If you've ever worn a backpack for more than an hour, you know that sweaty back feeling all too well. Back sweat is a common problem among hikers, and it can be uncomfortable and lead to skin irritation.
But why does your back sweat when you're wearing a backpack? Back sweat can be caused by various factors such as weather conditions, physical exertion, and inadequate ventilation.
When you wear a backpack, the straps (and the bag itself) rub against your skin and trap heat and moisture close to your body. In addition, if your backpack is made of non-breathable synthetic materials, it will likely trap even more heat and moisture.
Whether you're wearing a backpack filled with gear or just carrying a light daypack, sweat can make your back feel hot, uncomfortable, and sticky. And of course once you are descending, you cool down quickly, and wet clothing can cause you to be chilled later in the day. So what can you do to avoid that?
The Right Choice of Backpack
Your backpack is your best friend when hiking, so take the time to find one that is the right fit for you. A backpack that is too small or too large can put pressure on the wrong parts of your back, causing excess sweating. A backpack that's too tight against your skin or has poor ventilation, will only trap heat and make your back sweat more.
Look for a backpack that's made of breathable material or has meshing so air can circulate and minimize sweat build-up. Wearing a backpack is not always the cause of the sweating, but what will happen is that the bag will inhibit air flow and prevent your back from drying off in the air.
Choosing a backpack with good ventilation and padding to allow air to circulate and prevent sweat buildup is a great choice.
Some backpacks have frames that help keep the fabric of the backpack off the small of your back. A hipbelt can actually help too. It holds most of the weight off your back, reducing how much pressure is placed on shoulders and making it possible to have the backpack fitting less snuggly.
Positioning can also help. If your backpack is adjusted to sit high on your back it will have less contact with the small of your back where most of the sweat will pool.
Take Breaks and Rests
It's important to take frequent breaks and rests to give your body a chance to cool down. If you feel yourself sweating, take a break and take off your backpack. Find a shady tree to rest under. Letting your body relax for a few minutes will give your skin a chance to cool down, help regulate your body temperature and prevent excess sweating. Use this opportunity to air out your clothes too, so when you are ready to get going again you'll be dry and comfortable.
The clothing you wear during hiking plays a significant role in preventing back sweat. Avoid wearing cotton clothing, as it tends to trap moisture and lead to excessive sweating. Synthetic fabrics like polyester and nylon are excellent choices for hiking as they are breathable and dry quickly.
In a study in 2022: The Role of Sports Clothing in Thermoregulation, Comfort, and Performance During Exercise in the Heat, the benefits of wearing sports clothing for heat and hydration control was addressed.
What you wear can make a big difference in your sweat levels. Wear clothes that don't trap heat against your skin and allow it to breathe. Opt for lightweight, moisture-wicking fabrics that can pull sweat away from your skin and keep you dry.
You might want to consider wearing a sweat-wicking shirt underneath your other layers to help keep your skin dry. Choose clothing made of moisture-wicking fabrics that can help evaporate sweat quickly.
Avoid cotton, which can absorb moisture and trap it against your skin.
Don't forget to wear sunscreen and a hat to protect yourself from the sun, which can exacerbate sweating. And if possible, try to wear light colors; dark colors will absorb more heat and make you sweat more.
Staying hydrated is important for overall health, but it can also help regulate your body temperature. Make sure you bring enough water on your hike, and consider adding some electrolytes to your water to help your body absorb it more efficiently. Don't be tempted to drink less to avoid sweating. Sweating is a way to cool you down as liquid evaporates off the skin and cools it. In a research paper by the university of Connecticut about preventing sudden death into sport they warned that by limiting your water intake, you set off a 'cascade of events' detrimental to your health. Conversely, too much liquid can cause excessive sweating. So whatever you do - monitor your hydration levels!
Finally, regular exercise can actually help reduce sweat over time. When you exercise regularly, your body becomes more efficient at regulating its temperature, and you may find that you sweat less overall.
So keep hiking, keep moving, and enjoy the benefits of a healthy and active lifestyle.