12 Tips for Being Safe when Hiking in the Nevada Desert
Deserts contain some of the most beautiful, breathtaking landscapes in the world. It’s no wonder that many of the most popular hiking trails run through these arid wildernesses. Even the most expert of hikers need to take special precautions when setting out into the desert. Consider these tips before you leave home and head out for your adventure.
Have a way to orient yourself
When traveling between landmarks, deserts can be extremely disorienting. In addition to a map and compass, consider bringing a GPS device or satellite phone.
Dress for the Heat of the Day
In the desert heat, it might seem tempting to wear as little as possible. However, more dangerous than heat exposure is sun exposure. Wear lightweight layers in bright colors that reflect the light off of you. Have a brimmed hat, sunscreen and natural fibers that wick away sweat.
Be Prepared for Cold Nights
Desert landscapes lose their heat very quickly and at night get frigid. If you are planning to camp overnight in a desert, bring an insulated, lightweight sleeping bag and plenty of layers.
Avoid the Hottest Hours
It is best to start hiking in the early mornings before the day heats up. Around noon, when the sun is at its peak, find a shaded place to rest. Continue hiking as the late afternoon cools off the landscape.
Deserts are full of changing elevations and rough footing. Sweating and heavy breathing will leave you dehydrated and tiring out will leave you open to clumsy slips and falls. A good rule of thumb is if you can comfortably talk while walking, you’re at a good pace.
Watch out for Flash Floods
The last thing you expect in the desert is a flood. Deserts have little plant life and drainage areas. When it rains in the summer months, water can come rushing through ravines at tremendous speeds. Keep aware of distant storms and avoid hiking in ditches and dry river beds.
Watch out for Critters
The harsh desert environment is home to many poisonous and dangerous creatures. Most are inactive during the day, resting in the shade of rocks or grasses. Be careful when walking through desert brush or stepping over rock piles. Always check your surroundings before you sit down.
Naturally, deserts will be devoid of water. Your body requires, at minimum, one gallon a day to stay hydrated. At eight pounds a gallon, bringing enough water can be difficult. Only plan hikes you know you have enough water for.
Reduce your Backpacking Weight
The average hiking backpack should not weigh more than 35 pounds. With so much of that weight taken up by water, packing light weight will save you from overexertion. Don’t skip on important things like first aid kits or food supplies, but avoid packing unnecessary items.
Bring Electrolyte Replacements
Besides having food and water available, be sure to bring a source of salt. While sweating, your body is continually losing sodium through your skin. Take regular breaks every hour for water and high protein snacks like beef jerky or energy bars.
Stay on the Trail
In most state parks, trails are regularly maintained and marked. Staying on them is not only safe but important to the environment. Even small desert plants can take many years to grow. Dangerous animals will also naturally avoid heavily trafficked areas.
Never Be Afraid to Try Again
You probably set some goals for your hike, like reaching a certain location or fulfilling a particular length of exercise. Listen closely to what your body is telling you. If half your water is gone or it’s starting to get late, turn around and hike another day.