I want to talk about sunburns today. They are something that I deal with often. They are something that I should avoid. I have taken many steps to not get sunburns, but somehow I am always burnt somewhere. But they are something that we should think about out on our hikes, especially those hiking in the high desert where the heat isn’t felt right away. I have been sun burnt in all weather too. The worst burns come on snowy or over cast days. So let’s talk about it.
Sunburns suck in so many ways. There is the initial pain after going in for the day and the pain when it has gotten so bad. There are the embarrassing tan lines or the Rudolf nose and raccoon eyes. But sunburns also affect us in other ways. We get dehydrated when we’re sun burnt, face heat exhaustion, have inflammation, and of course, the pealing. The pealing is disgusting to others and is irritating to us. That is not the worst though. We get permanent skin damage. It could be the dark spots or scars from blisters. But it could also turn to cancer.
The cancer is what scares me most. All the times that people have to go in to have the spots removed either by freezing or by cutting is time consuming and painful. A quick freeze isn’t that painful, but after several, it seems to get worse. I have pale skin and burn easily; because of that, I have burned yearly my entire life. I have tried tanning and sunscreens, but I still burn somewhere. If I wear a hat, I seem to burn on my face. If, I wear a shirt, I burn on my neck. It just happens no matter how careful I think I am. This results in my having to have spots removed every couple of years.
On my hikes in the mountains, I hope that the trees will give me enough coverage, and I bring along a small bottle of sunscreen to help. Most of the time that is enough. In the desert, I apply the lotion before I hike, and I tend to miss a spot. But, this summer when we were hiking in Tahoe, we crossed a meadow and were in and out of the trees all day. My arms burned badly. It was painful hiking. It was painful sleeping. A headache and nausea slowed me down. I drank a decent amount of water, but I was perspiring greatly. I was dehydrated and miserable. The next day, I used my entire bottle of sunscreen keeping coverage on my arms because I could feel the sun beating down on my puffy lobster red arms. It was too hot to wear the long sleeve I had brought, so they remained exposed. I decided then that I was going to get an SPF shirt.
I looked at cotton long sleeve button shirts, rash guards, and a true SPF shirt in a hunting store. I couldn’t find a cotton shirt to fit right. The rash guards seemed too hot, and I would have to order one to fit because there weren’t any in town. I wanted to hike that next weekend; I needed it quickly. So I bought the largest SPF shirt at a hunting store that I could find. It was light weight, said it was moisture wicking, and was rated at 50 SPF. I bought it even though it wouldn’t button around me. I could wear something under it. It was perfect. I was excited to wear it on the next trip. It definitely kept my arms and back of neck from burning. I am glad for that. But it was a hot shirt. I was sweating almost from the moment we left the parking lot. And when I get hot, my nose runs; this was no exception. It ran until it bled, and I don’t usually have that problem on the trail.
I have only hiked a few times with the shirt. I like that I don’t burn, but I am uncomfortably hot and sweaty. It took a couple of months and talking to my dad to realize that I could probably get a man’s cotton shirt to fit and be cooler. Cotton has always been cooler than nylon which is the main fiber in the shirt I bought. The next time I go to the thrift store, I am going to pick one up and try it out. There is no doubt that a long sleeved shirt is the best option for protecting my skin, but I would also like to be comfortable.