Being outdoors working up a sweat in the heat has its good and bad sides – Carl Hård af Segerstad knows. As Brand Event Manager, he has a lot of experience of trekking in different parts of the world. Not in the least due to the trekking event Fjällräven Classic, which has expanded from its origins in the Scandinavian wilderness to significantly warmer parts of the world, such as Hong Kong.
“Hong Kong is right on the border of the tropics, and trekking there is hot and humid. Trekking can feel a lot harder if you aren’t used to the heat,” says Carl.
He calls himself, with a tiny touch of shame, one of those people who ‘sweats like a roasting piglet’ when he is out in the heat – so if anyone knows any good tricks that can make trekking in the heat easier, it should be him. “I usually have a top that I trek in and then another that I can change into afterwards. Sometimes I even have an extra one I can change into along the way as well. When my top gets so wet it is dripping onto my trousers, it’s nice to change it.”
At about the same pace as Fjällräven has moved into markets all over the world, the company’s development of new fabrics for warm climates has made significant advances. Lighter, airier fabrics such as G-1000 Air, in combination with smart ventilation solutions like those in Keb Trousers, are just two examples of garments and innovations that make trekking in the heat a little easier. Because we have to wear clothes, even if we aren’t going to freeze.
“Clothing protects our bodies from, among other things, the sun’s rays. Sunscreen runs off you when you sweat. But the right clothing will give you good protection,” says Carl.
Another thing to think about when you are trekking in the heat is that we lose a lot of fluid through sweating, so we have to drink a lot to replace it. A basic tip is to drink regularly, and start drinking early on. Make sure you are drinking enough by keeping an eye on your bladder. If you are peeing regularly and your pee is a normal colour, then all is well. If you don’t need to pee or your pee is dark and smells strong, you are on your way to becoming dehydrated. Even not needing to move your bowels can be a sign of dehydration.
“If it is a really hot, dry heat, you mightn’t always notice how much you are sweating as it dries so fast on your skin. So you mightn’t realise how much fluid you are losing,” says Carl.
Treks lasting several days require good access to water. Carl always carries some kind of water filter with him so he can drink from streams, even if he isn’t sure how good the water quality is. But it is also good to replace lost electrolytes through sports drinks and rehydration tablets, so lost salts and minerals the body needs are replaced.
“You have to carry a little more when you need a lot of water. On our Classic events, we make sure there is water available along the way, and if there are sections where you can’t refill your supplies, we tell people about them beforehand. Anytime you are going trekking, work out where water is available so you know how much you need for each section.”
Protection from the sun and rain
In tropical climates, shell garments aren’t much use as heat and moisture that come from the outside can get inside – so we can leave our shell jacket at home. If you are in the rain in a hot climate, a rain poncho is a much better idea. Or why not an umbrella?
“Taking an umbrella might sound like a weird suggestion, but an umbrella is perfect when it’s pouring down, and it also provides great sun protection. There isn’t much difference between an umbrella and a parasol,” says Carl.
He names the Classic events in USA and China as two places with similar conditions. These treks go up to 3,000 metres above sea level, where the sun is really strong. If you are doing the Classic in China in July, when the sun is at its strongest, you will definitely need sun protection. And even if the Colorado event takes place in the late summer, the temperature can easily reach 30 degrees Celcius in exposed places. It’s hot and sweaty for sure – even a sunny day in June when Classic Denmark is held can be a really hot experience.
“I would definitely wear a cap, sunglasses and a neck gaiter to protect my neck as well. And if you are someone who sweats a lot, it’s a good idea to attach a small towel to the front of your backpack so you can dry your face.”
Grow with the experience
Depending on how we are made, a long hike can lead to chafing between the thighs, or under the arms where your upper arms rub against your abdomen. And the risk of this increases when it is hot and humid.
“If you are prone to chafing, there are two ways you can go – either wear tight, fitting clothing, or loose airy clothing. Your backpack’s hip belt and shoulder straps can easily lead to chafing if they are damp. Keep an eye on things and adjust them as soon as you feel even an inkling of discomfort. No equipment is better than the way it is used .”
Today there are all sorts of talc and body glide products that can be used on the body to reduce the risk of chafing. But if you are someone who does have problems, it is hard to protect yourself completely. Just like you can’t count on trekking without sweating at all or staying dry in a tropical downpour.
In these cases, it is good to just take in the elements and hopefully enjoy the experience. With the knowledge that you can change into something clean and dry when the trek is over.
“Don’t expect to be able to say as fresh as a flower the whole time. Getting a bit dirty and sweaty is just part of it, and I think it’s really important to get out of your comfort zone sometimes. You learn more about yourself and it’s usually only for a little while anyway. It’s something you can make use of in other parts of your life as well,” says Carl.
Text: Karin Wallén
Photos: Lloyd Belcher