Desert adventures are the best adventures. But the desert can be a pretty extreme place, so making sure you are prepared is step 1 to having a great time. While there are some definite “givens” to throw in your pack for any sort of adventure (water, sunblock, snacks, first aid, etc) and having the right gear is a must (if you haven’t heard, we are pretty darn partial to the Xerocole), there are also a few things that our team finds especially handy for desert excursions you may not have thought of. Here ya go!
Mini spray bottle: A spritz of water to the back of the neck or face on a 100+ degree day can change your whole world, and you can experience that feeling all for the price of a couple of bucks at most stores. We find an 8 oz size to be perfect, as it fits right into a side water bottle pocket and doesn't take up too much space. True one of these will add some weight to your pack, but with high temps it can be totally worth it!
Tweezers: Attempting to pry a tiny cactus spine out of your skin with bare fingers is soul crushing. And so is the hike back out when it's still stuck in there. However, if you’ve got a magical little pair of tweezers stashed in your first aid kit most cacti encounters are minimized to being NBD. They’re small, light, and cheap but a total game changer if you’ve found yourself accidentally becoming BFFs with a prickly pear (if you don’t know about prickly pear, read this).
SPF lip balm: Burnt, cracked, can’t-smile-at-all-lips are the WORST, truly the worst, hence chap stick/lip balm is always in an easy to reach pocket for every single desert hike we do. Sun protection is vital for your whole body, but it does seem like the lips can be somewhat overlooked with some gnarly consequences. We’re big fans of Jtree lip balm and even got ‘em featured on the Erem Marketplace.
Hat: whether you’re a fan of big sun hats, trucker caps, or good ole cowboy hats, having something to keep the sun off your face and heat off your head is a great idea. Be careful with hats that have wide/open mesh though, you can definitely still snag a sunburn through those if you rock a bald or shaved head. Bonus! You can dip your hat into streams and pools on hot days and plunk it right back onto your noggin for some magnificent cooling! No water around? No problem -- see our earlier suggestion about that spray bottle...
Something salty: Hiking in heat = sweating your bum off = needing help to replenish all that salt. Throwing salty snacks in your pack will help keep that natural salt balance in solid shape and keep you from bonking. Some of our personal faves include small bags of corn nuts (they won’t crush in your pack), dried chili mango (salty and sweet!), and salted seeds (Trader joes makes some great options). Similarly, consider taking some electrolyte mix with you on serious hikes. Pro Tip: have a separate water bottle just for electrolyte mixing, that way you keep your hydration bladder from starting to taste like all sorts of random fruity flavors…
Check out our top 5 hydration packs.
Extra layer: whether it’s evening temps dropping, the dynamic weather of monsoon season, or just needing more sun protection, extra layers to throw on are a must-have. The desert can surprise you with it’s lower than expected temps and summer storms so having a layer that can provide some water and/or wind resistance can be great. And of course, the Southwest sun can really do a number to your skin so being able to toss on a light sun hoody or something similar with UPF protection before you start baking can save you from that next day lobster look.
There you have it. Now all you have to do is get out on the trail and have some fun!
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