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Desert Hiking Essentials and Safety Tips

Hiking in the desert makes for an entirely unique experience, a far cry from the usual mountainous terrains. There are some guidelines and safety tips that you need to keep in mind before you embark upon your hike, and we've listed them out for you in this Buzzle write-up.
Desert hiking essentials
Important tip!
Do not hike in the desert between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. The high temperature can cause several heat-related illnesses in hikers.
Hiking in the desert may seem unconventional to some, but this activity does have quite a few avid followers. Desert hiking gives you ample opportunity to indulge in rock climbing, walk along the gorgeous terrain, and of course, click pictures as you move ahead.

Hiking, as all other adventure sports, should never be taken lightly, especially when you consider the harshness of the desert. There are certain safety measures and precautions that you need to keep in mind, every step of the way.

Top 5 Desert Hiking Essentials and Safety Tips

1. Carry All Essentials

A desert hike is definitely not a stroll in the park, so it is imperative to make preparations for it. To begin with, you must make a list of essential items which you need to carry along with you. These include basic supplies and safety equipment. Usually, the items that you carry along for your trip depend on the location, weather, and the amount of time you plan to spend there. But a desert hiking trip in particular, calls for the following essentials -
  • Extra water
  • Extra food
  • Map and compass
  • First aid kit
  • Flashlight with spare batteries
  • Spray water bottle to mist water on your body
  • Protective clothing
  • Sunscreen
  • Whistle/mirror for use during emergencies
  • Swiss knife
2. Keep Sipping on Fluids

Nothing works like good ol' water to beat the desert heat. Preferably, you should never hike between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., times when the sun is at its brightest. However, it is important to be hydrated at all times, in order to keep heat-related afflictions at bay. A good hydration pack will help you keep up your fluid intake, and won't be too cumbersome to carry.

It is estimated that an individual perspires around half to one quart of fluid for every hour spent walking in the sun. This may exceed to around 2 quarts if you're walking uphill in harsh sunlight. Ignoring the health risks associated with desert hiking can place you in a potentially life-threatening situation, especially if you're alone. Therefore, remember to keep sipping on water every few minutes, rather than waiting for thirst to strike, and make yourself vulnerable to a heat stroke.

3. Respect Mother Nature

The solitude of the desert may trick you into believing that you are the master of this vast expanse of land, but it obviously isn't so. Deserts are home to a large number of rattlesnakes, coyotes, black widow spiders, and scorpions, not to mention several land-dwelling insects. Your presence on their land would not bother them, unless you go and bother them first. Therefore, as a responsible hiker, you must keep yourself from going unnecessarily close to any animals, or deliberately harming them, lest you wish to be attacked by them. Accidental encounters may happen, of course, which is why you need to be acquainted with first aid measures as well.

4. Know What to Do if You're Lost

In case misfortune befalls, you might lose your way in the desert. Your immediate response would be to panic, but do refrain from doing so. Instead, follow the Stop-Think-Observe-Plan (STOP) method to reassess your situation. This involves stopping to relax and get over your 'freaked out' state of mind. The next step is to look around and think about your best available options. This includes studying your map, assessing your possessions, and making optimum use of them. The third step is to observe the environment around you to chalk out an exit/escape route. The final step is to plan what your next move is going to be, having taken complete stock of the situation you are in.

Deserts are usually notorious for being reception-free zones, so don't always expect your mobile phone to work here. Thus, it is of utmost importance to let your loved ones know about the exact details of your hiking trip, so that they can take the necessary measures to send out a search party in case you are lost.

5. Never Overestimate Yourself

As a hiker, you could be an amateur or a veteran, but you should never override any of the prescribed safety norms issued by the authorities. So, if you know of any adversity coming in the way of your hike, do not challenge it. Devious terrains that are out-of-bounds for people, stormy weather, etc., are some of the things that you should keep away from, no matter how thrilling it may seem to you. Throwing caution to the wind may not necessarily cause harm, but you will be putting your life at risk.

Hiking needs to be enjoyable, exhausting, and rejuvenating at the same time. To make your trip a memorable one, make sure that you tap into your inner spirit of adventure, and follow safety rules alongside. Hope you have a great trip!
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Published: September 30, 2013
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