Ten Tips on hiking in the desert

These tips are from Jill Davidson a contributor of  “Share your voice on Yahoo websites”

1. Wear loose-fitting layers of natural-fiber clothing to help reduce your chances of becoming dehydrated. Jeans and sturdy shoes will protect your feet and legs from the cactus spines, and a long-sleeve shirt and a hat are good choices, too. Slather sunscreen on any exposed skin. Temperatures will drop dramatically in the desert at night, and even if you don’t plan to spend the night there you should bring along a warm sweater or jacket just in case you get lost.

2. Take plenty of fresh water with you. Drink at least a gallon of water a day when you are hiking in the desert, and turn back when your water supply is half-way gone. Carry an extra gallon per person in your vehicle, and even more if you will be doing any cooking or bathing.

3. It’s also important to stay well-fed so that you have the stamina to withstand the heat and physical activity. Pack some high-energy, high-calorie snack bars or other easily-prepared, nutritious snacks (such peanut butter and whole-grain crackers) in your survival kit.

4. Watch out for desert dwellers! Rattlesnakes, scorpions, poisonous spiders, cougars, coyotes and other desert wildlife may be hiding under rocks or shrubs or taking refuge behind boulders. Leave them alone if you cross their paths!

5. The desert ground is packed as hard as cement and absorbs little water. In the spring, when snow-capped mountains begin to melt, water rushes downhill and flash floods are common. Flash floods may happen during the fall months as well. Be aware that violent thunderstorms over mountains that are many miles away can cause flash floods that may reach you, carrying boulders, shrubs, trees, rocks and other debris along with walls of water that may reach ten feet or more. Avoid hiking in canyons with no escape to higher ground during a thunderstorm (even one far off in the distance).Don’t try to walk or drive across flooded roads.

6. Take your hike early in the day or toward evening, when temperatures are cooler. If you’re on an extended or all-day hike, take a break during the hottest afternoon hours and bring along a small tent or canopy to create a shady shelter.

7. Be aware of the signs of heat exhaustion, and get out of the sun and heat if you become nauseous, dizzy, or get a headache. Try to find a shady spot to rest, or set up your tent or canopy if you brought one. Sip some water, don’t guzzle it, and wet down your clothes to reduce your body temperature.

8. Carry a well-stocked first-aid kit, and be sure to include a good pair of tweezers in case you need to pick cactus needles out of your skin.

9. Let your family or friends know where you are going and when you expect to return, and stick to your plans. Instruct them to notify the police or park officials right away if you don’t return on time. If you plan to hike off the beaten path, take a topographical map and compass with you, and know how to use them.

10. Heed the warnings of local authorities, and stay out (or get out) of the desert if they report that conditions are not favorable for hikers. Don’t lose your life because you stubbornly ignored the advice of park rangers.

Have any other “tips”? Post them in the comments below.

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