Plan and Pack Right to Avoid Tragedy in Triple-Digit Temps
Just this past week, while cruising north on I-95 in Nevada en route to Death Valley National Park, we encountered a young man wandering alongside a remote stretch of desert highway.
It was 104°F and his car had broken-down more than forty miles from the nearest town. He was burned a bright red, without water or shade, and his cell phone battery was dead. He had been stranded under the relentless sun of the Mojave desert for nearly four hours.
He was lucky to be alive.
Mildly delerious, this college kid refused a lift into town—he didn’t want to leave his car. So we loaded him up with water, ice, and fruit and charged his phone while he cooled off in our air conditioned rental. He made a call and was finally on his way home safe with a vicious sunburn. Tragedy averted.
But not everyone is so fortunate. Each year, many travelers lose their lives in the Southwest USA by succumbing to its harsh desert climate. With simple precautions, you can travel safely and survive the desert heat.
1) Communicate Your Plans
Anytime you plan an excursion through the desert, be sure a reliable friend or family member back home knows precisely where you’re going and when you’re expected to return. Should you go missing, this person will be responsible for contacting authorities.
2) Know Your Location
With so many scenic byways, remote geological structures, and prehistoric sites to explore in the Southwest USA desert, it’s natural to make impromptu detours that lead you off-course. But be attentive to your location as you travel—note mile markers and be aware of your distance to the nearest town. You’ll need this information if you have to call for help. For maximum safety, travel with a GPS unit.
3) Stay Hydrated
The average human can survive several weeks without food, but just mere days without water. In the searing heat of the desert a person may not survive one full day without adequate hydration. Pack accordingly: Each person needs one full gallon of water per day in hot climates. You can buy water by the gallon for less than a dollar at any big-box retailer. Load up, and drink up!
4) Prepare For Emergencies
Should your tire go flat, do you have the tools to fix it? You brought your cell phone, but will it hold a charge? Does your cell phone even work in distant desert backcountry? Prepare for such contingencies, including the possibility that you may have to flag down a good samaritan for help.
Plan carefully and enjoy a safe trip through the Southwestern United States. If you’re in Arizona, be sure to check out Canyon de Chelly, a strikingly beautiful National Park featuring prehistoric Navajo ruins.
Photo credit: Thomas van den Berg