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Hiking is a great way to be active and workout that allows you to spend time in the great outdoors.
It has many benefits to both your mental and physical health.
But like an activity, there are certain things you must do to complete your hike; especially in an environment like a desert.
Learning some desert hiking tips and techniques can really help ensure that your time is well spent, enjoyable, and you are prepared.
Hiking in the desert can be more challenging than a hike along the beach or in the forest due to extreme sun exposure, risks of dehydration, and changing temperatures.
Following simple tips and techniques like planning ahead, carrying the proper gear, and being prepared for the environment you will be experiencing is important.
Like any hike, you want to remember to pace yourself-it is not a race.
Finding your own comfortable pace that you can maintain throughout the hike will help keep you going longer and put less strain on your body.
If you are hiking in a group remember you need to work with everyone’s pacing and find a good rhythm.
You may need to adjust your walking pace during more intense terrains such as when you are going up or down hill, especially steep ones, or when you are walking on an uneven path.
Remember to stretch before beginning your hike and during any break periods of your hike.
This will help keep your muscles from becoming tight or stressed so you can continue to move without soreness.
Doing stretches like a standing quad, calf stretch, or hip stretch can help.
To help demonstrate some of the different stretches you can do to help work out any stress on your muscles, we have included this video of easy stretches you can complete during a hike.
Other hiking techniques include focusing on your foot placement when you are difficult terrains like hills or uneven grounds, using shorter steps in steep regions to help center your gravity, and finding a rhythm synching your steps and breathing.
Planning ahead is important to any hiking trip. You need to familiarize yourself and the members of your group with the trail and path you will be taking.
This can help you plan ahead for the time it will take you to complete the trail, how long the trail is, what type of terrain to expect like steep hills or flat, curving paths, and what creatures and vegetation you may come across.
Planning ahead also allows you to better pack. If you are only going to be hiking for a couple of hours you only need a liter or two of water.
Packing light is important to hiking so knowing your plan in advance can help you better prepare for what you will need and help cut out excess weight.
You should also be aware of the weather you will be facing.
Colder temperatures or rain can happen in a desert, contrary to popular belief.
This kind of weather change can affect the gear you bring and type of clothes you will need to wear.
The sun is the biggest challenge during a hike across a desert.
Not only can the sunlight drain your energy and cause you to dehydrate, it can also lead to sunburn.
Both of these issues can be avoided with simple tips and the proper gear.
Whenever you are not drinking enough water to replenish your body’s fluids.
Symptoms of dehydration include feeling dizzy, confused, and fatigued.
This can not only ruin your hike but also be dangerous to your health and condition.
Taking time out of your hike to drink water and being aware of the temperature in the desert can help you better prevent dehydration.
A tip to protect yourself from the sun is to try to provide good coverage for your arms, legs, neck, face, and ears and to wear sunscreen.
Wearing sunscreen and reapplying it every two hours will help protect any exposed skin from being damaged by harmful UV rays.
Covering your arms and legs with the proper clothing can also help prevent them from absorbing the UV rays and becoming burnt.
Similarly wearing a hat or sunglasses can protect your face, eyes, and neck.
As previously mentioned, wearing the right clothes is important.
Generally, when hiking, you want your clothing to work as a layer of protection against the environment, working against things like animals, vegetation, sun, water, and other elements.
In the desert, you will want to try to wear clothes that provide the greatest amount of coverage.
This includes wearing long pants, long sleeve shirts, and hats.
When looking for a hat consider looking for one that has a flap down its back that can drape over your neck.
Wearing these clothes can help prevent your skin from absorbing the harmful UV rays, as they work to actively cover and block the sunrays.
While you can wear short sleeves and shorter pants, remember you will need to monitor your exposed skin and make sure it is not being burned.
Another tip to consider when picking out your hiking outfit is to find the materials that feature moisture wicking abilities.
This means your clothing will not absorb water or moisture; rather the material will transfer the water onto the surface of the material so that it can be more easily evaporated.
This allows your clothing to remain dry and comfortable.
Pack extra layers of clothes to help you better adjust with temperatures and weather you may experience.
Wear boots and shoes that prevent sand and other debris from entering your footwear.
This footwear along with non-cotton, moisture wicking socks will help keep your feet comfortable and protected during your hike.
Remember you will have to carry all your gear, so you will want to pack light.
This will help you maintain proper balance during your hike and also limit the strain your back may suffer from with a heavier backpack.
In order to pack light, you will need to try to limit overpacking gear you do not need.
This does not mean cut out anything that you will not need right in the moment but planning so you can be more aware of what you will need for your hike.
If you know you will only be hiking on a day with no chance of rain, then you do not need to pack boots and clothing for rainy weather.
You should start by packing essential gear like extra layers of clothes, water, and nutritional snacks.
Other things to pack include first aid supplies, repair kit, a map and compass, and a headlamp or flashlight.
The way you carry your gear is also important.
Make sure you have properly set and adjusted the straps and possible hip belt of your backpack to balance the load of your gear between your hips and shoulders.
This allows you to better distribute the weight of the weight of your gear and keeps pressure off of your body.
Times to go hiking
The desert is a beautiful location to hike, but it can be more challenging than other hiking terrains.
This is due to the desert’s extreme temperatures.
These temperatures can range from 100 degrees Fahrenheit all the way down to 25 degrees Fahrenheit depending on the time of day.
Mornings and evenings are a great time to hike because these are the lower temperatures featured in a desert.
Since the sun is lower during these times, the desert temperature is closer to its cold night temperature range.
The reason the desert nights are cool is due to the heat generated by the sun during the day is not trapped to warm the desert after the sun is gone.
With little moisture in the humid air, there is no way for the heat to be captured to keep the nights warms.
Taking a break
One good tip to use when hiking in the desert is to take breaks.
Hikes can be long and dueling to your health and this can easily wear you down physically.
A good way to prevent yourself from tiring out so quickly is to take time to rest.
Taking scheduled breaks allows your body and gear to relax and regather strength.
Keep your breaks short so that you do not sit or rest for too long. This can make your muscles tense up and become stiff.
Using this time to stretch out your muscles will help prevent any tension and help regulate how long your break will last.
When taking your breaks remember to try to find a shaded area, where you will not be as exposed to the sun.
This technique prevents you from being damaged by harmful UV rays and also allows your body time to cool down.
This is also a good time to reapply sunblock or sunscreen to help prevent sunburn.
Letting feet and socks have a break is good to.
Consider taking your shoes off to allow your feet to breathe more freely. This also allows your socks and soles to dry out.
During a break, remember to take time to drink water as this will help keep you from dehydrating.
Dehydration can occur frequently in a hot, humid climate-based terrain like the desert.
Giving your body time to replenish its fluids it important and a break is a good time to drink your water.
Try to drink over half a liter of water every hour with higher temperatures.
You can also take a light snack break during your break as well if you need it.
Remember not to overeat or drink though, as this can affect your hiking abilities.
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