Edited to note–Veskimo cooling vests mentioned in this blog are no longer available. I now use two others–both by Compcooler–Beige water cooled vest–works fine, but not effective in the hottest weather. Also the Individual Cooling system vest, much more expensive (close to $3000) but very effective, it works like your own air conditioner. Drawbacks–price, weight (I only use it when riding our adaptive tandem) and noisy.
As much as we love summer for the freedom it allows us to get outdoors for extended periods of time, some of us really struggle with the heat. And some of us find heat to be potentially dangerous, which can end up keeping us isolated indoors. I’m one of those who has always dreaded summer, despite the fact I grew up in south Florida! Even back in the days when I lived in that semi-tropical state, I was not overly fond of sitting out in the sun.
But these days, medical issues have made it so my body has real difficulty with temperature regulation. That means I sweat very little, if at all, and I can get dangerously overheated. But I’m married to a wonderful man who loves for me to join him for outdoor fun in the summer. What to do? He turned to the internet, and began finding me products that would help me cope, and and even enjoy myself on warm summer days.
We started with phase change cooling scarves, which are still my mainstay throughout the summer. We have four scarves and four refills, which we carry with us on bike rides. We have a dedicated freezer we use to assure that these aids are always ready for us. The phase changes refills will harden at 40 degrees F, but will last much longer if frozen solid. I even use these scarves in swing seasons at times, and if I am headed to events with uncertain indoor temperatures.
We also keep a number of 8 oz water bottles frozen, which we stick into the insulated carrying case, assuring that everything stays cold and ready for when I need it. (The water bottles, minus their paper wrappers, are also great for additional ice in our cooling vest.)
We have an assortment of soft, insulated carrying cases with handles that probably appear to many as though I am carrying a purse. Unobtrusive, the bag goes with me whenever I head out the door all summer. God forbid, if I were in an accident or the car broke down, I might be in a bad place, unable to keep cool in my otherwise air-conditioned car. It really is necessary to be prepared. We joke that it’s like going to Mars every time I head out the door.
We soon looked for a cooling vest, since the scarves do only so much. There are phase change vests as well, which we tried, but I found them quite heavy, and not terribly effective in humid weather. We now use a cooling vest built by Veskimo that I use mostly when we ride our adaptive tandem. Because the backpack holds a substantial amount of ice and circulating water, I find hiking with the vest and backpack to be challenging, so I opt to use it only for bike rides or extremely local walks. Veskimo also offers a cooler that could sit on your lap, perhaps helpful for recumbent bike riders. But since I ride the back of our tandem, the backpack works best for me. We have tried both. We carry extra ice in panniers on our tandem, to be sure we have enough ice to keep me safe on our 10-15 mile average bike rides on local and not so local railtrails.
And even the cooling vest does not do everything I need on the warmest days we head out. Once more, my husband was the one who thought of carrying a water sprayer to provide a cooling mist, to mimic the sweat that many of us so often take for granted. We spray my limbs, neck and face, which offers amazing relief from the overheating that can stop my legs form working. Throughout the summer I go nowhere without this mister as a back up to the cooling scarves. We found this small plastic sprayer in the cosmetics department of our local pharmacy, and bought multiple ones to keep as backup. The sprayers will break eventually, and it’s good to have back up. Unfortunately, we cannot locate an exact copy online of what we use, but here’s a link to another plastic sprayer that I hope would do the job for you. Do NOT think of taking glass bottle sprayers out on the trail with you!
The other logical thing to do to manage the heat is to get out early, at least in New England, when most nights the air is cooler and it is still cool early mornings. My hope is that these suggestions can be of help, and perhaps give you some of the freedom to get outside in the summer that others take for granted. Thanks to Marilyn and her recumbent bike group for asking for help, hope this makes a difference. Happy Trails!
Marjorie Turner Hollman is a personal historian who loves the outdoors, and is the author of Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, More Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, and editor of Easy Walks and Paddles in the Ten Mile River Watershed. The newest book is Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are.
She has been a freelance writer for numerous local, regional, and national publications for the past 20+ years, has helped numerous families save their stories, and has recorded multiple veterans oral histories, now housed at the Library of Congress.