Whether you are planning on camping, doing outdoor activities or just driving through a desert area, you need to prepare for the extreme environment. You never know when an emergency arises that calls on you to put these tips to use, potentially saving your life.
Take extra food and water with you. If you know you will be traveling through or spending some time in the desert, take an abundance of water and food with you. You should have at least a gallon of water per person per day you are planning to spend in the desert. Taking extra water is ideal. Even if you do not use even half of what you take, you will be grateful for having the extra if you run into a problem. Unlike in forests with large streams or rivers, water and food can be especially hard to come by in the desert.
Stay in the shade. Avoid being in direct sunlight as much as possible. This means your shelter should provide enough shade for your whole body. If possible wear a large hat or even put an extra shirt over your head and neck when you must be in the sun, helping shade your skin from the sun’s rays. Being in the sunlight too much can dry out your skin and lead to dehydration, sunburn and even heat stroke, potentially costing you your life.
Move around at night. If you need to travel to a safe area such as a town or city, plan to walk at night and not during the day. You should instead seek shelter during the day and sleep, avoiding exerting yourself during the extreme heat. Many animals survive the desert climate by being nocturnal.
Don’t drink a cactus—it could kill you. It is true that cacti contain water underneath their prickly and waxy exterior. The common myth that it is safe to cut open a cactus for its water could prove to be fatal. The water inside certain cacti can cause diarrhea or vomiting, which quickly dehydrates you to the point of death.
Beware rocky areas. Snakes often like to sun themselves on rocks in the desert, especially below rocky overhangs. You are especially at risk if you are hiking down a rocky slope with overhangs, since spotting a snake before you are within its striking range is impossible. One of the best ways to avoid any snakes is to make noise and vibrate the ground by stomping your feet. Carry a large stick with you and shove it over any overhangs, checking for the sound of a rattlesnake’s tail before you step over.