Safety Tips For Traveling In The Desert

From the Sahara to the Sonora, deserts have their own special, stark beauty.  Along with the beauty, however, a trip to the desert can present special challenges for even the most seasoned traveler.  High temperatures during the day, lack of water, and vast stretches of arid land mean that travelers need to be prepared.

The desert safety tips below will help ensure a safe and memorable journey.

Advance Planning

  • Plan ahead: The National Park Service advises that before starting out you should know where you are going.  Also, travel with a partner and advise someone about when you will be returning.  Check out the weather in advance and be prepared for sudden changes.
  • Drink water: Whether you’re driving, hiking, or biking, desert heat can quickly lead to dehydration.  The NPS recommends at least one gallon per person each day.  Bring energy bars and keep an emergency supply of them at all times.
  • Dress appropriately: Because of extreme temperatures – high heat during the day and cold at night—be aware of the risk for heat stroke and hypothermia.  Protect yourself from the sun’s rays with a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen.  Bring an extra jacket with you in case you’re out after dark when temperatures can plummet.
  • Orient yourself:  It’s easy to become disoriented in a desert environment.  Bring a GPS or compass with you.  If you do become stranded, especially on top of a dune, carry a mirror or piece of aluminum that can reflect sunlight and be used to flash a potential rescuer.

Walking Or Hiking

  • Avoid walking in the heat.  Try to walk before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m.  If you’re walking or hiking, keep a slow, steady pace, and take regular rest breaks.  On rest breaks, don’t sit directly on the ground, where it is hottest.  Remember that a foot or two above the ground will be substantially cooler.
  • Be aware that distances are deceptive.  What may look like 5 miles may actually be 20 miles in the desert.
  • Watch your step.  You may not encounter desert creatures, as most are nocturnal.  However, some deserts are home to venomous snakes and spiders. To avoid being bitten, be sure to watch where you walk, where you put your hands, and where you sit, and avoid stepping over rocks.
  • Beware of flash floods.  If you’re traveling in the summer, remember that this time of year can be very hot, with sudden rain storms and flash floods.  Beware of lightening and any signs of storms.  Try to get to shelter such as a car or building.  If you’re unable to get to shelter, it’s best to lie flat between dunes.
  • Avoid flooded roadways and dry washes.  Because of the danger posed by flash floods, never enter a flooded roadway, and avoid dry washes if rain is threatening.



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