We love hitting the trails and doing outdoor activities with the dogs but it has been a really hot and humid summer here in Florida. While we have plans to move somewhere with mountains and cooler weather, for the next few years we must endure the brutal heat and still try to enjoy some outdoor time with our dogs when we can. We are acutely aware of heat exhaustion and are very careful to monitor everyone (including ourselves) for signs of distress. I have suffered the effects of heat exhaustion myself and it can really knock you for a loop.
A few tips for day-hiking in the summer heat are:
*Hike near a fresh water source so everyone can cool off.
*Bring water purification tablets (just in case).
*Carry as much water as humanly possible and then keep a cooler of it in your vehicle.
*Try to limit your hiking to earlier in the day or later in the day,
*Have backpacks with water bladders in them.
*Put cool vests on your dogs,
*Cooling rags/towels/bandanas for yourself.
*Hike where there is decent tree cover.
*Take lots of breaks.
I have had to turn back from a hike before due to the heat. I have very large dogs. There’s no way I could carry them out of the woods if they went down. Being proactive is critical, especially here in Florida. So a few weeks ago when we were preparing for a hike a friend let me borrow a cool vest to try out. Before I had always carried extra water to pour directly on the dogs as well as a cooling towel. I was very impressed with the difference this vest made. I knew I wanted to get some of my own, but after trying the kind with the gel packs, I decided I wanted to try one that worked by evaporative cooling.
From the Ruffwear blog:
The Swamp Cooler is designed with three distinct functional layers. First, the outer layer acts as a parasol, blocking the sun, and is highly breathable to assist in the evaporative process and keep air moving through the vest to cool the inner layers. Second, the middle layer is the absorbent layer that holds the water after you soak it. And third, the comfortable inner mesh layer wicks water from the mid-layer to the dog’s body keeping them cool.
I decided to try them out at home first before taking them out on a day hike. Cairo was first up. I got her a Medium because she is still growing and I was worried that the Large would not fit well enough to cool her properly. Since most of the dogs here are black, it is extra tough on them to be outside in the sun. After a few romps around the yard they are usually ready to come indoors. Cairo seemed to be comfortable for a bit longer, and did not seem to be panting as heavily as normal.
For the time we were out back yesterday (heat index was 104) the dogs did seem to struggle with the heat less, even when running and playing. My plan was to hit a local trail after dropping kids off to school this morning, but it began to rain and now by the time I get out it will be too hot. So the plan is to have everything packed up tonight and do a trail review tomorrow with the vests and boots.
We hope you will stay tuned for Part 2 of our review!
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Note: I was in no way compensated by Ruffwear for this review. I purchased these items myself and did the review of my own accord.