The desert climate is unforgiving. If you’re stranded on a roadside or lost in the wilderness, you run the risk of heat stress or dehydration.
Without proper intervention, these conditions can cause serious health problems. Heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke, which can damage the brain and other vital organs. In severe cases, heat stroke can be fatal.
Before you head out in the desert—even if you’re just planning on driving through—remember these tips to stay hydrated.
#1 – Pre-Hydrate. It is a good idea to drink plenty of water anytime you are planning to be in the desert (even if you’re just planning on driving through). Start drinking plenty of water the night before so you don’t start the day dehydrated. Remember—if you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.
#2 – Pack Water. You do not want to find yourself stuck in the desert without water. Whether you’re planning on hiking, biking or you’re just driving through, pack plenty of water. It is recommended that you keep two gallons of water per person per day in your vehicle. If you’re hiking, you should carry at least a gallon of water for each day you plan to be out (although two gallons is safer).
#3 – Electrolytes. Hydration is important, but it’s also necessary to replenish the electrolytes that are lost through sweat. Pack salty snacks like pretzels or electrolyte powders you can put in your water.
#4 – Find Shade. The desert heat can be brutal. Conserve your energy and prevent heat stress by taking frequent breaks in the shade.
#5 – Identify Water Sources. Although the desert is hot and dry, you can find water sources if you know how to look for them. Talk to rangers or other knowledgeable folks about rainfall and watering holes before you head to the desert. Scan your surroundings and look for patches of green vegetation.
Cottonwoods and other trees need may indicate that a water source is present. The presence of animals and insects may also indicate that water is near. Use a water filter or another water purification system to treat the water before you drink it.
#6 – Soak Your Shirt. If you find a water source, you can soak your clothing in it to help you stay cool and prevent heat stress. Your clothes will dry quickly in the desert climate.
Surviving deadly desert heat isn’t easy, but with the right planning and practice it can be done. Know before you go, and you’ll get out alive.