Heading outdoors in hot weather

1Marjorie Cooling vest, cooling scarf

Along the Mass Central Railtrail in Rutland, wearing cooling scarf, cooling vest, with water mister on hand nearby

In summer, sweat is an important body function, part of keeping us safe from overheating. Inconvenient, for sure; unattractive, perhaps, but there you have it–our body’s way of helping us cool off on these hot, July days mid-summer.

But some of us are unable to sweat. As one of those “you don’t know what you lost till it’s gone,” parts of life, I never appreciated  how losing the ability to sweat would compromise my ability to enjoy the outdoors. For many years, I had too many other health issues to cope with to worry specifically about this problem. But as I’ve gotten healthier, stronger, and more motivated to get outdoors, this inability to cool myself off has continued to plague me and limit what I’ve wanted to do.

My walking buddies have learned to be careful for me when we venture outside. “If my face turns pink, I’m getting too hot and need to spray myself down with water,” I’ll tell them. We meet in the summer at 7AM, 8 at the latest, and get off the trail before 10AM. My fanny pack is loaded with extra cooling scarves, and a spray mister, to spray down my face and outer limbs. These walking friends have become “friends of the heart,” people I will always cherish. They have been willing to get up earlier than they might have otherwise, for my sake, go places they had no idea about, and have remained cheerful on the many outings we have headed out on together.

DSC01244.JPGMy husband and I joke about “heading for Mars’ when we set off on a trip with our tandem bike. Since the bike can carry us miles farther than I can walk, each bike outing is a risk. But riding on the back of the tandem offers me cooling breezes as I peddle along the trail. Our panniers are stuffed with supplemental ice in case of emergency. And I wear my cooling vest.


Along the Blackstone River Bikeway–cooling scarf doing its work

You may have noticed the cooling scarf in different pictures of me on the trail-I use it often. The cooling vest has been another story–battery-operated, we have to make sure the batteries are charged. Plastic tubing  that fills with chilled water flows through a mesh-like shirt I wear under my clothes. We carry extra ice for when we go on longer bike rides. I am able to enjoy miles and miles of local and area railtrails, on the back of our tandem. But it is heavy and cumbersome for hiking. Wearing it in the car, on our way to a trail is uncomfortable. I have chafed at needing such support. How I wish this journey had been filled with grace and gratitude. Alas, it has often been more about tears and frustrations.

My hope is that by talking about these experiences, some of you who struggle with the heat, or perhaps other limitations, may find there are things you can do to venture out safely and wisely.

Some of these tools are quite cheap–others are much more costly. Each one has been trail-tested (by me!) and works for me. It might help you too.

Cheapest and easiest: A plastic spray-mister, filled with water. I found the 8 oz. size mister works best for us–it will fit in my pocket, easily fits in a fanny pouch, and I’ve never used up the entire 8 oz. in an outing of a couple of hours.

Another option–cooling scarves. There are so many varieties of these–I’ve tried ones that work by simple evaporation–soaking the cloth then wrapping it around your neck. It works all right. But my “go-to” scarf I keep in the freezer, along with a backup, and two additional refills. They will harden in your refrigerator, but work best spending the night in the freezer. I carry them on the bike in an insulated zipper pouch.


More expensive, more complicated to use, but effective in up to low 90’s weather when we are biking, is my cooling vest. We have two different vests we now use–An all in one vest with water filled bladder and ice–good for less extreme weather (up to low 80s for me) by Compcooler. We have a much more expensive vest that works like your own air conditioner–drawbacks–heavy, noisy, and expensive Also by Compcooler.

My point in sharing all this? I’ve become known by many as “that woman who loves the outdoors and writes very local guide books about trails in Central Massachusetts.” But I couldn’t have done much of any of this without the support of my husband. He has spent hours researching, looking for ways to help me more safely and easily spend time outside. Buying some of these products has not been cheap. I have been blessed beyond measure to have him in my life.

I can’t even begin to describe the multiple adaptations we have added to our bike to help me better enjoy the time we spend outside on the trail. The quest to get me out and moving has been a very long one. The ability to move with such freedom and deep joy as we ride is, indeed, priceless. People often smile as we sail past them, and we regularly hear, “I love your bike!” If they only knew…


Sweet, ripe black raspberries kept tempting us to stop along the trail

Today’s ride offered “Birds and berries along the Bay”–Narragansett Bay, that is. We spotted loads of black raspberries along the East Bay Bike path, starting in E. Providence, Rhode Island. Blackberries along the trail are still green, but will ripen in the next month–there will be fine picking soon! We spotted someone picking mulberries along the trail.


Purple flowering raspberries

And purple flowering raspberries were near the ballfield near the Barrington YMCA, right along the bike trail. (The “Y” folks were awfully gracious in allowing us to use their bathroom too!)

Because of the heat we didn’t stop to get many photos this trip, but we did spot a strange looking bird and got some photos–turns out this was a black-crowned night heron, out during the day (they usually feed at dusk or in the evening.) We also spotted a mother duck and her ducklings in Narragansett Bay.


Eider ducklings?

The mother got by before I could grab her photo, but from the bills of these ducklings, I’d say they look like eider ducklings.

The rest of our trip was part of what we always call the “Hollman stimulus bill,” since we usually spend money, and at least buy some ice cream. This trip we stopped at Blount’s Clam shack at the Carousel at Riverside, and got a fish sandwich, lobster roll, and onion rings. We then found ice cream and went back to Crescent Park, across the street from the carousel, and enjoyed the ice cream as we sat in the shade overlooking the bay.

It’s a lot of work for us, but the joy runs pretty deep. Thanks for reading, and let me know if you have questions.

Marjorie Turner Hollman

Marjorie Turner Hollman is a writer who loves the outdoors, and is the author of Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd editionMore Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd editionEasy Walks and Paddles in the Ten Mile River Watershed, and Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are. Her memoir, the backstory of Easy Walks, is My Liturgy of Easy Walks: Reclaiming hope in a world turned upside down.


Filed under Blog posts--Easy Walks

9 responses to “Heading outdoors in hot weather

  1. Love this post! Thank you!

  2. Really is getting tougher to enjoy walks in this tremendous H & H weather. Thanks for sharing your tips! Good to know they work!

    • marjorie561

      Thanks for commenting, Mary–Good luck to you–thankfully in New England this kind of weather really doesn’t last too long. my bigger difficulty is that even in cold weather if I exert myself it can be a challenge. If there’s snow on the ground I’m all set, but sometimes there’s not…

  3. I never thought too hard about how not being able to sweat would change one’s habits, and perhaps even deter one from vigorous physicial activity. I turn pink at the drop of a hat (damn WASP skin!), but I definitely sweat. OTOH, as the walking companion of an Alaskan malamute, I’ve learned to take some of the same precautions in hot weather, especially hot & humid weather, like walk early and late, no running alongside my bike, bring water if we’re going for more than an hour. Dogs “sweat” through their paws and by panting, which means they can’t blow off body heat all that fast, and when your summer coat is heavier than most dogs’ winter coat — you get the idea. Anyhow, thanks for the informative post and for the photos (especially those black raspberries!).

    • marjorie561

      In fact, dogs face many of these same challenges–good parallel comparison! And many dog owners have no idea of how to help their animals cope with warmer weather. (and yeah, the black raspberries are plentiful right now if you look in the right places!)

  4. I’m already mind setup for trip next summer vacation with my wife. That reason I had searching summer vacation guide. Recently i discover your post . I hope will help our your guide. Thanks for your great post.

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