On occasion, we invite guests to write articles that we think may be of interest to our readers. In this heat and the monsoons upon us, it may be a good time to presnt this article from Rich Murphy at Persurvive.com.
Are you traveling to Southern Arizona for a trip in the Sonoran desert? For the best experience, you need to know a few important points related to surviving in the desert.
OK, I know what you’re thinking. Does one have to be a pro-survivalist to go on a trip in a desert?
Not really, no.
The point is, a few practical tips for tackling the sometimes harsh environment can make a big difference in terms of making your desert trip safe and enjoyable.
So let’s get to it.
Start Your Trip Early
When you are out for a desert hike, it’s best to pack up before the sun rises and start your trip early. The early morning temperatures are much tolerable for hikers not accustomed to the heat. Ideally, you should cover the maximum distance to your destination before the midday heat starts getting oppressive.
That said, hot desert afternoons are ideal for taking a siesta under the shade. That’s one of the best ways to preserve your energy, rather than pressing on under the blazing sun.
Likewise, you can hike in the evening or during the early hours of the night when temperatures are cooler. In fact, a night journey across a desert under a pale moon can be a truly enchanting experience. However, in case you aren’t familiar with the route or terrain, we would suggest that you take the help of a Southern Arizona travel guide, before planning a night hike.
When in the desert, dehydration is your worst enemy. So make sure that you carry sufficient water to last for the day. It’s best to consume water in sips while hiking on a hot dry day.
In case you come across any water source, make sure to use the right techniques to purify water before drinking. To prevent the loss of salts and other electrolytes from the body, you can add electrolyte powders or tablets to the water.
Keep in mind, drinking water from cactus plants isn’t a safe choice. In truth, water inside the fleshy bulbs of the cactus plant contains multiple alkaloids and acids. When consumed, this can cause diarrhea and vomiting, leading to even more dehydration.
Other than that, you need to minimize water loss from sweating. So keep your body temperature within the normal limits and prevent sweating as much as possible. Avoid strenuous activities under the sun and take plenty of breaks under a shade to cool the body.
Also, minimize exposing the skin to the sun and keep your clothes on. You can cover your mouth with a bandanna to reduce moisture loss from breathing.
Pack Sufficient Weather Protection
Quite simply, packing sunscreen is a must while traveling to Southern Arizona. We recommend you use the SPF 100 category that blocks 99% of UV rays. However, you need to reapply sunscreen after every two hours to ensure the right level of protection.
Packing sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat is also essential for surviving in the desert. This will keep your eyes protected and prevent irritation and headaches from prolonged sun exposure. Long-sleeved shirts are the best options for desert climates. Breathable and lightweight fabric and light-colored clothing are the best options.
Beyond that, choose the right footwear that will perform well in the rocky and sandy terrain. A hotspot in your feet can be a big problem while hiking.
Note, desert temperatures can drop sharply as the sun goes down. So be prepared to beat the chill and dress in layers for maximum protection. Make sure to check the weather predictions, before you start the trip.
Avoid Heat-Related Illnesses
Needless to say, strenuous physical activity in the desert heat can lead to heat-related illnesses. The first thing is, you need to be aware of the signs and symptoms of these conditions. Quick treatment can be very effective in preventing such conditions from taking a serious turn.
Apart from dehydration and Hyponatremia, there are two other conditions that you need to be aware of- heat exhaustion and heatstroke. In fact, heat exhaustion can turn into a heat stroke when left untreated.
Note, heatstroke is a life-threatening emergency as the body loses its ability to control internal temperature. So it’s important to recognize the symptoms and provide proper first aid without any delay.
Take Care of Your Skin
The dry desert weather can take a toll on your skin. So moisturizing and cleaning the skin regularly is extremely important. Dry and cracked skin can make you feel uncomfortable and lead to painful conditions. In case there’s any chafing, apply soothing skin lotions to prevent discomfort.
Apart from your face, take care of your hands and feet to prevent any dryness. It’s best to take a shower at the end of the day to clean your skin from dust and residual salts. Also, changing your hiking clothes before going to bed will help your skin to feel better.
Stay on High Ground
Believe it or not, drowning is more common than dehydration in a desert. In case you are traveling through a desert that experiences periodic rainfall, lookout for flash flooding. Avoid moving through slot canyons, ditches, and any other forms of low ground that can quickly get covered by water.
If you’re caught in a torrential downpour, move to high ground immediately. Also, choose your campsite wisely to avoid any chances of flooding during the night.
Anytime you notice the weather turning foul, it’s best to abandon the plan than to take risks. That’s why staying updated with the weather conditions is necessary for surviving in the desert.
These are some desert survival tips that can help you out while traveling to Southern Arizona.
Walking through the dry heat of the desert may seem like an unforgiving experience. But once you look deeper into the arid stretches, the yellow sand, the eye-catching rock formations, and the signs of ancient culture make it exceptionally beautiful.
For that, no matter the season of your trip, it’s best to stay prepared and carry the necessary survival gear. Most importantly, you need to pay the desert the right level of respect that it deserves.
Now that you know the basics of desert survival, it’s time to head out there and enjoy the majestic beauty.
Rich Murphy is a Contributing Writer at Persurvive.com. He has excelled at making his own survival gear and learning everything there is to know about disaster preparedness. A consummate do-it-yourselfer, Rich feels we all should be ready for anything. Whether it’s a personal or natural disaster, his goal is all about educating people how to survive.