10 Essentials - Sun Protection and Insulation

10 Essentials – Sun Protection and Insulation

Hiking in the sun, hiking in the snow, hiking in the cold, hiking in the heat, there are a few different ways to hike. In this post lets look at insulation and sun protection, numbers 3 and 4 of the 10 essentials.

Sun Protection (3)

Sun protection, maybe a little counter-intuitively is just as, if not more important in snowy winter conditions than it is in summer.  When considering how to protect yourself from the sun, consider all of the parts of you that are going to be exposed to the sun.  Here is a quick rundown of the essentials:

  1. Sunglasses (preferably with polarized and UVA/UVB blocking lenses). These should be lightweight and fit comfortably.  Fashion glasses work in a pinch, but may be easier to knock off. Something similar to these is ideal.
  2. Clothing. It is a bit trickier as it needs to be appropriate for the type of weather you will be hiking in. In general, layers are good as they will allow you to regulate your temperature, but having layers which cover skin, especially in summer, can be difficult without the right gear.
  3. Sunscreen. Any skin which isn’t going to be covered by clothing which can block the sun will need have sunscreen applied to it on a regular basis.  This is needed year round, as even at a high elevation, in freezing cold weather, the sun reflecting off of snow can burn skin quickly.
  4. Lip balm/Chapstick. Don’t forget about your lips, they burn just as easily (if not more easily) than the rest of your skin.
  5. Hat with visor. This one is more optional than the others, but a hat with a good visor can save you a lot of eyestrain. I use a dry-fit baseball cap, but many people use a hat with a brim that extends all the way around.

If you make sure you cover these 5 bases every time you go hiking in the sun, your skin and eyes will be thanking you in future years.

Insulation (4)

The extra clothing you would bring with you on a hike will change considerably depending on when and where you will be hiking.  An evening hike in Griffith Park in June is a lot different from a multi-day trek in the High Sierras in January. The first rule is always carry layers. Being able to regulate your body temperature is critical to having a successful adventure, which means you need to be able to add and removing clothing as necessary in order help in doing that.

For winter specific advice, long underwear (moisture wicking of course), and a hat/balaclava is one of the best things you can bring.  As Freedom of the Hills puts it, “Ask this question: What is needed to survive the worst conditions that could realistically be encountered on this trip?” There is no need to bring a full down suit to a 3 mile waterfall hike, where the coldest temperature on record is 45ºF; on the flip side, you are going to want a lot more than 2 layers if you are doing a day hike at 12,000 feet in March, as if you get stuck you need to stay warm (and nights can get very cold).

This is post 3 of a multi-post series on the 10 essentials.  Please see the other posts:

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