun hoodie, Ash has a free fly, and the kids wear these sun hoodies almost exclusively. We love that the fabric is cool, easy to clean, and has a great size hood.
A good hat is worth it’s weight in gold. We’ve been using Sunday Afternoons hats for years. They last forever, offer great sun protection, and have so many fun styles. Both of the kids wear this hat. It’s easy to adjust, has a great quick release chin strap, offers great sun coverage, and folds down to fit in a pocket or pack.
There’s a lot of sunscreens on the market. We usually scan the Environmental Working Group’s sunscreen guide to make selections on the best sunscreens for kids. We go for zinc-based sunscreens like Badger, which has a large line of family-friendly sunscreens, plus Badger is biodegradable and reef safe. We also like Coola’s lip sunscreen and it rates well on the EWG system.
Hiking on a trail that has water is a great way to stay cool, and having shoes that the kids can hike right into the water in makes perfect sense. We love these Keens for the kids. They are made to go in the water, have an awesome rubber sole that gives great traction but is still flexible, and can be tossed in the washing machine.
This is pretty obvious one, but hiking either in the morning or evening is the best time to beat the heat. We prefer mornings because the weather is generally cooler than evenings, plus there’s more wildlife out to see too!
Aim for trails that have plenty of shade from either trees or even shadows in areas like canyons at the right time of day. Look for trails that feature water like rivers, lakes, or even the ocean. If you are local to San Diego we love Torrey Pines for ocean hikes and Mission Trails Regional Park for accessible water hikes close to the city. Higher elevation trails are great in the summer because they generally offer cooler temps. We often sneak away to the Mount Laguna Recreation area or the Sierras on weekends to get our mountain fix.
We couldn’t write a about summer without mentioning the importance of hydration. Making sure to pack enough water is critical. If we know we are going to hike on a trail that has a lake or river, we often pack our water filter to help reduce the need to carry tons of water. This is a great filter that is in expensive, light weight, and effective. Kids can get dehydrated quickly and if they are riding in a pack it’s easy to forget they need to hydrate too!
We also love soaking gear like a neck gator, hat, or even a hiking shirt with water can provide a great cooling effect.
Pre-treating gear with permethrin is incredibly helpful for managing bugs on the trail or in camp. We pretreat our clothing with permethrin, and then use DEET for skin that’s exposed. There’s a lot of options when selecting DEET, but keep in mind DEET greater than 30% does not offer any additional protection, and AAP recommends selecting DEET that contains no more than 30% for kids. Also, if you have a new baby, insect repellents are not recommended for children younger than 2 months. Check out the American Academy of Pediatrics article on bug repellents for more information.
Below is a link to our video outlining how we treat our gear with permethrin.