How to Travel in the Desert

The desert is an abstract place. Thousands of people visit deserts every year, and with more and more people heading to the desert back country, it is important to know how to travel and avoid dehydration or heat stroke.


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    Bring plenty of water. Many people die every year from dehydration[citation needed] and the hot, dry air of the desert is especially dehydrating. No matter where you go, plenty of water is essential to desert travel.
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    Travel at an easy pace to avoid loss of water from sweat. If possible, travel at night. If not, try to travel in the shade as much as possible. If there are mountains, travel on the north side of them.
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    Although many survival guides tell you not to wear cotton, it is very useful in the desert. Cotton absorbs moisture, and stays wet for a long time. It also cools your body down when wet, so try to wear light-colored cotton when traveling in the desert.
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    When exploring caves or rocks, be wary of scorpions, rattlesnakes, and other venomous animals. Black widows may present a threat if you are searching in dark areas or places with rotting wood. However, they are nocturnal and will not attack you unless threatened.
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    Take care when there is a dust storm. Deserts, especially flat, mountainless, areas, are prone to dust storms. To avoid these its best to stick to the mountains as much as possible. If this is not possible, try to use a bandanna or some other clothing to cover your nose and mouth. Bring eye protection as well. If you feel a storm coming, try to head for shelter behind rocks, small trees, or in dried up stream beds.
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    When traveling with wheeled vehicles, try to avoid loose sand, or slimy ground. When traveling deep in the desert, also watch out for quick sand, which may have a hardened area or crust over it making it hard to see, especially if not paying attention.
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    If traveling in spring or early summer, dried lake beds may have water just below the surface. While this is problematic for vehicles, (getting stuck, sliding, etc.), this may help you get a small amount of water if in need.
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    Take breaks. Lastly, traveling in the desert is demanding and tiring. Rest frequently and be prepared for the worst.


  • Put together a survival kit and take it with you every time you go out. it should include minimum survival items (e.g., pocketknife, cordage, first aid).
  • Remember to always bring water. This is the most essential item to desert travel.

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