Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Hiking With The Ten Essentials, #2: Sun Protection

Hiking With The Ten Essentials: sunscreen, hat

We all love the sun, given it is basically the sole energy source for life on Earth, including we clever humans. Too much direct exposure to the beautiful burning orb, however, can lead to severe burns, extreme fatigue, heat strokes, quickened dehydration, and, in extreme situations, death due to a combination of the above. So, love the sun, but fear the sun. Be smart and use your common sense. If you’re hiking a wooded trail in January on an overcast day, the stakes are a little lower than hiking a National Coastline in late July. With that in mind, here are the basics you need, depending on the severity of your exposure.

Honestly, I wear a pretty serious prescription lens and almost never wear sunglasses. That is ONLY because I don’t spend a huge amount of time in harsh sunlight, and my lenses have a UV coating. I probably should wear shades more often, though. Things to consider with sunglasses are weight, lens type (wraparounds can keep out wind and peripheral sun, for instance), and durability. Get a strap, too, to keep them on when bending over, hopping creeks, etc. (Search the overly technical "eyeglasses retainer" if shopping online - this seems to be the standard jargon.) If you’re spending a lot of time in creeks or rivers, you might want to consider polarized lenses, which reduce the harsh glare that can occur from reflections on water. You’ll be glad to have them when you want to see that snake before you surprise it or that trout you’re hoping to hook.

Most suggest getting a sunscreen with a SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 30. You might consider how water resistant given what activities you might be doing. Even if you're nowhere near water, sweat can wash away less water resistant varieties. With sunscreen, more is more. More SPF, more quantity when applying, and more frequent applications are what will keep you from getting burned or looking like a leather sack later in life. You should also consider sun blocking lip balms under heavy exposure hikes.

Usually, the best sunscreen is an actual piece of fabric or a hat. While I rarely wear sunglasses, I almost always where a hat which both shields my eyes (if it has a brim) and covers my bald head. (Baldies should ALWAYS were hats in the sun.) Lightweight, breathable clothing should be worn, at least at times, to reduce skin’s direct exposure to sunlight in harsh exposure situations. Even in the dead heat of summer, a breezy, lightweight LONG sleeved shirt might be in order if you’re hiking a desert, beach, or other extreme solar situation.

Protect your skin. Go ahead a place a small tube of sunscreen in your toiletry kit for those summer days when you’re packing quick for an impromptu adventure.

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