The desert can be a beautiful, magical place. It can also be dangerous for hikers and backpackers, such as those hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. From the scorching heat of the day to freezing temperatures at night, hiking in the desert can be as difficult as it is rewarding. Here are five tips for safely hiking in the desert.
1. Watch the time of day.
Midday hiking is a bad idea, especially in the heat of summer. The best time of day to hike is in the early morning or late evening, when the temperatures drop to safe levels. Make sure to wear a powerful LED headlamp if you’re hiking with limited visibility.
2. Camel up.
As you know, water is scarce in the desert. Packing water is essential, but so is stopping at naturally occurring fresh water sources. This allows you to “camel up” – that is, chug enough water to keep you hydrated on the next leg of your journey. If you are on a long hike, make camp around water sources whenever possible.
3. Wear appropriate clothing.
Temperatures fluctuate wildly in the desert, so you’ll want to wear clothing that is both lightweight and protects you from the elements. You will also need sun protection, such as a wide-brimmed hat, dark sunglasses and sunscreen.
4. Pack light.
Pack as much food and water as you can carry and little else. Don’t load up with unnecessary items. Instead, bring only the essentials, including a first aid kit and LED headlamps or flashlights.
5. Pace yourself.
Desert hiking is different than forest hiking – you can get dehydrated and exhausted much more quickly. While you don’t want to be stuck out on a trail for days, you certainly don’t want to overexert yourself and run the risk of getting heat stroke or twisting an ankle.
[Photo by: Marco Bellucci]