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On a hiking trip a couple of weeks ago I experienced some of the first signs of heat exhaustion, which were dry skin, rapid heartbeat, fatigue and muscle cramps. This was the same trip where I found the abandoned hunting camp. I knew that I was getting too hot, daytime highs were near 100 degrees in the shade. My heart was beating so hard I could hear the beats. While walking up a hill my leg muscles started to cramp; I knew I was in trouble. There just happened to be a small tree that provided a nice shady spot. The backpack was dropped, I laid down, took my bandana off and laid it over my shirtless chest.

My cell phone just happened to have one - two bars of service. I pulled up google earth, took a screen shot of my location and sent it to my fiancee through facebook chat. My location was only about 1 1/2 miles from home, but it might as been 100 miles with my legs cramping. In case things went from bad to real bad, at least someone had my location.

While laying under that small shade tree I finished off about half a canteen of water. I almost took a nap, but figured it would be safer to stay awake.

After relaxing in the shade of that nice small tree I felt better, stood up, put my pack on and continued. At the top of the hill I hit an old logging road. I was disoriented as to the direction I should turn. I knew that was a fork in the road a short distance from where I was, but which way did I need to turn? I turned left. After maybe 100 yards I sat down, looked at my map, double checked with google earth and figured out I had turned the wrong way.

When timber companies cut timber they make temporary roads through the forest to get the timber out. Once the timber has been cut and new trees planted the roads are abandoned. After a few years the roads overgrow. After a decade or so the roads may vanish, as they are reclaimed by nature.

I rarely if ever use google earth on a hiking trip. Normally I use a topo map, compass and very old Garmin GPS that helps determine my location and the bearing I need to go. I then double check the GPS with a topo map and map compass. Being fatigued and experiencing heat exhaustion I decided to use all of the navigational aids I had at hand. I broke out the cell phone with google earth, determined my location then used a compass at the fork of the road to decide which direction to go.

A short distance after the fork in the overgrown logging road I hit a slightly more permanent road. This one is driven on from time to time by locals but is still a long ways off the beaten path.

Once I got off the abandoned logging road I knew things were still going to be rough. I was in direct sunlight, temps close to 100 degrees, almost out of water, legs were cramping, skin was dry, but I knew every step took me a step closer to home. If things got real bad I was on a road and would be easy to find. There were several times were I almost stopped and used my phone to call for someone to come get me. I kept reminding myself that I started this trip and I was going to finish it. Hardship builds endurance. No matter how bad things get, keep going. However, there comes a point where putting oneself at risk is foolish.

On this hiking trip I made a series of mistakes that did result in heat exhaustion and could have easily resulted in heat stroke. Let's talk about some of those mistakes.
The Heat

On the day of the hike forecast said the daytime temps were supposed to be in the upper 90s. Come to find out the high temperature reached 100 degrees. Just as the cold, rain, thunderstorms,,,, can be underestimated so can the heat.

The heat is not like a thunder cloud in the distance, it is more like a predator in the night. It slowly creeps up on you. Before you realize what is happening sometimes it is too late.

You are a little thirsty, then a lot thirsty, then the sweating stops and the muscle cramps,,,,, then you feel like passing out.


I made the mistake of wearing a Carhart shirt, light gray, that is made from heavy weight cotton. Not just cotton, but a heavy cotton. As most hikers know cotton kills. Cotton holds sweat and does not dry well. This means less evaporation than synthetics. Less evaporation means less cooling. By the time I reached the first rest spot I was burning up. I had to remove the shirt so sweat could evaporate and my skin cool off.

I "thought" wearing a light color would help with the heat, but I did not know the shirt was almost 100% cotton until after I got home. Next time I will make sure my shirt is a blend of synesthetic and cotton. There are some shirts out there that are advertised as having a "wicking" technology, as in they "wick" the moisture away from your skin. I have not tried these shirts but plan on it in the near future.

Pants were levis. I have some pants that are probably better suited for hot weather conditions, but I like how levis protect my legs from stickers.

Boots were Brazos task force BR6020. These boots do not have the zipper on the side. If I remember right I bought them from Academy Sports and Outdoors in Beaumont Texas several years ago. They did well in the hike, just as they have done in previous hikes. It might be time to get another pair soon as they are getting a little wore on the bottom and the arch support is not what it used to be.


For this trip I decided to take along a Red Rock Outdoor Gear side sling instead of a two shoulder strap pack. This is the first time I have used a side sling pack on a 5+ mile hike. Towards the end I greatly regretted my decision.

With no shirt on the single strap rubbed my shoulder raw. I took a bandanna and put it between the strap and my skin. This helped for a little while, then my left shoulder start aching from bearing all of the weight of the pack for several hours. I had to take the pack off and carry it with my right hand to give my left shoulder a break. After awhile my right arm got tired, so back on the left shoulder the Red Rock Outdoor Gear pack went, which brought back the aching and soreness.

Side sling packs might be good for short hikes but I certainly will not use another one on a 5+ mile hike. I was not carrying "that" much gear either. The stuff that could of been left at home are a Schrade SCHF36 and a snap-on multitool. Everything else I thought was needed in the given situation:

Red Rock Outdoor Gear Rambler Sling Pack.
Garmin Etrex GPS.
No name map compass X 2. I like to bring a spare compass.
Schrade SCHF36.
Jack Links small batch peppered beef jerky.
Cliff bars - crunchy peanut butter.
Frito-lay sunflower seeds - original and ranch flavor, 2 packs of each.
Ramen noodles - chicken flavor, 1 pack.
Mountain house freeze dried pouch - scrambled eggs with bacon.
Repel insect repellent - 40% deet.
Small notepad with 2 ball point pens.
Snap-on multitool.
1 liter water bottle.
Military canteen in MOLLE pouch with stainless steel cup.
PUR water filter - no longer made. PUR outdoor line sold to Katadyn
Bic lighter.
Spool of braided trotline string; cordage for making shelter.
Military grade poncho.
Knife sharpener.
Toilet paper.
Flashlight - uses AA batteries. GPS and flashlight both use AA batteries.

With daytime temps in the upper 90s I brought a poncho, cord and extra food just in case I needed to spend a night in the woods. Why would I need to spend the night? If I got too hot and could not continue. I planned on resting near a creek, making camp and spending the night, then continue home the next day.

There are several creeks running through my hiking path. Some with nice clear running water, some were dry and some that were barely moving. If heat exhaustion had set in so that I could not continue I hoped on at least making it to one of the creeks and spending the night. I knew my location and where the creeks were at. At every creek I asked myself if I could make it to the next one. If the answer was "no, I can not make it." I would have stopped and set up camp.

Hiking alone

I usually make this hike with at least one other person, but on this trip I decided to go alone. I wanted to have peace and quiet and did not want anyone with me. The drawback, if I became injured, experienced heat stroke,,,,, or anything else, there would be nobody to help.

Going on a trip by yourself gives one a chance to relax in the peace and quiet of the wilderness. Being alone however has its dangers. I was well aware of the danger and took certain precautions in case something happened while on the trip.


Now that we have talked about what I did wrong, let's look at what I did so I could be found.

Someone familiar with the area dropped me off. In case something happened, someone who knew the back roads would be able to tell search and rescue where I started the hike.

The start point of my hike was also marked on google earth on my home computer.

When I started experiencing leg cramps I just happened to have cell phone service. I pulled up google earth on my cell phone, took a screen shot of my location and sent it to my fiancee using facebook chat.

Made sure I was not far from a logging road or pipeline. Old logging roads and pipelines run through the area where I was hiking. I knew where they were located at and kept a mental note on how to get to one if I ran into heat related issues. Searchers would be using the logging roads and pipelines to search for me.

What is a pipeline?

A pipeline is an area where a piece of pipe is buried. The pipe could be carrying oil or some other type of petroleum product. The area where the pipeline runs through the wilderness is kept cleared by work crews using tractors or other heavy equipment.

Brought poncho and cord to build a shelter.

Brought battery pack for cell phone.

Had a USGS topo map and two map compasses. I like to have a spare compass.

Brought a GPS and spare batteries.

Brought enough food to spend the night.

Stuff to build a fire with - dryer lint and bic lighter.

Brought a stainless steel canteen cup, just in case I needed to boil water.

Brought a water filter, canteen and water bottle.

Ate sunflower seeds to have salt intake during the hike.

Wore leather boots with nylon upper. Copper heads and coral snakes are semi-common in southeast Texas. The snakes are of no real danger if your feet are covered.


Share your thoughts and comments. Have you experienced heat stroke or heat exhaustion while on a hike?

634 Posts
Before I do anything I always ask myself what could go wrong?

I also list the risk factors.

Then I do what I can to eliminate the risks that can be eliminated.

In your case I am guessing that you simply did not drink enough Gatorade.

You need water and you need electrolyte salts.

I usually bring Gatorade powder and mix it really thin.

The only major factor that you could not control was the heat.

I have seen plenty of people get heat exhaustion and heat cramps like you.

Once on a very hot day in summer my girlfriend and I carried a canoe.

All of a sudden everything went dark and I heard a thump. Then I heard my girlfriend shouting. I had fainted from heat exhaustion. I was not drinking enough. She called some friends over and they carried me to the shade.

Took half an hour for me to recover enough to drive us home. Then I took a cold bath and drank a bunch of Gatorade. The next day I was fine.

None of us is a god. We all have our limitations.

Honor our Constitution !
4,725 Posts
Glad you're OK!
spent many years hiking with my Black Lab as a companion in almost identical woods, but with natural springs breaking ground every sq. 1/4 mile +/-.
never in the heat of summer w/o watering up before leaving the house, + a full canteen for myself and one + a collapsible bowl for my buddy, and knowing where at least one spring was along my hike, "just in case".
my area is blessed with water that if collected where it breaks ground, is some of the purest in the USA.

Heat exhaustion/ heat stroke around here is common and quite often fatal.

634 Posts
That is very good advice.

I try to do a risk assessment before heading out into the woods or away from home.

What can go wrong, who knows I am here, who knows my route,,,, etc.
My own worst fear is always a broken leg or ankle.

I broke my ankle in tennis once and was immobilized for 2 weeks while it healed.

As far as water goes, I always plan my backpack trips to follow a string of springs or else a mountain stream. That way I have plenty of water.

For a midsummer hike, heat would naturally be a major factor.

Midwinter the opposite would be true -- frostbite and hypothermia.

Springtime is the best hiking/backpacking period because there is a lot of water runoff then.

Summer tends to be hot, while autumn tends to be dry, and winter tends to be cold.

Good thing you made it back ok. That is called "self-rescue" when you do it yourself alone. It takes clear thinking and extreme calmness to pull off self-rescue.

634 Posts
Beautiful photos by the way!

On a solo hike like yours I would be most afraid of bears.

I used to wear a 44 mag revolver.

But I finally graduated to a 12 gauge pump shotgun with alternating magnum slugs and double-aught buckshot.

A shotgun can kill anything even an elephant.

Honor our Constitution !
4,725 Posts
bears aren't a big worry here for hikers, but as you mentioned, injury/illness.......snakes, boars, and most dangerous, humans.......stumbling across someones shine still or pot crop can be quite fatal as has been proven too many times in my county.

276 Posts
Thank goodness you reconized what was happening and took steps to cool down.

While in the Marines on a tough hump ( force March) I ended up with heat exhaustion to the point of passing out for an hour. When I woke doc was there and he had me drink a canteen full of salt water and eat a MRE loaded with salt. I knew something was wrong but I couldn't stop until we finished the hump. If I did stop, I would have been abandoned deep in the woods. We were running instead of marching up and down hills. Some of the jokester's pissed off our Captian in charge and we had to run the rest of the way.

I now know to plan ahead and prepare. I keep plenty of water, food stuff and salt with me. You not only deplete the salt content in your body but also burn up the surgars. I keep a disposable salt shaker in my pack full of salt and at least 5 or 6 granola bars.
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