Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Coping With The Heat

The older I get, the less tolerance I have for extreme temperatures. In the winter, I add layers and layers of down- and fiber-filled jackets and comforters to keep warm. Sometimes three pairs of socks. Toques and balaclavas. Add to this the use of heating pads, hot water bottles, working fireplaces, and central heating, and it is possible to be cozy and comfortable in the winter.

But summertime…ah, the livin’ is not always easy. There’s no limit to the amount of stuff you can pile on for the purpose of keeping warm. But there is a limit to how much you can take off to keep cool. Legally, as well as practically – and they’re not always the same thing (running around naked in the privacy of your own living room is one thing, but doing it in the front yard could be hazardous to your neighbors’ heart conditions…).

Some of the things I do to cope with the heat:

Loose clothes: I’m really past the age and body shape for high fashion. And I don’t much care that I’m not wearing the latest rage (good thing, too, because everywhere I look, I see evidence that the crotch-at-the-knees is still in style – I’d trip and break my neck!). I keep my clothing loose and tent-like, especially the shirts. I normally wear a medium, but in summer, I wear large and extra large shirts, untucked.

Long sleeves, long pants: Sounds like it would be hotter than shorts and tanks tops, but I find it cooler, as long as the clothing is loose. And they help keep the sun off your skin.

Natural fibers: Cotton, linen, and silk. Synthetics don’t breathe, and they don’t allow moisture to evaporate properly. That not only keeps you hot, but makes you feel sticky, to boot. Cotton and linen have a great “wicking” action – they absorb sweat and direct it away from your skin. Evaporation keeps you cool.

Don’t say silk is too expensive – it’s a lot more affordable than you know. You just have to know where to buy (hint: thrift stores). And for the most part, you can ignore the dry-clean-only labels. The Cavern’s laundry faerie puts silk shirts inside a clean pillowcase and uses one of those elastic hair thingies to keep it closed, then puts it in with the rest of the laundry. Hang the shirt up to dry. Been doing it for about twenty years, and haven’t ruined a shirt yet.

Boxers, not jockeys: For both men and women. Seriously. The tighter the underwear, the more likely you are to end up with jock itch or yeast infections. Or that supremely irritating rash known as “prickly heat.” The baggier your underwear, the more comfortable you’re going to be. And again, natural fibers (but not silk – it doesn’t really make good underwear).

Light colors: Goth is for winter. Light colors reflect heat away from you. Dark colors not only hold the heat, they also attract insects like mosquitoes and horse flies.

Hat: Cover your head to protect it from the sun. Baseball caps are okay for the top of your head (wear the beak forward to keep the sun out of your eyes). But the wider the brim, the more protection you have for your face and neck. Straw hats are inexpensive, and they can be customized with hat bands and thingies attached to them. Tilley hats (or decent copies) are just about perfect, if a little more expensive; but they’re also hardier. I’ve had mine for about eight years, and it’s going strong. It’s also washable.

Bandana: I’m surprised by the number of people who don’t realize what a useful thing a bandana can be. It’s a sweat band. It’s a face mop. It’s a sun shade. It’s a hat. It’s a wash cloth. It’s a fan. It’s a lot of other things, too. I’ve got about a dozen of them (they’re in every dollar store you can find) in various colors and patterns.

I wear mine a few different ways, depending on what I’m doing. But most of the time, I keep it wet. Fold into a triangle and tie it around your neck loosely. Use it to wipe your head, face, hands. When it starts to dry, get it wet again. Carry a spare for a friend.

Spray bottle: One of my favorite little inventions was the two-ounce plastic spritzer bottle. You can get them at Zellers, in the Personal Care section. They’re made by Goody (but don’t try to find them on the Goody website).

Fill it with water and tuck it into your shirt pocket, your fanny pack, or even your hatband. Use it to spritz your head, face, hands, bandana, shirt front – anything you want to keep cool.

Water bottle: I don’t even walk the two blocks to the store without carrying a full water bottle. And I’m not talking about the two-bucks-a-pop for commercial bottled water, either (did you know that bottled water is more expensive than gasoline?). I’m talking about a water bottle with its own carry pouch with the long strap that you can sling over your head and shoulders. It’s refillable (this is where a Britta jug comes in handy). And if you’re lucky, you can find the wide-mouth bottles that you can load with ice cubes before you fill it with water. Get one that carries at least a quart. Drink from it often, even if you don’t “feel” thirsty. In the summer heat, by the time you actually feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. And what you don’t drink, you can use to keep your bandana wet and your spritzer bottle filled.

Sunscreen: DUH! Most people are smart enough to wear sunscreen these days. Not everyone has yet caught up to the idea that one application does not last the entire day. It washes off with sweat. It wipes off on your clothes. And it just plain exhausts itself. Renew applications every hour or so – and always right after you get out of the water, if you’re swimming. And use more of it if you’re in an area where you get reflected glare – near water or in the city (concrete has a wicked reflective quality).

Those are my most basic tips for coping with the summer sun and heat. I’ll add more as I think of them. And if you have any to add to my list, feel free to drop them into the comments.

Stay cool.

1 Comments:

Blogger Meaghan Walker-Williams said...

Oh my God, you are the 2nd person I have ever seen on the Canadian blogworld make a reference to Tilley Endurables, with the exception of myself. My Dad has had us in Tilley Endurables since we were knee high to grasshoppers. :)

Saturday, July 01, 2006 4:55:00 PM  

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