Hiking and backpacking require wise choices and a clear head to ensure you don't stumble into danger, and nowhere is this more true than in the desert. The heat, sun exposure, and lack of water can all conspire against your hike if you are unprepared. The following are the top items you should bring or use on your desert sojourn.
Water is by far the most important item for any hike. The heat combined with the dryness will cause you to loose moisture quickly. This can be fatal. Bring more water than you think you need. For a day hike, a water bladder with a connected hose can hold up to two liters and the hose encourages you to stay hydrated. Pack an extra bladder or a couple of filled bottles, as well. Don't depend on water sources like cattle tanks or streams – these tend to dry up unexpectedly in the desert, or become too polluted to use.
Another key item is sunblock – the desert sun can be brutal and lead to very severe burning. This is in part because the sun reflects up off the sand as well as beating down on you from above. When applying sunblock, which should be of the highest SPF available, don't overlook the underside of your nose and chin. The reflecting sun can burn these areas, which are especially tender since they aren't usually exposed. Also, hike with your mouth closed. It's not unheard of for hikers to suffer from a burnt roof of the mouth.
Staying covered up is helpful in the desert. It further helps protect against burns and it can keep you cooler. Opt for lightweight, breathable, light colored fabrics. Those that are impregnated with UV protection qualities can further help prevent burns, as well. This is especially important for shirts, since it can be difficult to apply sunblock to your own back. The clothing should be somewhat loose fitting so that you can generate your own cooling breeze as you walk.
#4: Grab some shade
Shade can slow down sweating and moisture loss, which can help your water go further. A sun hat with UV protection can provide some shade to your head and shoulders, especially if it has a wide brim. Another option is a trekking umbrella. These are lightweight and typically have a reflective top. There are any varieties designed to snap onto a pack strap so you can use it hands-free.