September was a busy month due to 3 back-to-back weekends participating in fairs around the Bay Area in Northern California. With an unusually hotter than average fall, there were several adjustments and planning that went into each event. With outdoor venues, the dark asphalt combined with low ventilation from closely-packed tents can result in a booth temperature that is significantly higher than the outside air temperature. While not all of these tips may apply directly to you, I hope that you can take away one useful piece of advice that you can incorporate into your next outdoor event.

Before we get started, I want to make this the most important point: how to recognize the symptoms of heat-related illnesses

Identifying the early symptoms of heat exhaustion if they are occurring within your own body is critical to prevent heat stroke. Keeping yourself hydrated is the best course of action to take. But education is also important if you see an event attendee or fellow vendor affected by the heat.

Read the CDC’s guide to heat-related illnesses here:

1. Event planning: pick a shady spot

Not all event organizers will give you the opportunity to pick your specific location in an event, but some will allow you to pick an area if the venue is divided into sections. Many events occur annually and have a similar layout from year-to-year, so use this knowledge to your advantage. I use the previous year’s map in combination with Google’s street view to have a bird’s eye view of the event. Even better, if you can drive and access the venue, tour the area in-person to get the best idea of the event layout.

Most events are planned 4-6 months in advance, so the earlier you contact the event organizer, the higher chances you’ll have to find a nice, cool spot.

It also goes without saying that if you’re in a shady spot in a hot day, chances are more people will gravitate to your area simply because they want to get out of the direct sunlight. It’s a win-win situation if you can locate and reserve a prime area.

2. Get to the event early

Depending on the event, you may be able to setup your booth the day before or the morning of the event itself. If you have the opportunity to set up the day prior, either choose the early morning or late afternoon to avoid the hottest times. If you are only allowed to setup on the day of the event, I always recommend arriving during the earliest check-in time to avoid parking and unloading hassles. Having ample time to setup your tent and wares can prevent early onset fatigue and you have time to relax before the event starts.

3. Bring water – and lots of it

It can be easy to underestimate how much water you need to drink to keep your body hydrated. For a typical 6-8 hour event, I pack 1 GALLON of water AND a ½ gallon cooler filled with ice. Adding ice to your water helps cool your body down faster than room temperature water.

Packing more water than you need is better than running out of water by 2 pm. You can always empty out any leftover water after the event ends, but you don’t want to be in a situation where you’re waiting in line to buy a bottle of water if you’re already dehydrated. If you have a friend helping you, also pack enough water for them as well.

4. Pack salty snacks

Eating salt after you’re dehydrated is dangerous and generally not recommended. But snacking on easy to eat salty foods such as chips and jerky throughout the day can be useful if you have the tendency to sweat a lot. I always pack a bag of chips (and a pair of chopsticks to avoid greasy fingers) as part of my snack bag and it has slowed down the rate of water loss.

5. Sun protection & clothing

While you might be in the shade of your pop-up tent, don’t forget that your attire can affect how well your body can cool down. Depending on the event, it may not be appropriate to wear a tank top and shorts, but you can don lightweight activewear to make your day a bit more bearable. I like to wear a short-sleeved t-shirt and a lightweight pair of relaxed fit jeans on most outdoor events.

And don’t forget about hats! I purchased a white wide-brimmed hat from Outdoor Research this year and it has quickly become one of my favorites. This specific model (link non-affiliated) can be rolled for compact storage and is machine washable.

Inevitably you will need to leave your booth for breaks and before you do, make sure that you have sunscreen. For best results, sunscreen should be reapplied every 2-3 hours (especially if you are sweating). A broad spectrum (UVA and UVB blocking) SPF of 30 or more is the general recommendation from most dermatologists.

6.  Have a designated Booth Buddy (BB)

I’ve talked about the importance of having a friend or family member help you during your events in a previous blog post, but it’s especially important during those hot outdoor festivals. You can, of course, ask a neighboring vendor to quickly watch your booth when you need a bathroom break – but after the second or third time, the guilt of burdening your neighbor can quickly set in. Not wanting to leave your booth unattended leads to drinking less water – which eventually can lead to dehydration. See where I’m going here?

If you’re overheating, the best thing you can do is step away from your booth and find someplace cool to rest. Go to an air-conditioned supermarket, a coffee shop, or sit under a shady tree for a break while your booth buddy covers for you.

And if you want a quick run-down summary of this post, here you go!

The reason why I wanted to cover this topic is because I’ve unfortunately had several instances where I experienced significant heat stress. My symptoms included excessive sweating, nausea, and headaches. If you are in the situation where you have heat exhaustion, it may take a day or longer to fully recover. Heat stroke is a very serious condition that may require hospitalization if your body loses its ability to regulate its own temperature.

Doing events can be stressful and often involves long hours and physical exercise. Combining all of these factors with a hot weekend puts yourself in a high-risk group for heat-related illnesses. 

Have a tip of your own that you’d like to share? Comment below and help out the community with your own experiences.


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