HIKING | HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF PROPERLY FROM THE SUN IN THE MOUNTAINS
Did you know that, in the mountains, UV is filtered out less and its radiation increases by 4% with every 300 metres of height gain? If we factor in the cooling sensation caused by the wind at altitude, we can easily see why it’s important to protect yourself from the sun, even if you feel the need less than on the beach.
Check out our tips to protect yourself if you’re on a hike that lasts longer than expected or if you want to walk for several hours.
THE BEST PROTECTION IS CLOTHING, BUT NOT ALL TEXTILES ARE EQUALLY EFFECTIVE!
Pants, shirts and T-shirts make it easy to protect the most exposed parts of the body without even thinking about it. But not all textiles are equally effective: a light cotton T-shirt will let some of the UV through, a tight weave will protect you better than a loose or stretch weave because, when the stitching stretches, it loses its protective power. A wet garment will also lose its effectiveness, while a loose garment will offer more protection. And finally, washing will increase cotton’s UPF*! (So it’s important to always wash your clothes before wearing them.)
In addition, it’s still important to apply a layer of sunscreen to your skin. You should ideally wear fabrics certified anti-UV which guarantee optimal protection: long-sleeved shirt (men), tank top (women) or windproof, for example. The UPF* 40+/50+ label guarantees it meets the European standard:
- A UPF* 40+ index means that 97.5% of rays are blocked
- 50+ that more than 98% of rays are blocked.
*UPF = Ultraviolet Protection Factor. This measurement indicates how much UV radiation is absorbed by a material.
ESSENTIAL: SUN SCREEN
In the mountains, you need to apply a higher protection factor, and more frequently to avoid sunburn and preserve your solar capital.
To choose a suitable sunscreen, follow the advice from Aptonia. (You can also use a protective lip block, as the sun can cause "cold sores" to appear in sensitive people.)
PROTECT YOUR HEAD
A hat with a wide brim, a cap or buff... they’re essential especially to combat sunstroke. Some caps also protect the neck, another very sensitive area (useful if you’re too lazy to apply sunscreen frequently!).
REMEMBER TO PROTECT YOUR EYES
You’ll also need sunglasses with protection level 3, or even 4 if you're hiking on snowfields, to complete your equipment.
If you neglect this point, you risk developing various pathologies related to excessive sun exposure. The most common is solar conjunctivitis which, although transient, is very painful.
If you’re heading out with children, find out how to protect them from the sun. Happy hiking!