Staying well protected from the sun’s harmful radiation extends beyond using just physical aids such as hats, sunglasses and sunscreen. It’s about making sensible behavioral choices and decisions around how to avoid too much sun exposure.
Bushwalking involves a certain amount of being in the sun – that’s part of the fun of being outdoors – but there are ways of planning the walk to avoid too much exposure.
The solar noon is when the sun is at the highest point in the sky, and the UV is strongest. This occurs around noon to 2 pm but depends on the latitude and time and changes with season. Use the NOAA calculator to work out solar noon. On a bushwalk, especially in hot weather, aim to hit a shady spot in the middle of the day. Find a place where the group can relax, enjoy lunch and cool down before tackling the rest of the walk later in the afternoon when the sun is lower.
A better option in hot conditions is to start early with the aim of finishing by the middle of the day or early afternoon. This may entail packing up in the dark, but it means that most of the walking is over by lunch. Knowing that there’s only an hour or two after lunch – if that – is psychologically useful on some walks.
In most parts of Australia, the UV index is extremely high for most of the year, so outdoor activities must be planned with that in mind. Take regular breaks in the shade, stay protected from the sun and keep an eye on everyone in the group to make sure they’re managing. It’s also a good idea to look for heat-related medical conditions, many of which can be avoided by drinking water and keeping cool.