Sun Protection For Hikers

. . . The Sun Has Got His Hat On . . . Have You

“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow.” -
Helen Keller

Back packers and hikers need adequate protection from the sun. You don’t always realize the potential damage it can cause, but if you’re out hiking in the sunshine you certainly need to think about sun screens, lotions, potions and sun hats to keep you safe . . . especially if you are hiking at high altitudes . . . you’re even closer to the sun you see.


Harmful UVA and UVB rays are . . . well, they’re harmful, and you should protect yourself and your family from them at all times, especially when you’re hiking out in the open all day long. Just because you’re not lying on a beach in your bikini it doesn’t mean that you don’t need to protect yourself from the harmful effects of the sun. The sun is very powerful, more powerful than the wind or the rain, I know that they can cause enough problems but that’s really a bi-product of what they do, the sun can harm you all by itself! A nice sunny morning really does cheer us and help us to look forward to a great days hiking . . . but be prepared.

There, I bet that’s cheered you up already, no matter what the weather is doing outside!

How Hikers Should Use Sunscreen – Slap It On

Hikers need to apply lashings of sunscreen, and I’ll tell you why:

Sunscreen –  should be used on all hikers and children above the age of 6 months . . . any babies which have not yet reached such a milestone age should be shielded from the sun at all times (how about a baby carrying back pack with a sunshade, that’s a great idea). Actually, if I were you I wouldn’t take a young baby out for too long a hike anyway, just an hour or two should be sufficient for all concerned.

Hikers can use their adult sunscreen on the kids, the formulas are actually very similar for both adult and childrens suncreens.

Suncreen Factors – if hiking at high altitudes you need to use a sunscreen of at least UPF 50, that’s if you’re gonna be hiking higher than 9,000 feet, or are very close to the equator. SPF 30 is regarded to be satisfactory for other hiking expeditions.

Slap on your Suncreen generously – one common mistake which hikers and backpackers make is by being a little stingey with their sunscreen, slap on a generous amount regularly, at least 1 ounce. Go on, don’t be scared . . . .

Slap on your Suncreen everywhere – don ‘t forget those awkward little places . . . behind your knees, the top of your ears, the back of your hands, and if you’re hiking in sandals don’t forget to put sunscreen on the top of your feet.

Slap on your Suncreen in good time – experts say (have you ever actually met a sunscreen expert . . . no? . . . neither have I), anyway, experts say that you really ought to apply your sunscreen at least 30 minutes before you are exposed at the start of your hike, and then slapping it on again at 2 hour intervals . . . more if you’ve been in the water.

Hikers and UV Rays

Sunshine contains both UVA and UVB rays . . . both potentially harmful for hikers and backpackers. So what’s the difference? There’s an easy way to remember (although you need protection from both while hiking anyway):

UVA – A is for Aging . . . UVA rays give you wrinkles! One thing which many hikers might not realize is that UVA rays can even pass through glass.

UVB – B is for Burns . . . UVB rays are the ones that give you sunburn and can cause lots of discomfort. These, however, cannot pass through glass, but can still cause lots of damage, potentially even skin cancer, especially if you’re hiking between the hours of 10am and 4pm . . . and let’s face it, an awful lot of hiking goes on between those hours.

Seek Shade Whilst Hiking . . . And Wear a Hat

Hats are a hikers friend, no, really, whether it’s a peaked cap, a sun-hat or a knotted handerchief, protecting the top of your head (and face and neck) from the sun really is worthwhile. Okay, so you might get “hat hair”, it’s better than sunstroke . . . believe me!

Hikers and back packers can learn a lot from my dog . . . whenever we go for a romp in the mountains she sets off like a lunatic in hot pursuit of invisible cats (not that part), but pretty soon, especially if it’s hot and sunny, she finds a nice cool bit of shade for a rest beneath any trees or rocks she can find. I know that hiking in the shade isn’t always possible, but it often is possible to find a shaded area when you stop for a break . . . a drink, a bite to eat or just to catch your breath for a minute or two after a particularly strenuous section of hiking trail. It’s also a good idea to wear long pants and sleeves to protect yourself from the sunshine . . . I know that hiking is a hot business in the sunshine, but long cotton or linen sleeves or pants can really help without raising your core temperature . . . try it!