With incidences of skin cancer rising rapidly making it the fifth most common form of cancer in the UK, and growing concern over delayed referrals in such cases, taking precautions in the sun is more important than ever. As well as the obvious dangers, sunburn and chapped lips caused by overexposure can be uncomfortable, potentially putting a dampener on the rest of your trip. Without even mentioning the ageing effects of the sun, the importance of sun protection is clear.
Reaching the destination can sometimes require a little extra when trekking: Annapurna Base Camp, Nepal (Image: Natalie Clince)
Whilst hot weather and sunshine will be a given for some destinations, the sun might not be the first thing that comes to mind when planning a trip to the mountains or more moderate climes. However, on a rambling holiday exposure to the sun can be greater than many other types of holiday. Hiking in open spaces such as desert or steppe may mean there is no shade to be sought, leaving little option to escape the midday sun. Taking several hours out during the middle of the day occasionally may not be possible even if there is shade, as there could be days when you have that extra distance to cover if trekking. Risk from the sun can be an issue at any time of year, especially at higher altitudes and even when it is overcast.
Even on overcast days sun precautions are important: The Great Wall at Jinshanling, China (Image: Natalie Clince)
There are of course ways to be prepared in advance and simple things you can do each day. Here are some tips on staying safe in the sun whilst rambling:
- Don’t forget ears, neck, and under the chin – ensure you put suncream on these parts. Wearing a wide brimmed hat will offer protection to these areas, whilst additionally protecting against sunstroke. Be sure to extend suncream or clothing cover all the way onto the hands too, especially if using trekking poles.
- Sunglasses – protecting the eyes is as imperative as protecting the skin as sun exposure can increase the incidence of some forms of cataract. The UV factor is important; try to go for UV400 if possible as this means 99-100% of UVA and UVB rays up to 400nm will be filtered out. Protection up to 400nm is important as these longer-reaching rays can be the most damaging to the eyes.
- Suncream – wear at least SPF30 since you are going to be active, applied thirty minutes before you go out in the sun. As well as the factor displaying the level of screening against UVB rays, suncreams also have a star rating (0-5) to grade their protection against UVA rays so it is important to choose both a high factor and a high star rating. It is a good idea to buy suncream at home and take it with you as, particularly in more rural areas, there may be a limited supply and you cannot be sure how long bottles have been sat on the shelf. Suncream does have an expiry date.
- Umbrella – if you are out in the open, having an umbrella to create shades for rests is invaluable. Take a small lightweight one that can sit in your bag without adding weight.
- Spf lipbalm – protect your lips from the sun and prevent chapping.
- Clothing – this will be the best defence against any harmful effects of the sun. Long sleeves and legs in varying materials depending on the temperature are vital but do not block out all of the sun’s rays. UPF clothing or wash-in protection are worth considering if you are travelling somewhere with especially high exposure.
Shops in rural areas may not always be well-stocked: The main street in Muang Ngoi Neua, Laos (Image: Natalie Clince)An umbrella is helpful for creating shade: scrambling for shade on the beach at Mar del Plata, Argentina (Image: Natalie Clince)