Sun Protection Tips for Summer Adventures in the Desert

Expert Advice
May 2014

Summer brings long days, sunshine, freckles, and a longing to escape the office; it is the perfect time to pack a bag and leave the to-do lists and worries behind. We spend as many moments as we can in these warm days hiking, biking, kayaking, or lying still on the shore of  a relaxing lake or river; they are the days of nonsense and fresh air. But summer days will lead to evening woes if you don’t properly prepare. The sun may be the stuff that dreams are made of 8 months out of the year, but it can also be the cause of a nasty second-degree burn. Before setting out in pursuit of fun, consider some of these techniques that we take very seriously on all our adventures from guided backpacking trips in Grand Canyon, to mountain biking in the desert and rafting Arizona’s Salt River.

 

3 Tips to protect yourself from intense summer sun

1. Get a wide-brimmed hat

Just do it. No excuses about looking like Crocodile Dundee or Indiana Jones (um, so cool…), this is about function not fashion. Yes, a ball cap is better than nothing but you may find yourself with some lobster red ears at the end of the day. AOA guides sport a wide variety of styles. Check it out.

2. Long sleeves/pants

Many people are reluctant to buy into this idea. They want those warm vitamin D stimulating golden rays touching their bare skin. On the other hand, there is a strong argument for clothing cover under the intense Arizona summer sun. This is your best option when backpacking or hiking in Arizona. Most outdoor clothing outfitters such as Columbia, REI, and Patagonia make activewear with UV blocking properties. Check the tag before making your purchase. Covering more of your skin will not only protect you from sunburn, it will also keep you cooler overall when out for long periods of time.

3. Sunscreen

Not all sunscreens are created equal. This is especially important if you plan to be out for hours at a time without long sleeves and pants and without a wide-brimmed hat (sigh…). Remember this if you are planning a multi-day trip such as backpacking in Grand Canyon, and for water sports like kayaking or paddle boarding where the water will reflect the sun’s rays and intensify their power. Choose a sunscreen with broad-spectrum protection, this means it blocks UVA and UVB rays. The SPF level should be 30 or higher. The more intense the sun, the more often you should re-apply.  The best products are water or sweat resistant, this doesn’t mean they are perfect and you should still plan to re-apply after submersion. Sunscreens with high levels of zinc oxide over other chemicals are often easier on sensitive skin. Skeptical of chemical ray-blockers? Check out our list of alternative sunscreens.

 

So remember – Preparation is key

The outdoor life is one of unrestrained sunshiney grins, dirty fingernails, cowboy coffee, fresh air and relaxation, but it is preparation that allows us to enjoy it so well. Preparing for the elements doesn’t only mean thinking about rain, but also sun and heat. On AOA’s guided trips we always take care to remind participants to pack a hat and appropriate clothing, sunscreen up, drink lots of water, and always take breaks under shade shelters when available. This is absolutely crucial on our Salt River adventures and guided backpacking trips, but is truly important on every outdoor adventure in the Southwest.

 

Still planning your summer trip?

Take a look at all of AOA’s guided trips across the Southwest. Consider hiking into Havasupai with the best guides in the business or build on your existing outdoor skills with a guided backpacking trip in Grand Canyon this fall. If you’re in the Scottsdale/Phoenix area, cool off with a Salt River rafting trip, a guided kayak tour, or test your balance with stand-up paddle boarding.

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