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Tips for Hiking through the Hot Desert

Updated: Aug 29, 2023

Hiking through the Hot Desert

If you are hiking the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail), or the CDT (Continental Divide Trail) you are going to spend some time in the desert and you will have to deal with many miles with no sources of water and long stretches of extreme heat.

Hot Zion

Tips and Tricks to help with Hiking through the Desert;
  • Drink water regularly - even when your are not thirsty

  • Bring hard candy to suck on while hiking.

  • Cotton retains moisture better than synthetics, and thus keeps you cooler.

  • Wear a full-brimmed hat and sunglasses at all times. Even with the hat, you can get burned by light reflected off the ground. Use sunscreen on any exposed flesh, like your face and the backs of your hands.

  • Don’t hike during the middle of the day, when temps reach their peak. Hike at night.

  • Don’t wear shorts or short sleeves. When the ambient temperature is above your body temp. More loose layers actually keeps your body cooler.

  • Take off your shoes and socks at every stop. This will keep your feet from overheating and blistering.

  • Know with certainty—absolute certainty—where your next source of water is and how long it will take to get there in severe conditions.

  • Use a Water Reservoir (bladder) with a hose and bite valve rather than a water bottle. Keeping the Water reservoir in your pack helps insolate the water from the heat.

  • Electrolyte loss and dehydration from sweating in hot weather can potentially lead to heat cramps that primarily affect large muscle groups in your legs. Drink an electrolyte mixer to replenish your electrolytes. There is not one simple recommendation for how much to consume each day, but at least consume on a daily basis. (

  • Excessive heat causes loss of appetite. Force yourself to eat.

  • In an open desert, hike from shade to shade; half an hour moving, and half an hour resting.

  • Avoid Caffeine. Caffeine has a diuretic effect on the body. Therefore, drinking caffeinated beverages at a time of intense heat could cause dehydration.

  • Know where all the water sources are and how far it is between each.

  • Know the symptoms of heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Heat exhaustion you can recover from; heatstroke, in a desert, could quickly be fatal. Know the symptoms of Heat Stroke, if you are experiencing any number of these symptoms seek medical help as soon as possible.

Hot Sierras

Heat Stroke Symptoms

  • Throbbing headache.

  • Dizziness and light-headedness.

  • Lack of sweating despite the heat.

  • Red, hot, and dry skin.

  • Muscle weakness or cramps.

  • Nausea and vomiting.

  • Rapid heartbeat, which may be either strong or weak.

  • Rapid, shallow breathing.

This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this Website.

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