When you’re out in the wilderness, there is no air conditioning. No heating either.
Well, I guess you could say there’s both. At night, the temperature does tend to drop. And during the day, it gets warmer. But you have no control over the temperature, and no way to change it. Sure, you can try to stay in the shade for a minor adjustment, but if you’re following a trail, there’s not always shade to be had. I actually find it easiest to hike when it’s just a little bit colder than comfortable, because the work of hiking warms me up. But when it’s hot out, that works against me.
I have to figure out what I can do to adapt. At night, that’s the tent and the down quilt and long underwear. During the hiking day, it’s get up hella early to hike in the coolest weather possible, and, when it’s hot, to simply persevere. Stay hydrated, wet my hat at every opportunity, but it comes down to adapting to hiking in the heat, you just have to accept that you are hot, and you will continue to be hot.
I’m not talking about ignoring the signs of hyperthermia. But you can be a long way from medically overheating and still be just unbearably hot. Especially when you’re on a ridgeline, carrying a pack with over 20% of your bodyweight in it, and the sun is directly overhead, beating into your skull and reflecting off of the ground and right into your face no matter how wide your hat brim is.
It’s not comfortable. It’s not super fun. The views, and other things, compensate for this. I certainly wouldn’t sign up for a hot, loaded hike with no rewards. That’s one way to help yourself through that kind of unfun, by focusing on the good things.
Another way is to really lean into accepting what’s going on. You get a distinct line between things that are in your control and things that are not out in the wilderness. You take care of your gear and it takes care of you. You watch your step and where your steps are leading you. You adapt as best you can to the temperature and the weather. You accept that you can’t control the weather, the temperature, the bugs, the condition of the trail, other people you may encounter, animals you may encounter, where the trail climbs or descends, how many times water crosses the trail…
Knowing what you can and can’t do and accepting it allows you to find a different kind of focus. In the time of COVID, I’ve been experiencing so much anxiety. I’ve written about it already, and I’ll keep writing about it, because I don’t want constant anxiety to become normalized. I want to radically accept that I cannot control a whole lot of things going on in the world around me. And look closely at the things that remain. The things that I might be able to change.
If I’m willing to try.