Last Updated on August 11, 2022
A hiking trip to the desert presents many logistical and organizational challenges regarding hydration, protection from sunlight, and dealing with extreme temperature changes between day and night.
Having the necessary desert hiking gear and following a few precaution tips will ensure that your hike goes as smoothly as possible.
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Desert Hiking Tips
Check the local weather
Weather conditions in the desert can change drastically and very quickly. Even in a hot desert, flash floods and thunderstorm are very common, especially at night. Make sure you plan your trip accordingly and keep an eye on the weather forecast a few days before you leave.
Protect yourself from sunburns
The sun in the desert is stronger than anywhere else, because of the lack of vegetation and shade, and because sunshines get reflected by sand. Hence, it is important to take a few actions to protect yourself:
- Cover up from head to toe, leaving as little skin as possible exposed
- Apply strong suncreen every two hours or so
- Wear desert sunglasses, because the sun can also damage your eyes
SPF 100 Banana Boat Sport Ultra
SPF 100 Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch
SPF 100 La Roche-Posay Anthelios
SPF 110 Neutrogena Age Shield
|BEST BUDGET GLASSES|
SUNGAIT Polarized Sunglasses
Hammockable Handmade Wood Sunglasses
|TOP QUALITY GLASSES|
|BEST KIDS GLASSES|
ACBLUCE Kids Polarized Sunglasses
Bring more water than you think you need
How much water should you bring to the desert? Ideally, when hiking in the desert you should bring around 2 to 6 quarts (10 to 20 cups) of water with you for daily excursions, and also keep another gallon (4 liters) as a reserve in your vehicle. It is also a good idea to have some electrolyte sources in the form of sport drinks or coconut water to replenish salts and minerals you lose sweating.
A purifying water bottle can help you collect water from streams or fountains, never drink water you find in the desert without filtering or boiling it first.
Prepare for cold weather
Even if you are traveling to a hot desert, if you are planning to stay overnight you will have to deal with sharp drops in temperature. Because of this it is recommended to dress in layers and always have a jacket that you can put on at night and in the case of rain.
Desert Hiking Gear
- Backpack with hydration reservoir
- Purifying water flask
- Water cooler
- Merino socks and desert gaiters
- First aid kid (including a snake bite kit if needed)
In a hot desert environment with no shelter from the scorching sun it is imperative to cover yourself from head to toe, preferring long-sleeved shirts and long pants and avoiding wearing t-shirts, tank tops and shorts. Say yes to closed tennis shoes or desert boots, no to sandals and flip-flops (and absolutely do not go barefoot in the desert). A sun hat or a headscarf (like a desert shemagh) will also ensure you get full protection for your head, neck and shoulders.
This means that it is especially important that your desert attire covers up every inch of your body, and there are UPF 50+ sun protection clothing items that are made just for that.
The best shirts for desert hiking are long sleeve, lightweight, and offer UPF50+ sun protection.
Women’s UPF50+ Long Sleeve UV Sun Protection Shirts Quick Dry Rash Guard Swim Outdoor T-Shirt
Vapor Apparel Men’s Outdoor UPF 50+ Long Sleeve T-Shirt
Coolibar UPF 50+ Kid’s Sandshark Long Sleeve Surf Shirt – Sun Protective
It is also recommended to wear long pants and trousers in the desert. The best pants for desert hiking are long, light, and UPF50+.
A light jacket is needed for the early mornings and evenings in the desert.
Weatherproof Original Mens Golf Jacket (Mens Windbreaker)
Weatherproof Vintage Womens Rain Slicker Jacket
BALEAF Kid UPF 50+ Sun Protection Jacket Hooded Cooling Shirt with Pockets Hiking Outdoor Performance
When hiking in the desert it is recommended to always wear closed-toe tennis shoes. The best desert hiking shoes are lightweight, durable, and transpirant.
Oboz Sawtooth II Low B-Dry
HOKA ONE ONE Clifton 7
Xero Barefoot Shoes Terraflex
Desert boots are ideal for more challenging terrains you may encounter during your expedition.
Kenetrek Desert Guide Non-Insulated Hiking Boot
BLACKHAWK Desert Ops Boot, Coyote
DANNER MANUFACTURING Bull Run Moc Toe Work Boot
VIVOBAREFOOT Gobi III Eco
The best socks for desert hiking are made of Merino wool, a special type of material which is especially good at absorbing moisture from sweat and keeping your feet fresh. The higher Merino percentage, the better.
When hiking in the desert, gaiters offer an extra layer of protection against rocks, debris, snake bites and scorpion stings. Depending on where you go and how adventurous your hike is, you may need them or not.
Outdoor Research Bugout Gaiters
TurtleSkin SnakeArmor Gaiters
Kahtoola INSTAgaiter Low
Outdoor Research Rocky Mountain Low Gaiters
Sun hats are ideal for desert hiking because they offer the best sun protection and are made of lightweight materials.
Outdoor Research Sombriolet Sun Hat
Columbia Unisex Adult Bora Bora Booney
Panama Jack Mesh Crown Safari Sun Hat
Desert Shemag or Keffiyeh scarves are useful for protection against the sun as well as sandstorms and wind. Wear them as a bandana and use them to cover your mouth and nose if the weather is particularly windy.
- Camping Tent
- Sleeping Bag
- Desert Backpack
- Desert Hiking Boots
- Plenty of water
- Food for desert
- First aid kit
- Travel insurance covering desert activities
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