Most of us love being outdoors when the weather is glorious, but there’s a big difference between walking outdoors on a warm summer’s day and being out in hot weather. In fact, and especially during a heatwave, the Met Office advises no unnecessary outdoors activity if you can avoid it.
We’re not being party poopers, but just consider whether the walk you’re doing is essential or whether it can wait until the mercury drops. However, if you don’t want to give up your walking routine during hot weather, or you’re going somewhere hot and will be walking daily, you’ll need to double-down on how you’d normally prepare to go walking on an average summer’s day.
Think: hydration, sun protection, energy, walking comfort and location (ie, choosing more populated routes, not remote ones).
You may also need to change the time of day when you go walking. For example, temperatures are usually cooler early morning, but may not start dropping until after sunset. So you may have to swap your afternoon walk for a much earlier start to avoid exposing yourself to potentially dangerous heat.
Check the weather forecast for your area to see what time of day the temperature will be at its coolest, and look at the Met Office’s take on the Heat Index to figure out what level of walking is safe for you on any given day during hot weather.
It’s also a good idea to keep your walks shorter than normal, and to take frequent breaks in shaded spots – this is not the time to be setting new PBs or trying to reach new heights on a hike.
There are other considerations to make beyond those cornerstones, as we’ll cover below before rounding out our favourite outdoors gear to keep you cool and sun-safe when walking during hot weather.
How to stay cool on hot weather walks
This begins with what you’re wearing, and that includes proper sun cream. In hot weather you need maximum protection from the sun's most harmful rays, so choose a high factor sun cream for your body and a high-quality sunscreen for your face.
Light (both in terms of colour and material) and loose layers encourage greater airflow around your body, helping to keep your overall body temperature down.
Such light, breathable layers can be removed quickly and added just as fast if you need sudden skin protection from the sun. Good examples of light and loose layers include thin, kimono style cover-ups for women, and highly breathable, sweat-wicking tops for men.
Don’t forget to wear a hat! We know they’re not the most stylish hats, but a desert cap with flaps adds portable shade to your neck. A half-way house is a hat with a wide visor (see below).
And if you own a buff or a bandana, consider dampening it then placing it in the freezer before putting it around your neck. This keeps you cooler and protects the delicate skin on your neck. Those prone to décolletage burn may need to layer on a light summer scarf.
Lightweight and breathable walking trousers also help you avoid ‘boiling in the bag’ on hot days. Our favourites for summer versatility are the Berghaus Explorer Eco (opens in new tab), which zip off at the knees to transform into breathable yet tough walking shorts.
Also look at your footwear. You may choose to forgo your robust walking shoes and slip into some flip flops for walking instead. Or you may prefer the enhanced support of a walking sandal. Either way, choose shoes that are breathable and suitable for the terrain you’ll be covering, whether that’s sand, grass or trail.
If you're encountering very tough terrain, though, you may need to up the ante with a pair of hiking boots or walking shoes. If you're unsure which of these shoes would suit the type of walking you're doing, check out our walking boots vs walking shoes guide. It explains the key differences, and offers up some shoes and boots to check out.
Eucerin Dry Touch Suncream Spray SPF 50 | £12.74 (opens in new tab)
When walking in hot weather you need maximum protection, so stock up on our favourite sun cream for the body. It offers high UVA/UVB protection, plus HEVIS (high energy visible light) defence, and sprays easily onto the skin and absorbs just as fast.
Wallaroo Explorer Sun Hat UPF50+ | £36.95 (opens in new tab)
With its wide brim, the highly-rated Wallaroo sun hat provides extra shade for your neck and face. It also has a drawstring that can be tied under your chin, or hung further down, to keep the hat in place.
Keen EvoFit One Water Shoes | From £69.99 (opens in new tab)
Super-breathable shoes that will survive a thorough dunking. The Keen EvoFit One, available for men and women, have open ports on either side of the shoe’s ribcage. These boost airflow around your feet while enabling any water you walk in to simply drain out.
Take plenty of water on your walk
When asked for his top tips for handling the current heatwave, Owen Landeg, Principal Environmental Public Health Scientist at Public Health England, told the Met Office (opens in new tab) that it’s prudent to carry water at all times. You’ll need to sip it regularly throughout your walk too – don’t wait until you’re thirsty.
A reusable water bottle is your friend for staying hydrated on the go, particularly water bottles with cooling features. That could mean a water bottle with a built-in ice piston, or one that has a mist spray attachment so that you can spritz yourself when out walking.
Double walled vacuum insulated water bottles are great too, as they keep ice water cooler for longer – up to 24 hours in some cases. The Chilly’s BPA-free Water Bottle will do this.
Hydrate2 Cooling Mist Water Bottle | £12.99 (opens in new tab)
A two-in-one water bottle with a mist spray function should you need spritzing while out walking. With a 400ml capacity this isn’t the biggest water bottle, so you’ll need to top it up regularly, but the spritz action is good for an instant hit of coolness.
Lifestraw Go Water Filter Bottle | £33.46 (opens in new tab)
You could also pack a Lifestraw Go Water Filter Bottle and fill up directly from rivers and streams on your walking route, as this survival bottle filters out 99.999999% of waterborne bacteria and 99.9999% of parasites.
Stick to walking routes with ample shade
Plan walking routes where you know you’ll have plenty of protection from the shade. So think more along the lines of a refreshing walk in the woods rather than an exposed, sun-baked mountain trek.
Whilst you’re planning your walking route, choose one that’s near civilisation. This is important in case you need help or you run out of water (or other supplies) and need a top-up fast.
During your walk, take time out to find shaded spots and sit in them at regular intervals along the route. This gives your body time to recover from the heat it’s been exposed to when walking.
If you have room in your backpack for snacks, take ones that will give you a slow-release of energy (try trail mix or oat-based bars), as well as ones that have a naturally high water content. Naturally hydrating watermelon, cucumber sticks, apples and oranges are good choices.
Remember: take your time when walking in hot weather and do not push yourself. Even if you’re just meandering along a beach or harbour front, you’ll be surprised at how much more strenuous it is because of the increased heat.
Tell your family or friends where you are walking and at what time so that they’re aware of your movements. Ensure your phone is fully charged before you leave home and that you are walking in areas where you know you’ll get a signal in case you need to call or message someone.
Go slow, go steady, stay hydrated, stay in contact and always be sun-safe.
- The best hiking boots
- The best women's hiking boots
- Walking boots vs walking shoes: how to choose the right footwear for you
Portable Handheld Personal Fan | £13.99 (opens in new tab)
Think you’ll feel ridiculous carrying one of these around? Perhaps initially, but soon you’ll be too busy enjoying the constant breeze to care. This mini outdoors fan is fully rechargeable and lasts for 10 hours on the lowest speed, three hours on the highest.
UV Bonjour Mini Collapsible Sun Parasol for Walking | £12.99 (opens in new tab)
Stick this in your backpack and break it out when you need instant protection from intense sun. This mini sun parasol is super-light at 220g, and only seven inches long when folded, yet blocks 95% of UV rays when in use.
Osprey Ultralite Stuff Pack | £21.99 (opens in new tab)
We love this waterproof day pack for shorter walks. It has a stretch side pocket for your water bottle, plus a Deluxe AirMesh harness and panels to help prevent build-up of stagnant sweat as you walk.
Keeping pets cool on hot weather walks: RSPCA advice
All pets need special attention during hot weather, especially during heatwaves. Easy access to cool and shady spots, plus a good supply of cold drinking water, are the absolute basics. But here we’re focusing on dogs that hate being indoors and so might be out walking with you during hot weather.
RSPCA’s guidelines on dog care during the summer (opens in new tab) state that: “You can also keep your pets safe by using a pet-safe sun cream on exposed parts of your pets skin, and of course, by providing plenty of access to shade and fresh water.”
A collapsible water bowl for your dog is perfect for walks, as it enables you to hydrate your pet on the go. Remember to take your pet to sit in shaded areas at regular points throughout your walk.
Woof Woof Collapsible Dog Bowl | £4.99 (opens in new tab)
These two collapsible 350ml pet bowls can be used for water and snacks on the go. They’re made from food-grade silicone material, and are fitted with carabiners so that you can attach them easily to your backpack or stroller.
Petkin Doggy Sunscreen Spray SPF15 | £6.99 (opens in new tab)
The RSPCA recommends using a pet-safe sunscreen for any pets who might be out walking in hot weather. This Petkin Sunscreen for dogs is absorbed quickly and has a non-greasy, non-irritating formula when applied.
Rather do you walking indoors during hot weather? No worries, as we’ve rounded-up the best treadmills for indoor walking.
You can also stay cooler indoors with the best portable air conditioners.