The desert is an incredible environment to explore. Rock formations, vibrant colors, and varied landscapes make the hiking experience incredibly rewarding.
However, hiking in the desert comes with some serious risks. Even if you’re not planning to be gone for long, let someone know where you’re planning to hike and what time they should expect you to be back.
People who aren’t prepared to spend extended time in the desert frequently get in trouble due to dehydration, heat exhaustion, poor equipment, temperature fluctuations and flash flooding. These dangers can be easily avoided with preparation and awareness.
Around 80 percent of people who get lost are day hikers who aren’t prepared to spend more than a few hours in the wilderness.
If you find yourself lost, remember these seven priorities of survival.
1- Positive Mental Attitude: Maintaining a positive mental attitude is essential to survival. A clear mind will help you strategize a plan to keep you safe and help rescuers locate you. Your mental attitude will also help you conserve your energy so that you do not exhaust yourself by making poor choices.
2- Water: The desert is typically very hot and very dry. Because there are virtually no reliable water sources in the desert, you will need to pack at least a gallon of water per person for each day you plan to be hiking. Hydrate before you leave for the hike. Make sure you have iodine tablets or another method of purifying water so that you can safely drink water that you find.
3- Shelter: Temperatures can fluctuate dramatically in the desert. During the summer, temperatures can reach upwards of 115 degrees during the heat of the day. Wear long-sleeved clothing and a wide-brimmed hat to protect you from the sun. Carry an emergency blanket to provide a quick and effective shelter in case you get lost or injured.
4- Signaling: Always carry some sort of signaling device with you when you’re hiking. A whistle, signal mirror and brightly colored bandana can easily fit in a pack and can help rescuers locate you. If you’re in the backcountry, consider packing a satellite phone or personal locator beacon. You can use these devices to call for help in case of emergency.
5- Fire: The ability to make fire can save your life in case of an emergency. Fire provides an essential heat source to keep you warm when temperatures drop, and it also helps rescuers identify your location. Always pack fire starting tools and make you know how to use them before you hike.
6- First Aid Kit: The desert can bring many dangers. Make sure you have a first aid kit that is stocked with bandages, ointments, antiseptic wipes, allergy medications, painkillers and any other medications you may need.
7- Rest: If you are lost, you will need to conserve your energy. The desert sun is brutal. Avoid hiking in the heat of the day to reduce your risk of heat exhaustion and dehydration. Stay put and use your signaling devices to help increase the likelihood that you will be found.
If you are lost in the desert, these seven priorities of survival will help you stay calm and provide you with the tools you need to stay alive and get rescued.