DESERT SAFETY TIPS

Get the most out of your trip to our desert by practicing these important safety tips.

TIP #1: PACK THE NECESSITIES

It’s crucial to pack plenty of water and stay hydrated. Always drink plenty of water, even before you are thirsty. It is recommended to bring at least two gallons of water per person, per day if you plan to be exploring the outdoors on a hot day. If half of your water supply is gone, it is time to turn back. Always keep extra water in your vehicle. Start your hike early to beat the mid-day heat.

Pack a first aid kit with important items such as tweezers, different size bandages, antiseptic wipes, wound closures, and extra food. The National Park Foundation has a comprehensive list of important items to include in your first aid kit. Include needle-nose tweezers just in case you get cactus spines in your clothes or skin.

The first rule of desert safety is to drink plenty of water.

TIP #2: DRESS APPROPRIATELY

In the warmer months, it’s important to wear loose, light-colored clothing and sturdy hiking shoes. Bring a wide-brimmed hat and apply sunscreen to exposed skin often. Use sunglasses to protect your eyes from the bright sun.

In the cooler months, certain areas can reach freezing temperatures. Bring warm clothing.

TIP #3: LET OTHERS KNOW WHERE YOU ARE

A major rule of thumb in exploring the outdoors is to always let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return. If you do not return in time, this person should know to inform the authorities.

Cell phones are not reliable in remote desert areas. Learn to use a topographic map and compass to prevent getting lost.

There are many abandoned mine sites throughout the desert. Do not enter mine tunnels or shafts. They are unstable and can be home to dangerous wildlife such as mountain lions and rattlesnakes.

TIP #4: CHECK THE WEATHER FORECAST

DURING WARMER MONTHS: Arizona summers are some of the hottest on the planet. Some general heat safety tips include:

  • Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water even before you feel thirsty.
  • Dress appropriately. Wear loose-fitting, light-colored clothing.
  • Wear sunscreen. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using suncreen with SPF 30 or higher, reapplying every two hours.
  • Start early. If you plan to work or play outside, start early in the morning to beat the midday heat.

Visit HeatAZ.org for more heat safety tips and information.

DURING MONSOON SEASON: The weather in the desert is notorious for changing suddenly, especially during monsoon season (June 15 – September 30). Avoid deep canyons or washes during stormy weather, and watch for lightning. Be prepared to move to higher ground in the event of a sudden storm or flash flood.

If you are driving, do not cross flooded roads. Floodwaters are deeper than they appear. Turn around, don’t drown.

Sign indicating a flash flood area.

TIP #5: BE WARY OF WILDLIFE

The desert is home to lots of interesting and unique wildlife, but it is important to keep wildlife wild. Burrows are home to different kinds of wildlife from rabbits and badgers to rattlesnakes and scorpions. Never step or place your hands where you cannot see.

Be wary of bees. Bees tend to forage for moisture sources. It is recommended to keep the windows of your vehicle rolled up to prevent bees from flying inside.

Avoid getting too close to wildlife to take pictures. Observe from a distance for your safety.

REMEMBER: LEAVE NO TRACE

Keep our deserts beautiful for generations to come by following the seven principles of Leave No Trace created by the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics. Practice desert safety in addition to these principles.

If you pack it in, pack it out. Inspect your campsite or rest area and be sure to pack out all trash, leftover food, and litter. Please be courteous of others on the trails.

Visit HeatAZ.org for more heat safety tips and information.

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