It’s that time of year again when the mercury starts hitting the triple digits. Summertime is the time of year when most of us start going outside to play in the sun, but it’s important to make sure that you are properly prepared and equipped for the heat and humidity. With the right hot-weather gear and a good plan to combat the heat, you can stay safe and comfortable out in the sun.
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In this article, we’ll address ways that you can stay safe and comfortable from all forms of summer heat. Using the right combination of hot-weather gear and clothing, you will be able to stay cool and hydrated even in the harshest summer conditions.
Understanding Hot Weather
To address staying cool in the heat, we need to understand what types of heat we’re dealing with and how the sun’s rays affect your ability to stay cool.
First, we need to address temperature. Temperature is a measure of the actual temperature of the air surrounding you. When you check the weather and the report says that it is 100⁰F outside, that is the actual temperature of the air. But the air temperature alone isn’t the only thing to contend with in a sunny outdoor environment.
Radiant heat is the heat created from exposure to direct sunlight. This is what makes blacktop roads so hot in the summer. Radiant energy from the sun is absorbed by the black surface and that same energy causes an increase in the actual temperature of the road.
This same radiant energy causes dark-colored clothing to heat up much faster than light-colored clothing. Radiant heat also heats up your skin, and can heat it up much faster than just the ambient air temperature. Even though the outside air temperature may be only 100⁰F, radiant heat can significantly increase the heat that your body is feeling.
Convective heating is our next concern. Convective heating is heat caused by winds when the temperature is above 72⁰F. Much the same as wind chills make the temperature seem much colder as wind speed increases, convective heat makes heat seem much higher when the winds are blowing.
Conductive heat is heat transferred by contact, for example, by walking on a hot concrete surface. Heat from the surface is conducted directly to your feet. This too, causes you to heat up more.
Clothing is your first line of defense from the sun’s harmful rays and heat. Just like with cold-weather gear, utilizing layers of clothing is the best way to combat both radiant heat and high air temperatures. Hot-weather gear and clothing should be light-colored, with white and tan being the best colors. The sun’s light is reflected by lighter colors and absorbed by darker colors. This helps protect the wearer from radiant heat, which causes darker clothing to actually increase in temperature.
Loose, light-colored long-sleeve clothing will provide maximum protection from heat and solar radiation. The loose-fitting clothing allows for air to circulate, and the long sleeves and light colors protect your skin from the ultraviolet radiation that causes sunburns. A light-colored, short-sleeved t-shirt with moisture-wicking technology allows your body to use your sweat as a natural cooling mechanism, while providing protection from solar rays. On top of this layer, a light-colored and loose-fitting long-sleeved shirt in linen, poplin or seersucker will provide further protection from hot winds and radiant heat, while allowing air to circulate underneath.
A wide-brimmed hat will provide protection for your face and neck. Scarves can also provide protection for your head and neck. Cool wraps and scarves can also be soaked down with cold water to enhance your body’s evaporative cooling system. When wrapped around the head, they can also protect against dehydration and convective heat, or protect against dust and sand in a desert environment. Scarves are a versatile, multipurpose item that can serve many roles in protecting against heat and the sun.
Shorts may seem like the natural choice for warm weather, but they expose your legs to ultraviolet radiation, which can cause sunburns. They also allow the heat of the sun to directly heat up your skin. Long linen or lightweight cotton canvas pants that are loose-fitting will block the sun’s radiant heat from reaching your skin and will actually keep you cooler than shorts. Look for fabrics like linen or a lightweight cotton canvas, or find any number of new synthetic moisture-wicking fabrics that are loose and breathable.
Proper footwear and socks with moisture-wicking technology will allow air circulation to enhance the evaporative cooling of your sweat and will keep your feet dry and comfortable. Some boots offer breathable fabric side panels to enhance airflow. Good footwear also protects your feet from the conductive heat of concrete, blacktop, stone, and sand.
Going Armed in the Heat
If you are carrying a concealed handgun, a t-shirt layer will provide a layer of protection against sweat for your handgun. Even with the t-shirt, you may want to consider an alternative to the IWB (inside-the-waistband) holster, due to the sweat and moisture that the t-shirt will wick away from your body. Exposure to sweat can quickly cause a firearm to show rust and it can destroy a nice finish in a matter of days.
For hot-weather carry, a paddle holster or belt-loop holster will carry the pistol farther away from harmful sweat and moisture. Cover this with a light-colored, but opaque, loose-fitting long-sleeve shirt and you will be perfectly fine packing your firearm in the heat of the summer.
Sunblock and Skin Care
When outside in the sun for any length of time, a proper sunblock will provide protection for areas of exposed skin. I’ve written above about the importance of light-colored clothing to protect against radiant heat, but for areas of skin that are still exposed, it is necessary to use a sunblock with an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 30.
SPF ratings tell you how much longer you could stay in the sun without getting a sunburn. For example, an SPF rating of 30 means that you could spend 30 times longer in the sun without getting burned than if you did not have the protection. Some people claim that they can build up a resistance to sun exposure with a tan, and while it is true that some resistance can be gained, even the darkest tan only provides an SPF rating of four.
When applying sunblock, remember that some of the sun’s rays penetrate through the clothing you’re wearing. It’s possible to get a sunburn even while wearing clothes from head to toe. Some manufacturers of heat-gear clothing even list the SPF ratings of their products. Just because your skin is covered by clothing, doesn’t mean that you don’t need to protect it further with a sunblock of at least SPF 15.
Hydration and Packs
Proper hydration is a must when you are outside in the heat. Your body uses sweat to cool you down when it is hot. The water lost through sweat has to be replaced or you will quickly become dehydrated. Always make sure to hydrate before engaging in activity in the heat. Electrolyte mixes not only help you stay hydrated, but also replace the salt and other minerals lost through sweat.
Hydration packs and bags make for a convenient way to carry your water or electrolytes with you wherever you go. Additionally, there are packs that allow you to carry water bottles, electrolyte mixes or sports drinks with you. There are also packs that use removable water bladders that fit inside the main pouch of the pack. These are a convenient way to have water or electrolytes available at all times. Just remember, if you use a water bladder to carry your electrolyte mix, the mixes often penetrate the plastic lining and can affect the taste of any other liquids you carry in there later. Hydration equipment is some hot-weather gear that may just save your life — you don’t want to become overheated and dehydrated.
Conclusion: Hot-Weather Gear
Having fun in the sun is what summer activities are all about. With the sun and the summer comes heat, and it pays to be properly prepared and equipped to handle the elements. While it may be hot outside, you can still stay cool and safe with a little planning and the right hot-weather gear.
What hot-weather gear do you use as the temperature increases? Do you change the way you carry in the summer? Let us know in the comments!
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in June of 2021. It has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and clarity.