Hiking In The Perth Heat
The Perth hiking season tends to be between weather patterns than dates. We stop when it gets too hot early December and we start hiking again Mid March when it cools down.
During the summer if there is a glimpse of a cooler day, many Perth hikers will be very responsive and hike to it.
Hiking is about responsibility to the environment around you, others and yourself and during Summer multiply that by 10.
Summer may be one of the best personal opportunities to hike. That’s when most of us take time off work and relax.
I’m not into a blanket no hiking rule over summer, that just breeds ignorance. Get educated and take responsibility and action it. It requires all three.
You can still hike in a Perth summer with some considerations; everything below is actions that will only make you a smarter hiker which is what we all want.
Most people who get themselves into trouble on a trail is due to lack of planning, it’s so easy to forget something.
Create your own list and tick it off, don’t become complacent.
When I started hiking again after many years away, it was a game. It was fun until I was in trouble. Nothing serious but enough to give me the jolt I needed.
Plan your hike
Planning my hike is now one of the most enjoyable parts of the hike. In summer you will enjoy your hike a lot more if it is in the shade. Choose a trail that has plenty of cover like around Dwellingup rather than John Forrest National Park. Dwellingup has several suitable trails from Nanga Mill campsite, fees apply to enter.
Planning is all about research, never think that you know enough, your research never ends. One of the last things I do is get online and check weather conditions. Western Australian Emergency Services for current fires, Parks and Wildlife for track closures and diversions. The Bibbulmun Track Foundation site if it’s on the Bibb. It is not intended to sound patronizing but I have chosen to not simply provide the links because it’s about taking the responsibility to do your own research!
Writing this I visited no less than half a dozen websites about hiking in the heat.
Early morning hiking is a summer option, it is simply magical. Watching the light rise over a hill or through the canopy of Jarrah. Listening to birds greet each other good morning. Catching kangaroos looking for breakfast, enjoying the coolness of the morning.
While researching sites on hiking in the heat, some articles still suggested it was ok to have a campfire as long as you managed it. No, it is not! This does not come from me but emergency services and Parks and Wildlife.
I’m not going to tell you not to light a fire simply because it’s against the law, because many of us still speed 5km over the limit even though there is a law telling us not to. But in the bush, the smallest choice can have severe consequences.
Exercise: Next time you are in the bush on a hot day, get down on your hands and knees, be present, practise mindfulness and feel what is on the ground. It’s a combination of very dry leaves, twigs, branches. Then close your eyes and imagine a flame or cigarette, its scary imagining being stuck in a forest fire.
I purchase the balance water simply for the bottle, they hold one litre, are strong and the perfect long narrow shape.
The more of your body you cover up from direct sunlight, the happier and more comfortable you will be. It is worth investing in quality hiking clothing. I said quality on expensive. It is all about breathable lightweight long sleeve tops and long pants which you can buy anywhere or buy from hiking stores during clearances. I receive daily emails from all my favourite outdoors stores with great specials.
When you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated!
I sweat a lot while hiking, so when I’m hiking in any heat I carry 4 litres of water per day. I drink 5oo ml’s before I start. I may not drink 4 litres, but I may need it.
This is when some of the ultralight hiking gear community whose aim it is to under kilo each other and not take responsibility should just keep their opinions to themselves.
I use a combination of a 3-litre water bladder which I blowback after each sip to prevent water in the tube from heating up. Then I have a litre water bottle with electrolytes/sports drink.
As well as drinking water, you need to replace the lost electrolytes. Bringing foods that offer you energy-filled complex carbohydrates like pasta, wholegrain bread, oats, green leafy veggies if you are doing multiple days or the day before a day hike.
If you plan to hike several hours, there are different ways of structuring your day. Leave at sunrise and reach your destination before lunch. You can have regular hourly stops under shade of trees. Many hike for a few hours followed by stopping for a couple of hours in a shady spot, take a nap or a swim if there is that option, then mid-afternoon continue to where you plan to finish or camp. I personally like all three options and will choose depending on the situation.
Summer brings out the snakes, they are one of the most feared elements of hiking in Summer. Be present, stay aware and remember snakes will not go out of their way to attack you unless you are potential food which you will never be or if it feels cornered.
Enjoy your summer hike, do your research, plan, take responsibility and you will enjoy it.