How hot is too hot? When heatwaves make travel dangerous


In places where deadly heat is all but certain to occur, there’s often more infrastructure available to help tourists navigate the environment. Grand Canyon National Park is no stranger to tourists who think they can outsmart the heat, and wind up needing costly or dangerous rescues. The Grand Canyon rim is at altitude, so it’s significantly cooler than the canyon floor. People often fail to take this into account when they hike down in the morning and need to start their return climb at the hottest part of the day.

Earlier this year, Grand Canyon National Park debuted a short video with heat safety tips to prevent these search-and-rescue efforts. Their tips offer sage advice for all hot weather traveling: Take more water than you think you need, and drink it regularly. Bring salty snacks to make up for all the salt you sweat out. Rest in shady places, and douse yourself and your clothes with water whenever possible to take advantage of nature’s own air conditioning. And avoid hiking (or being generally active) during peak daylight hours, when the sun is strongest. Oh, and, of course, wear a lot of sunscreen.

Heatwaves are often predicted weeks ahead of time, so try to stay on top of news in your destination long before you set off. Aside from checking weather forecasts, check local news, government warnings, and visitor center websites and social media accounts. Familiarize yourself with the signs of heat exhaustion, and have a plan for both escaping the heat and your contact in case of emergency.

It’s important to know your limits, too, and not push them too far. If you don’t have experience hiking in desert climates or suffocating humidity, climbing a mountain alone in 100-degree temperatures probably isn’t the best idea. Same goes for music festivals or spending hours standing in line for the Acropolis under direct sun (Athens recently closed the site during peak daylight to mitigate heat exhaustion risks).

Ultimately, it’s a personal decision. But considering the dangers, the best thing we can do as travelers is be vigilant and aware of the risks.



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