Hiking in the desert is potentially dangerous and can turn life threatening. The temperatures in the desert hiking can move from below freezing to above 150 F within the span of a single day. Before venturing out on a desert hike, make sure you know where you are headed. Be aware of the limitations of a GPS system working in the desert hiking. Do not travel alone. Before going for a desert hike, do let people know where you are going.
Although there are few marked desert hiking trails in Death Valley, adventurous hikers are free to explore nearly anywhere they like. The endless possibilities include remote canyons, mountains and even sand dunes. The desert hiking terrain can be unpredictable and weather changes quickly, so hikers need to be prepared for almost anything.
First Aid Kit
A basic first aid kit can be your best friend if minor cuts, scraps or other injuries occur. In the event of a major emergency, your first aid kit can be your lifeline. A basic kit may include: elastic bandages, Ace wraps, first aid tape, a pocket knife, itch relief stick, band aids, moleskin, over the counter anti-inflammatory or pain medications, antibiotic wipes, fire-starter (matches or a lighter), a small headlamp or flashlight, a whistle and a small roll of duct tape.
What good is that map going to do you if you can’t determine where on it you are? That’s where a handy compass comes in, and you’ll need to know how to use it before you head for the trailhead. This top-rated Suunto M-3D Leader Compass has an adjustable declination scale that accounts for the difference between magnetic and true north an important feature to have. In Washington state, magnetic North is 20-22° east of true North. This compass has a lanyard key that adjusts the scale to match your location.
Hiking is an endurance sport and what you eat in hot arid weather is important. Energy-loaded food is essential for endurance but how much to eat depends upon your fitness level, exercise intensity, and hiking trips time. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, endurance athletes should consume 30 to 60 grams (100 to 250 calories) of carbohydrates per hour while exercising.
Water and purification
We’re lucky in the Northwest that sources of freshwater are abundant on many trails, but you shouldn’t just do the dip-and-sip (dipping your Nalgene bottle in a stream and drinking up), at least not if you want to stay healthy. Backcountry water needs to be purified first so it doesn’t make you sick from giardia. Always carry extra water and purification tablets or a water filter with you when you hike. I have used this lightweight Katadyn filter for more than ten years and it’s never let me down.
Layer Your Clothing
Desert temperatures can change drastically and quickly. The best way to be prepared is to dress in layers. Start with a wicking base layer, such as an active t-shirt and bring a warmer midweight layer and a waterproof/windproof top layer for unexpected winds and rain.Choose lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing for the intense heat of the sun and to allow sweat to evaporate. A brimmed hat and sunscreen are also essential desert attire.