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Important safety tips for hiking in the desert

  • Aug 12, 2016

Desert environments offer visitors a unique and exquisite array of natural landscapes and scenery. Parched, sun-soaked earth and sand present dazzling displays of color and geology, while the plants and animals that live in these areas are equally exciting.

In North America, there are four major desert regions according to Ducksters. This includes the Great Basin Desert, Sonoran Desert, Chihuahuan Desert and Mojave Desert, and between rocky mountains and sandy dunes, a hiking trip in these areas yields untold secrets and beauty. Because of the harsh conditions, however, spending time in the desert requires special care and consideration. Here's what you need to know about hiking in the desert.

Preparation is key
As Desert USA reported, what you bring on your trip can have a major impact on your safety. This might require bringing along a larger pack to hold important supplies. Because of the desert climate, sun screen and a large supply of water are essential. Without trees overhead, you may spend long hours in the sun, exacerbating your risk of sunburn or heat exhaustion, and increasing the possibility of dehydration. Even if you are traveling in an area with access to spouts or other sources of water, be sure to bring a large supply with you on your hike. A solid first aid kit is also critical when hiking in the desert.

It is also crucial that you share your hiking route with friends or family. Cell phone service may be sparse or nonexistent in remote desert areas, and should a dangerous situation present itself, having someone know where you headed out can make a big difference.

Keep on eye on your body's vital signs
Because a desert environment can quickly take its toll on your body, you need to be very conscientious about any vital signs. Rationing or saving water can be a dangerous mistake, so be sure to keep your body plenty hydrated. If you begin to feel dizzy or develop a cold sweat, this can be a sign of heat exhaustion. Find a cooler area to rest and consider cutting your trip short if you are sick or feeling weak.

Look out for dangerous plants and animals
Wildlife in the desert can be rather unforgiving, and hiking here may require a bit of knowledge about the natural world. Because water is in such short supply, plants in arid regions have developed very imposing defense mechanisms. Cacti, for example, have long spines and needles that be very dangerous. It pays to be careful when hiking in the desert, because even a small fall could land you in a very painful situation.

North American deserts are also home to dangerous animals. Mountain Lions roam these environments, as do peccaries. Also known as javelina, the peccary is a pugnacious type of pig that will attack humans if provoked. Other, smaller creatures such as rattlesnakes or desert wasps can deliver very dangerous bites or stings. Before heading out into the bush, consult a guide book or talk with a local official about the specific creatures that inhabit your hiking route.

Monitor the weather 
Your Triple Sensor Pro Trek Watch is an essential tool while out in the desert. Not only can you keep an eye on dangerously high temperatures, but you may also be able to watch out for flash floods. Rain is rare in the desert, but when precipitation does come, it can quickly lead to a flash flood. Your Pro Trek PRW3500T-7 with barometer can signal an impending storm, in which case your best bet is to avoid low-lying areas, especially dry creeks or riverbeds.