Friday, August 7, 2015

Just Cool It

Credit: Google images.
The seldom used, but very effective, neck gaiter.

With the mercury hitting 105 F), and indices reaching 115 or more, being hot becomes not just an issue of comfort, but an issue of survival.   Heat exhaustion or stroke can be fatal in pretty short order, or can cause organ damage or failure, especially in babies or young children, people over the age of 65, those with pre-existing conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, or lung disease, pregnant or nursing mothers, or people on medications that make them more susceptible to sun and heat problems.  The problems become even more dangerous if you are engaged in strenuous exercise, like paddling.  Here are some tips on how to beat the heat.

1.      Go easy and take frequent breaks.
2.      While stopped, take a swim or soak for a while to lower body temperature, as well as invigorate yourself.
3.      Wear loose, light colored clothing.  Wear synthetics, especially those with an SPF rating, since they evaporate sweat faster, creating a greater cooling effect.  Avoid cotton clothing, period.
4.      Cover the body---long trousers, sleeves, wide-brimmed hat, shield the face, such as with a light, synthetic balaclava or neck gaiter.  These and the hat can be frequently pulled off quickly, dipped in the water, and put back on to enhance cooling.  You can also dip a hand towel in the water and wrap it around your neck.
5.      Plenty of sunscreen.  Your skin is a once-in-a-lifetime gift.  If you abuse it, you will lose it later in life and regret it when it’s too late.
6.      Perhaps schedule activity for cooler times, like putting in earlier, taking a nap or rest during the day, take out later, or even paddle at night when river hazards are not a risk.
7.      Eat fruits high in water content for snacks.  Eat lighter meals.
8.      Drink a lot of water, every 15 minutes whether you are thirsty or not, or a glass of water every half-hour.  If you are not peeing, you are dehydrated.  Make the water more pleasant, encouraging consumption, by flavoring or using athletic drinks for some fluid consumption.  Add salt occasionally to replace the minerals being lost through sweat.  Sports drinks like Gatorade are a help with this, and for cutting weight in your gear and minimizing waste, use Gatorade powder in your own water rather than carrying bottled liquids. 
9.      Hydrate before you start out.
10.   Avoid diuretics, like coffee and alcoholic beverages.
11.   Camp in the shade, but still in the open rather than in dense woods or vegetation, and closer to water.  Leave the fly off the tent if the weather will permit, or sleep under just a tarp, or use the tarp over the tent to shield it from the heat of the sun.  Sleep in a hammock.  Use a battery-powered fan in the tent.  Place a space blanket or ground cover between the ground and the tent.  There is a recommendation for removing several inches of earth to place the tent on cooler ground.  I don’t know about this.  The space blanket has much more merit, plus you won’t make a hole that will fill with water when the thunderstorm comes through.
12.   As uncomfortable as it may be, sweating is good.  It is nature’s way of cooling your body.  If you stop sweating, your skin or face is red, you have a quick pulse, are dizzy or have a headache, become nauseous, feel exhausted or lethargic, can determine that your body temperature has elevated, you are going into heat exhaustion and are IN TROUBLE NOW.  Get out of the sun, wet yourself down, drink more fluids or sports drinks (especially if you have access to cold drinks), relax, but leave the beer alone.
13.   Postpone the trip until September or change your latitude.

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