5

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How did Paleo people stay cool/ deal with horridly hot humid weather?

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created July 22, 2011 at 1:22 PM

What methods do hunter/gatherers in hot regions use? Sit in a river all day? Naps in the shade?

I'm in the DC area with heat index predictions of 110-115 and no AC. I've been mostly AC free other than work for 6 years, but days like these make me wonder how our ancestors coped in areas that were usually very hot.

46cca8ea7b1325c286c470182aef053b

(111)

on July 24, 2013
at 10:56 PM

The most undeniably paleo sentence I've ever read on this site. "Watch out for rocks and sharks."

6b72eeb3f0c98b487f712efcb5092c90

(293)

on August 27, 2011
at 01:31 PM

Can I come live with you in Scotland?

6b72eeb3f0c98b487f712efcb5092c90

(293)

on August 27, 2011
at 01:30 PM

+1 for checking in on your elderly neighbors.

3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on July 24, 2011
at 04:58 AM

I'd upvote this twice if I could. Once for the list of good pointers, and once more for wishing the US would switch to a sensible schedule.

2f54dbe892ec89b12d1db686568e885a

(919)

on July 23, 2011
at 09:19 AM

Plenty of rain too in Scotland

1d0497f8781845ab371b479455bfee8e

(11157)

on July 23, 2011
at 02:46 AM

All things considered, the heat has been normal down here in FL so far this year. Granted, it gets a few degrees warmer inland, but still nowhere near the temps in the north right now!

8949bf87b0e0aefcad10f29975e4fa2b

(8989)

on July 23, 2011
at 12:06 AM

People have been going to the beach for a long time. That's because it works.

8828d5922b47a0e2b82bde2232037746

(616)

on July 23, 2011
at 12:00 AM

See, you make a good point... we should look at what the Afghans and Iraqis do to get by in the desert heat. These folks have been accommodating heat for thousands of years... I'm sure they know a thing or two about surviving extreme weather conditions. :)

8828d5922b47a0e2b82bde2232037746

(616)

on July 22, 2011
at 11:54 PM

I'm in DC and I actually went out and took an hour and a half walk today around lunch time. I'm not sure why, but it seems like since I went paleo and eat almost only meat, the heat doesn't bother me anymore. I walk every day for at least an hour with my shirt off and it feels great! I'm thinking folks would have likely jumped in the Potomac or stayed in the shade. After a trip to Europe several years back I realized how dependent we've become in America to air conditioning. A/C is ridiculous here. Once you get acclimated to the heat, it's a breeze. :)

F78bfa3ae7886d1ebdbcbc37c0a1b085

(50)

on July 22, 2011
at 11:01 PM

70F in Portland, Oregon today. Supposed to be in the 80's this weekend, which counts as a heat wave this year. Come on over! :)

27e79ef3308bb5f2d7bd04ee7eea7b79

(2038)

on July 22, 2011
at 09:43 PM

Ha! Yes, my three-year-old KSOs don't cut it on asphalt here in DC either. Treks work better.

A68f24168bc0de414a038037e287b581

(4896)

on July 22, 2011
at 09:07 PM

just choose the right fivefingers - I almost got burns just now from walking around on street and grass!

A68f24168bc0de414a038037e287b581

(4896)

on July 22, 2011
at 09:06 PM

I just came back from a walk around the neighborhood to hang fliers about my Sunday sale... I came back with pounding heart, breathing hard and face in pink/red splotches. From just walking and doing steps! No way they neanderthal in me is happy right now ;-)

34a367e60db77270bd7096dc04270fdc

(4171)

on July 22, 2011
at 04:29 PM

That's like a people stew - afraid to catch polio or something in those places!

5ccb98f6ae42ce87e206cf3f6a86039f

(11581)

on July 22, 2011
at 04:25 PM

That's it. It's all my ancestors fault for moving to northern Europe. Stay careful & cool. I loaded a U-Haul in weather like this once and became quite ill.

5ccb98f6ae42ce87e206cf3f6a86039f

(11581)

on July 22, 2011
at 04:21 PM

It's way, way to hot to walk.

Cab7e4ef73c5d7d7a77e1c3d7f5773a1

(7314)

on July 22, 2011
at 04:21 PM

I'm in dc too and I unfortunately have a tennis tournament today. Two matches, one at 1230 and one at 3...

5ccb98f6ae42ce87e206cf3f6a86039f

(11581)

on July 22, 2011
at 04:21 PM

+1 for the quote above.

7d0c3ea9bf8be00b93e6433d8f125ac3

(7540)

on July 22, 2011
at 03:31 PM

Send some of that heat over to BC! I can't believe we're having 12-degree rainy days in July. The one time of the year the sun is supposed to make an appearance over here.

5ccb98f6ae42ce87e206cf3f6a86039f

(11581)

on July 22, 2011
at 03:17 PM

I am however thankful that I don't have to go downtown or anywhere today. The closest places in the area (for certain really distant values of area) not under heat warnings are up near Deep Creek Lake, MD, and the high mountains in WV.

5ccb98f6ae42ce87e206cf3f6a86039f

(11581)

on July 22, 2011
at 03:14 PM

Currently I'm wearing a wet tank top and standing in front of a fan, drinking huge amounts of ice water and tea. It's still too hot.

5437163ddf70d4532f196bfb4333753e

(3614)

on July 22, 2011
at 03:10 PM

Absolutely...I know when I was metabolically deranged (before paleo) I was ALWAYS hotter than everybody else in the room. I never realized my diet made me that way. I just thought I was "warm blooded," whatever the Hell that means LOL

24fcc21452ebe39c032be6801d6bbadd

(9812)

on July 22, 2011
at 02:52 PM

Greetings from Southern MD, I feel your pain! Or I will when I get out of the office :/ This morning's preview was not a good one.

66e6b190e62fb3bcf42d4c60801c7bf6

(12407)

on July 22, 2011
at 02:34 PM

i'm in dc too. it's friggin baking out here!!! there was a lot of #deodorantfail on the subway this morning...

7e746be2f0e550a8cd7df881322ae705

(18701)

on July 22, 2011
at 02:24 PM

There is an awesome tree covered road close to my house and when I ride through it on my scooter or my bike it is AMAZING how much the temp drops in there!

7e746be2f0e550a8cd7df881322ae705

(18701)

on July 22, 2011
at 02:23 PM

"They sat in the shade and complained about how hot it was." Hee!

5ccb98f6ae42ce87e206cf3f6a86039f

(11581)

on July 22, 2011
at 02:22 PM

Matthew, I'll be right over. You can spare the plane fare, right?

0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19235)

on July 22, 2011
at 02:13 PM

Come to Scotland, it's only about 60F here today.

36b7a2776d028dc8d5743e2e56ece34d

(812)

on July 22, 2011
at 01:50 PM

it's weird too I think the sun got closer to the earth this year, for some reason it didn't seem as hot last year

47fbd704c0392c2f38e86a72f1a06c6c

(346)

on July 22, 2011
at 01:38 PM

I'm in the DC area too, and it is brutal. The kiddos and I are heading to the POOL!

Aead76beb5fc7b762a6b4ddc234f6051

(15239)

on July 22, 2011
at 01:35 PM

my brain is definitely melting.

  • 5ccb98f6ae42ce87e206cf3f6a86039f

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26 Answers

10
21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on July 22, 2011
at 01:57 PM

Didn't it get really hot in Africa 60,000 years ago, and they didn't have AC, so some people left Africa and started eating grains and building factories and having world wars? No good can come of this heat wave.

But yeah, I would guess that we use streams and ponds for cooling purposes a lot less than our paleo ancestors.

9
Medium avatar

on July 24, 2011
at 03:31 AM

I'm an adventure guide. I currently work (outside, without AC, sleeping in a tent mon-fri) in North Carolina (the heat index was 126 two days ago!) and have worked in Dubai and Oman (where the temp hits 110 by April and 140 in August) Here are a few things I do:
1. wear a BIG hat. a big dorky old lady hat. It keeps your face in the shade :)
2. keep something like a bandanna handy that you can soak and wear. the evaporation cools you off
3. stay in the shade. Find a space in the shade with a little breeze
4. get low. dig a hole and sit in it, get under a rock. the ground is cooler than the air
5. get in deep water. jump into a large body of deep water. it will be cooler than the air. watch out for rocks and sharks
6. lay around during the hottest part of the day
7. use an insulated water bottle. it will keep even water out of the tap cooler longer. add ice if you can
8. drink water constantly. like a gallon a day.
9. wear breezy, lightweight, light colored, fast drying clothes that have long sleeves. sounds hot but trust me. your skin will be in the shade.
10. Also, an umbrella is a great way to take shade around with you! Make sure your umbrella is opaque and a dark color.
11. If you know you're going someplace without shade, take a silver (yes SILVER) tarp with you. You can set up a tarp using some tent stakes, rope and poles or vehicle or any large object (boulder, hill etc) On the beach we set up tarps with kayak paddles as poles and rope. Blue/orange/green tarps let too much light in and essentially turn into an oven. Silver stops the light from coming through to create real shade.

In the United Arab Emirates, the traditional buildings have these weird towers coming up from the middle. The tower has openings like windows on all four sides at the top and bars running across them. I asked about them when I was there last. Turns out they used to wet cloth and hang the wet cloth from those bars. The tower was high enough to catch a breeze. The wet cloth would cool down the air, which would fall downward. The main seating/living area of the home was situated beneath the tower to make life bearable. AC before AC was invented! You can utilize this in your house. Moisten a t-shirt or a pillowcase and use clothespins to put it over a floor fan. Also in UAE, everything opens really early in the morning, like around 6:30 or 7, and closes from 11 to 3:30 and then opens up again from around 4 till 10pm. No one does anything during the hot part of the day. Too bad the hot parts of the US can't switch to that schedule.

3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on July 24, 2011
at 04:58 AM

I'd upvote this twice if I could. Once for the list of good pointers, and once more for wishing the US would switch to a sensible schedule.

46cca8ea7b1325c286c470182aef053b

(111)

on July 24, 2013
at 10:56 PM

The most undeniably paleo sentence I've ever read on this site. "Watch out for rocks and sharks."

8
8c5533ffe71bd4262fedc7e898ead1ba

on July 22, 2011
at 01:53 PM

I can tell you what Africans and Indians do in places where the temp surpasses 40 C -- they sit in the shade. They sleep outside. They move as little as humanly possible during daylight hours. If something needs to be done, they'll do it at 3am when it has cooled down a bit.

5
8949bf87b0e0aefcad10f29975e4fa2b

(8989)

on July 22, 2011
at 03:30 PM

That's easy! They found a cave. They're always nice and cool, even when it is blistering hot above ground.

4
66974b2cb291799dcd661b7dec99a9e2

(11121)

on July 22, 2011
at 02:09 PM

Our ancestors were better adapted to handling heat than we are today, they did not have a/c and did not spent almost all of their time protected inside buildings and by wearing a lot of clothes. They probably were smart enough to rest during the hottest part of the day and were more active in the mornings and late afternoon/evenings. They were probably naturally better hydrated than we are today as they did not drink things that had diuretic properties or take prescription drugs or have messed up metabolisms. Overall they were way more in tune with their environments than we are to day.

5437163ddf70d4532f196bfb4333753e

(3614)

on July 22, 2011
at 03:10 PM

Absolutely...I know when I was metabolically deranged (before paleo) I was ALWAYS hotter than everybody else in the room. I never realized my diet made me that way. I just thought I was "warm blooded," whatever the Hell that means LOL

4
Aead76beb5fc7b762a6b4ddc234f6051

(15239)

on July 22, 2011
at 01:39 PM

its hot here, too- index is about 107 today. im by the coast, but its too hot at the beach today. i also dont have AC and will never, ever get it. i cant stand the stuff, but i do have a small window unit in my kiddos room set at 75. sometimes i wuss out and chill out in there for a while, but honestly coming out of the AC is such torture that i would rather just power through.

i would imagine that people would seek shelter and just take it easy on abnormally hot days. its important to conserve energy when its like this outside if you dont have a reliable water source. i like to lay low, myself. i get very sleepy in the heat....seems like its telling me something.

stay cool out there, and please check in on your elderly neighbors.

6b72eeb3f0c98b487f712efcb5092c90

(293)

on August 27, 2011
at 01:30 PM

+1 for checking in on your elderly neighbors.

3
0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19235)

on July 22, 2011
at 02:00 PM

This is not currently a problem in Scotland. One day recently the temperature got as high as 24 C (74 F), that was a very hot day.

Perhaps they just sat in their cave if they had one, they are cool whatever the weather.

Or went for a swim and sat in the shade.

Being naked probably helped, there were less social rules about clothing.

Become nocturnal.

I reckon people who live in tropical areas that are hot all year round do get more accustomed to the heat.

I expect our higher latitude paleo ancestors reacted to heat waves in a similar way to us, they sat in the shade and complained about how hot it was.

7e746be2f0e550a8cd7df881322ae705

(18701)

on July 22, 2011
at 02:23 PM

"They sat in the shade and complained about how hot it was." Hee!

5ccb98f6ae42ce87e206cf3f6a86039f

(11581)

on July 22, 2011
at 04:21 PM

+1 for the quote above.

6b72eeb3f0c98b487f712efcb5092c90

(293)

on August 27, 2011
at 01:31 PM

Can I come live with you in Scotland?

3
7e746be2f0e550a8cd7df881322ae705

on July 22, 2011
at 01:53 PM

It's abnormally hot and humid around Chicago too! We did the sitting in a river thing (tubing) on Wednesday and it was AMAZING how cool we were. We didn't feel the heat at all, just bobbing along in the water. I would guess if water were available, they would have utilized it.

2
8636aa8190cdb0a0bf85441925c51f57

on July 22, 2011
at 04:10 PM

Take a cloth like a scarf or bandana and soak it in cold water put it on head.... Works like a champ we used this method in Iraq.

8828d5922b47a0e2b82bde2232037746

(616)

on July 23, 2011
at 12:00 AM

See, you make a good point... we should look at what the Afghans and Iraqis do to get by in the desert heat. These folks have been accommodating heat for thousands of years... I'm sure they know a thing or two about surviving extreme weather conditions. :)

2
B76f22ed4373946b3c8990b667562683

on July 22, 2011
at 02:07 PM

Haven't you heard? Global warming. Our ancestors never faced anything like this. They were more concerned about getting fires started on those frigid July mornings!

One thing to consider is this. In wooded areas there is at least a 10?? drop in temperature from the open, industrial worlds we live in now (the blacktop and metal doesn't help things, either). To anyone who has ever spent some time in the woods, you know that is just plain feels cooler, to the point of being relieving, on even the hottest days.

At least where I live in Pennsylvania, there are enormous boulders sprinkled throughout the woods. nestling down beside or between some of the guys, in under an overhang, really provides a lot of relief from the heat. If our ancestors were fortunate enough to have access to caves, they are considerably cooler. They maintain a more or less constant temperature all year, which makes them great refuges in both the summer heat and the frigid winter.

7e746be2f0e550a8cd7df881322ae705

(18701)

on July 22, 2011
at 02:24 PM

There is an awesome tree covered road close to my house and when I ride through it on my scooter or my bike it is AMAZING how much the temp drops in there!

2
4a585ea8059f71614597a56805cc60c7

(390)

on July 22, 2011
at 02:04 PM

Maybe they weren't obsessed with how "dirty" the human body was and shed the animal pelts!

2
77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on July 22, 2011
at 01:49 PM

Maybe they traveled someplace a little cooler.

5ccb98f6ae42ce87e206cf3f6a86039f

(11581)

on July 22, 2011
at 04:21 PM

It's way, way to hot to walk.

8828d5922b47a0e2b82bde2232037746

(616)

on July 22, 2011
at 11:54 PM

I'm in DC and I actually went out and took an hour and a half walk today around lunch time. I'm not sure why, but it seems like since I went paleo and eat almost only meat, the heat doesn't bother me anymore. I walk every day for at least an hour with my shirt off and it feels great! I'm thinking folks would have likely jumped in the Potomac or stayed in the shade. After a trip to Europe several years back I realized how dependent we've become in America to air conditioning. A/C is ridiculous here. Once you get acclimated to the heat, it's a breeze. :)

8949bf87b0e0aefcad10f29975e4fa2b

(8989)

on July 23, 2011
at 12:06 AM

People have been going to the beach for a long time. That's because it works.

2
36b7a2776d028dc8d5743e2e56ece34d

on July 22, 2011
at 01:29 PM

Concrete creates micro-climates hotter than what you'd find in nature. Unless you're in the desert shade and wind would make hot environments tolerable.

My house is in a horrible spot and even though it will be windy outside, the wind won't hit my house and it heats up to like 100F during the summer. Sometimes I feel like my brain is melting.

36b7a2776d028dc8d5743e2e56ece34d

(812)

on July 22, 2011
at 01:50 PM

it's weird too I think the sun got closer to the earth this year, for some reason it didn't seem as hot last year

Aead76beb5fc7b762a6b4ddc234f6051

(15239)

on July 22, 2011
at 01:35 PM

my brain is definitely melting.

1
1550b5f5780ab32192d1bd15f4091ac4

on July 23, 2011
at 09:07 PM

Gin and tonic usually works - and lots of it.

1
19acef0aed67ef8dc1118d8e74edb349

(2954)

on July 23, 2011
at 02:12 AM

One would think there would be plenty of vegetation to hide from the sun. Ever gone for a walk in the woods? Now imagine what our current world would be like if we didn't remove all that vegetation to build houses/roads/etc etc. Nearly everywhere you walk, there would be trees and vines providing shade. We'd be nice and cool.

Try it sometime :-)

1
27e79ef3308bb5f2d7bd04ee7eea7b79

(2038)

on July 22, 2011
at 03:37 PM

Hunter/gatherers in hot regions skipped their Crossfit sessions on scorching days. They pulled on their Vibram FiveFingers for protection from the blazing sands instead of going barefoot. They pulled up whatever grew from the ground for sustenance instead of chasing down game.

A68f24168bc0de414a038037e287b581

(4896)

on July 22, 2011
at 09:07 PM

just choose the right fivefingers - I almost got burns just now from walking around on street and grass!

27e79ef3308bb5f2d7bd04ee7eea7b79

(2038)

on July 22, 2011
at 09:43 PM

Ha! Yes, my three-year-old KSOs don't cut it on asphalt here in DC either. Treks work better.

1
66e6b190e62fb3bcf42d4c60801c7bf6

on July 22, 2011
at 02:38 PM

get over to the wave pool at six flags. reenactment at its finest.

34a367e60db77270bd7096dc04270fdc

(4171)

on July 22, 2011
at 04:29 PM

That's like a people stew - afraid to catch polio or something in those places!

1
1f24d4895246892ef4ee4d79b7f9eeeb

on July 22, 2011
at 02:23 PM

Take a pillowcase or a tea towel and dampen it, then tie it loosely around your neck. The evaporation will cool the blood flowing in and out of your brain. Also, spray water on your limbs.

1
A68f24168bc0de414a038037e287b581

on July 22, 2011
at 02:20 PM

It depends where it was, our ancestors did evolve to accommodate the climate. I am from Europe, and do much better in cold/mild temperatures, I don't stand heat well. Now, as I live in Baltimore, I just sit inside and enjoy the AC. I am fine that it's not really natural... The heat is not natural to me either ;-) and as I am packing before a big over-sea move, I can't afford napping and taking it easy.

I will have to go out a few times, probably carrying stuff as I am selling/getting rid of my furniture and most of other things over this week, and really carrying anything heavier in over 100*F is just brutal. I will try to minimize my outside activities as much as possible. I feel really bad for people whose job forces them to be outside, like mail delivery.

5ccb98f6ae42ce87e206cf3f6a86039f

(11581)

on July 22, 2011
at 04:25 PM

That's it. It's all my ancestors fault for moving to northern Europe. Stay careful & cool. I loaded a U-Haul in weather like this once and became quite ill.

A68f24168bc0de414a038037e287b581

(4896)

on July 22, 2011
at 09:06 PM

I just came back from a walk around the neighborhood to hang fliers about my Sunday sale... I came back with pounding heart, breathing hard and face in pink/red splotches. From just walking and doing steps! No way they neanderthal in me is happy right now ;-)

1
Ce7e28769d92d5de5533e775b1de966e

on July 22, 2011
at 01:56 PM

I think... naps during the hottest part of the day. Being near water as as the spray would evaporate in air and cause cooling, or climbing into the water. Eating water rich veg, plants, and fruit. Make fans out of leaves maybe?

It "felt like" 101 at 7am here in NY this morn. Melt city..

0
Cc7381bd787721575ea9198048132adb

on July 22, 2011
at 04:51 PM

Mid NC here and it's miserable outside. I'd agree with a lot of the other posts and just take it real easy as much as possible when it's this hot out, stick to the shade and go swimming when you can. I walk my dog as early in the morning or as late at night as possible to avoid the heat (he's a big boy and can't stand the heat either.) Cold showers work wonders and stay hydrated!!!!

0
34a367e60db77270bd7096dc04270fdc

(4171)

on July 22, 2011
at 04:43 PM

I have to say living down in Orlando, Florida feels like living directly on the sun - When I walk each day I'm drenched from head to toe when get home. The humidity down here is killer and I really hate it when I'm trying to look pretty! Shade is a must and like someone else said, the cool rag on your neck. I bought these Cool Wrap scarf things to take on a Disney world trip last summer and they are awesome!

1d0497f8781845ab371b479455bfee8e

(11157)

on July 23, 2011
at 02:46 AM

All things considered, the heat has been normal down here in FL so far this year. Granted, it gets a few degrees warmer inland, but still nowhere near the temps in the north right now!

0
7d0c3ea9bf8be00b93e6433d8f125ac3

(7540)

on July 22, 2011
at 04:39 PM

I spent most of my childhood in the subtropics. This is what we used to do when it was 37 degrees, incredibly humid, and it felt hot even in the shade:

1) Go to the nearest Circle K store

2) Stand in front of the open drinks freezer bitching about the heat until we noticed the clerk staring at us with an expression of hatred.

Seriously, though, you do get used to the heat and learn to not care so much about the fact that you feel sticky and gross all day long. Splashing your face with cold water helps, so does wearing the absolute bare minimum of clothing and no shoes :) Maybe Paleo people just learned to suck it up too, not go out in the sun in the middle of the day, etc. I also agree that the city environment with all the cars and concrete makes it feel MUCH worse, and that's something they wouldn't have had to deal with, obviously.

0
5437163ddf70d4532f196bfb4333753e

(3614)

on July 22, 2011
at 03:08 PM

The same way people in equatorial regions do it now: they're just plain adapted to it. I was visiting my brother in Texas last year (in July...yeesh). There were some migrant laborers building a brick wall/fence around a pool across the street. It was 110 degrees (and wicked humid) and they were out there laying brick, wearing jeans and sweatshirts. They had no moist rags, no fancy underarmor gear, and they had no shade. They could just handle it.

0
25d194527c9d73646583a7cf1c5d477e

on July 22, 2011
at 02:24 PM

I agree with Josh. They were better conditioned to the heat. They weren't spoiled by air climate controlled environments and by driving around in cars. They had to walk or run wherever they wanted to go, whether the temperature was comfortable by our standards or not. I often wonder how people did it 50-60 years ago without AC, when they were not found without a jacket and tie, but they managed. It is all a matter of what you are used too. I also agree with those who mentioned micro-climates in cities. The concrete and metal, along with the heat expelled by those very same AC units into the outdoors creates those hotter micro-climates in highly populated areas.

0
1ec4e7ca085b7f8d5821529653e1e35a

(5506)

on July 22, 2011
at 02:11 PM

My "beat the heat" options:

Fast. Usually when I am in the later hours of my 16 hour fast I start to get pretty cold as my body reverts heat from my extremeties. This is a decent beat the heat option for the mornings.

Ice water where I mostly keep eating the ice

Cold showers

And my favorite... Cliff diving!

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