While providing an absolutely beautiful natural environment for hiking, camping, mountain biking and other outdoor activities, the desert is one of the most unforgiving atmospheres that you can get caught in. The hot, arid climate sucks moisture from the land and causes rapid evaporation, severely limiting the sources of water available. You want at least 1 gallon of water per day in the desert and several times that, depending upon how hot it is and how much energy you're exerting. Running low on water in the middle of the desert is an automatic survival situation; you have about 3 days to live without water. While finding water in the desert is challenging and depends entirely upon where you are, there are certain strategies that can help.
Tips & Warnings
When taking a particularly long day or multi-day trek through the desert, consider stashing water at strategic locales such as road crossings and parks before you begin your trek. This way you'll have a known, reliable source of water without having to carry the extra load. Alternately, consider vehicular or caravan support.
Be sure to study the desert terrain ahead of time and consider possible water sources. Finding water is essential for regular hiking as well as a full-on survival situation. Discuss options with knowledgeable locals whenever possible, as water sources indicated on a map may be dried up.
Always purify and filter your water before drinking unless drinking from a known clean source like rain. Use a homemade filter and boil water if you don't have appropriate supplies.
Never drink salt water without desalinating it first.
If you are low on water, avoid eating as much as possible, as digestion will use valuable water.
Avoid activity in the heat of the day and limit movement and search for water to the early morning and evening hours when it is cooler. This way you'll expend less moisture.
Article Written By Joe Fletcher
Joe Fletcher has been a writer since 2002, starting his career in politics and legislation. He has written travel and outdoor recreation articles for a variety of print and online publications, including "Rocky Mountain Magazine" and "Bomb Snow." He received a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Rutgers College.