Desert hiking is not for the complete beginner or the feint of heart.

Hiking at high temperature isn’t impossible, but is certain to be more difficult and needs proper preparation.

Desert Hiking Tips for Safety

Here are nine tips to help stay safe while hiking in the desert:

Check out our Hiking Checklist, too!


Wear the proper clothes to match the desert hiking environment. Loose clothing and a wide-brim, breathable hat are sensible choices. Hiking apparel is best in light colors to help reflect the sunlight.

Leaving the head exposed to the high heat can increase the desire to drink more water and increase the risk of suffering from heatstroke.

Plus, the air temperature in the desert is noticeably cooler at night, so make sure to pack layers if planning on the long hiking excursion.


Watching the desert sunset is a special and unique experience, but this will leave you hiking back to base in the dark.

Pack a headlamp or flashlight to make it easier to navigate the desert hiking trails in low-light or dark conditions.


Learn to navigate properly and take a more traditional map and compass on a desert hiking adventure. A high-quality topographic map is the best tool to navigate the desert landscape, which can include springs and other water courses.

Other communication devices can be taken on a desert hike, such as a Smartphone or GPS, but aren’t likely to work in canyons or similar shielded areas.

Plus, before setting off, let someone know the planned itinerary and expected time of return.


A hiking knife or multi-tool can be a practical piece of equipment in a variety of difficult situations.


Sand is certain to be an issue on a desert hike. It can get literally everywhere, including in the water, food, mouth, ears, nose, and eyes.

A four-season tent is a practical option for shelter in the event of a wind storm.


If you start to feel the heat in the open desert landscape, take positive action to help cool down using whatever shade is available.

Sit behind a large rock or similar for 1 or 2 hours until you no longer feel overheated.

Try to breathe using the nose to help conserve moisture. Plus, leave time for the sun to set and cool down before completing the desert hike.


Keep the energy up by packing several snack bars or similar food sources. A selection of salty snacks is a practical choice to help retain water that is fast to leave the body in the hot and difficult environment.

Slow pace

Appreciate the stunning surroundings of the desert hike and walk at a slow and comfortable pace. Walking at a slow pace will lessen the need for water and slow the build-up of heat.

Plus, a relaxed pace means there is a greater chance of enjoying the outside adventure.


Any well-prepared desert hike needs enough water to stay fully hydrated for the duration. Use water bottles or hydration packs to take at least 2-liters of water (enough for 2 hours).

Take extra even on a short hike to cover accidents (twisted ankle) or similar situations that can slow progress.

Also, it helps to fill up on water at the trail head and refill the bottle or pack before setting off.

Check out our Hiking Checklist, too!