By Joe Wilkes

Summer is almost upon us and that means heat, heat, heat. Here in California, we're always looking for ways to beat the heat. Other parts of the country are also likely to experience long, hot summers this year, and with the price of fuel and electricity going through the roof, cranking up the air conditioning seems like a less feasible option all the time. So what can you do besides sweating it out? Here are a few tips for keeping it cool.

  1. Drink yourself cool. But don't reach for the margaritas. Cool? Yes. Hydrating? No! The key to staying cool is to stay hydrated. And the best thing to drink, as always, is water. Try to avoid caffeine and alcohol, because they'll dehydrate you and make matters worse (although if you've passed out from drinking alcohol, you might not mind the heat so much). Herbal iced tea, lemonade (make your own but go easy on the sugar), and sparkling water are all great summer beverages.
  2. Embrace your inner vampire. Whether or not you have air conditioning, the sun is your worst enemy when you're trying to keep cool. By keeping your blinds and drapes closed during the day, you can keep your place cool without running up the air conditioning bill. If you don't have air conditioning and want to open your windows, lower the blinds to the height of the open windows and keep the windows covered on the side of your house where the sun's shining.
  3. Spice up your life. This may seem counterintuitive, but summer is the best time to eat spicy food. Think about cuisines from countries close to the equator, like Mexico, India, and Thailand, that incorporate chilies and curries. Spicy peppers cause your pores to open and let the cool air into your body. They'll also encourage you to drink more water!
  4. The poor man's air conditioner. And I'm the poor man of whom I speak. During periods of poverty in my youth, I came up with the frozen-towel method of staying cool. Take a washcloth, a hand towel, or even a bath towel if it's really hot, dampen it, and stick it in the freezer. When it's stiff (though not frozen solid), remove it from the freezer and wrap it around your neck. Heaven! When it thaws, refreeze and repeat. If it's really hot, try doing the same with a T-shirt!
  5. Ice, ice, baby. Ice is your friend. Don't have an air conditioner? Have an air conditioner and don't want to hurt the environment? Put a pan full of ice cubes in front of a fan—the ice will cool the air. This is only a temporary solution, as the ice will melt, but it should last at least long enough for you to, say, fall asleep. Taking a cold shower before bedtime can also help keep you cool.
  6. Feet, don't fail me now. Keeping your feet cool is key to keeping your whole body cool. Soak your feet in a dishpan or bucket of cold water. Try wearing damp or frozen socks to bed as well. It'll help fool your brain into thinking your whole body's cool.
  7. White is the new black. And anyone who's seen my wardrobe knows how painful this tip is for me. Black and dark-colored clothing absorb heat and will cook you like a potato in tinfoil. Wear white or light-colored clothing to reflect the heat. Loose-fitting clothing is also good—it'll allow a breeze to move through instead of trapping in the warmth.