I just wanna be cool...in the desert
July 10, 2010 7:26 PM   Subscribe

I'm going to be in the Grand Canyon (paddling the Colorado) for over 2 weeks in August. It will be over 100 degrees during the day and still pretty hot at night. What suggestions do you have for keeping cool while hiking, sleeping, etc?

I already have several sun hats and I'm going to try one of those cool-gel bandanna things (do they work?). People with experience have told me to skip the synthetics and go with cotton shirts for some evaporative cooling. Last time I was in the Canyon, one night was so hot that I soaked a cotton sheet and put it over me to sleep, so I'll bring that too. What else?
posted by The Dutchman to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Yes, wet cotton is the secret. As long as you're wearing a wet shirt or hat, you can stay cool. Remember that the riverwater will stain everything you wear tan, so khaki is better than white. The gel bandanna things totally work, BTW.
posted by ottereroticist at 7:29 PM on July 10, 2010

This sounds like a sweet trip. Are you familiar with Andrew Skurka? I love his trips, gear recommendations and other misc tips. Not so related but may be helpful to you in the future.

Those gel bandanna things work pretty well. I know some goalies that would wear them around their necks for outdoor summer inline tournaments where you are basically baking.
So that with a light hat would probably help you a lot.

This is a glowing review from a Grand Canyon hiker\guide for wearing cotton in the summer.
posted by zephyr_words at 10:51 PM on July 10, 2010

Wear loose cotton clothing, and keep it wet (dunk in the water whenever possible and/or dunk your shirt in the water). Drink lots of water. Wear sunscreen all the time (if you get sunburned, your body can't regulate temperature as easily). For hiking, every time you stop to take a drink or have a snack, hunker down in the shade. If you're on a private trip and can control your own schedule, petition to get going early in the mornings to take advantage of the early morning (relative) coolness.
posted by colfax at 3:48 AM on July 11, 2010

Wear a light-colored hat and clothing. Water is cool on the skin, and cools when it evaporates, so keep wet; the wet sheet is a great idea. Sunburn would make you feel hotter, so wear sunscreen. Being wet can start to make things chafe, so some vaseline may be useful.
posted by theora55 at 6:13 AM on July 11, 2010

Definitely loose, lightweight cotton - long sleeves, long pants, bandana. J crew has really nice lightweight cotton; may be able to get something on sale. You can roll up sleeves and pant legs, unbutton a few buttons to get ventilation as needed. Soak the shirt in water and you'll be nice and cool.

Get sunscreen with a physical sunblock (titanium or zinc) because it starts working immediately. The chemical kinds take 15 mins to kick in, which over the course of the day is long enough to leave you burned. For nose and ears, get one of those small sunblock sticks especially for faces. Reapply more often than seems rational - especially if you're getting wet. Don't forget the tops of feet if you're in sandals! I reapply every 30 mins.

I took this approach on a recent river trip and wasn't hot at all - and, more importantly, was the only person who didn't get fried!
posted by yarly at 7:10 AM on July 11, 2010

Luckily (kind of) the Colorado is really cold! It helps immensely with cooling off, and the couple of times I've been down the canyon getting up in the heat of the night to take a quick dunk was the main means of keeping cool at night. Also, set up your bag away from large rocks, which hold the days heat. It can actually get kind of chilly at night once you're used to the heat.

I've never really had any trouble staying cool during the day. You get used to the heat pretty quickly, can always take a dip, and should wear a big old hat when you aren't wearing your helmet.

It's a great trip, and you'll have a blast. If you haven't paddled Western rivers before, you'll be awed by the size of the rapids.

(On preview: It looks like you've been before, but if that wasn't for a river trip, you'll likely find yourself acclimating fairly quickly.)
posted by OmieWise at 10:36 AM on July 12, 2010

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