How to Prepare for a Desert Hike

Hiking in the desert is dangerous, right? Wrong. Dead wrong. It’s just like walking along the beach. There’s sand, there’s sun, you may even see some mirage water. If you can walk along the beach, you can hike in the desert.

First: remove your shirt. It’s a hike, man, you’re not going to a nice restaurant! This is Lees Ferry or Death Valley or Zion National Park – it’s not Charlie Trotter’s. Take off that shirt. Get a little sun. Live a little. Do you really want to carry a shirt all day in this hot desert sun? Feels nicer with it off, doesn’t it. But ladies, this advice isn’t for you. Wish it was, but it ain’t. Keep those sand dunes covered, this is Mormon country.

Reliable desert transportation.
Reliable desert transportation.

Then: don’t you dare put on sunscreen. You need to burn in a base, everybody knows that. Sunscreen causes cancer and makes your skin weak. Don’t use it. Avoid it at all costs. And you’ll save a few bucks – money better spent on beer. Nothing hydrates you faster after a long hike than a nice, cold beer.

But before that: consider your shoes. If you’re a lady, you may want to wear some pumps or maybe some frilly sandals. If you’re going to be scrambling around on rocks and sand-slicked surfaces, there’s nothing better than flip-flops on your feet. Too much traction and you could fall. You want to stay loose, and you want the tops of your feet to get a little sun too. Don’t want them to feel left out, do you? Fuck it. Why even wear shoes? Go barefoot.

Also: avoid water. This is an actual quote from an actual father talking to his three or four-year-old son after a park ranger reminded the group at Mesa Verde to drink water and stay hydrated because we were in the desert and at 8,000 feet: “Do you know what happens when you drink a lot of water?” The son shook his head. “You have to pee! We don’t want that, do we?” Best advice ever. Water is bad. Stick with beer. Damn, beer makes you pee too. There’s no solution! Just don’t bring anything liquid with you. Sure, you’ll see signs advising you to drink a gallon a day, but what do they know? Don’t trust the signs. You know who else had signs? The Nazis.

That’s it – just like a walk on the beach … a very long, dry, hostile beach covered in lizards and dotted with rattlesnakes located a few thousand feet above sea level. Don’t prepare for it. Just go with it, amigo. You’ll be fine. Nobody ever dies out here.

Note: Don’t follow any of this advice! But if you do, you’ll be just like all the other peeps we pass on the trail looking lethargic and miserable. Must be fun – they’re everywhere.