Survival Kits for Hiking in the Desert

Survival Kits for Hiking in the DesertA desert survival kit and the knowledge of how to use one is imperative for anyone who ventures off the paved highway into the vast, arid outback of the American West. Hikers enter a whole new world when they leave their vehicle at the trail head and walk off into the beautiful, but unforgiving, desert country.


Since people can only carry so much water (one gallon is a lot of weight and will last one day), hikers should have first-hand knowledge of how to procure water, if they become lost or stranded.

The first place to possibly find water, might be digging in the bed of an intermittent stream. However, be careful not to get these seasonal waterways confused with a dry wash or arroyo. This skill can be greatly enhanced by a water purification device that is especially designed for backpackers. Hikers may also want to carry water purification tablets or some household bleach. Either of these items can be used to make clear water safe to drink. However, be aware that some desert areas contain poisonous minerals that can make the water unsafe to drink, regardless of your purification methods.

Another useful item is a 6- by 6-foot clear plastic sheet, which can be used to collect water from overnight evaporation by the desert vegetation.

First Aid Kit

first aid kit

The first aid kit ought to contain an assortment of of band-aids, bandages, surgical tape, antibiotic ointments and a pain reliever, such as aspirin. Sunscreen, lip balm and perhaps even some outdoor moisturizing cream are particularly important in the desert. If your first aid kit contains a snakebite kit, you should be aware that it may not be of much use, unless the victim can be immobilized and transported to a hospitable in a few hours.

Space Blanket

Emergency Blanket

A space blanket is a lightweight item that can keep you warm at night. These NASA designed pieces of equipment can also be used as a daytime shelter from the hot sun. Just be sure to bring along some cord or light rope, so you can make a lean-to out of the shiny material.

Hiking Stick

Every hiker should have a solid stick to use as a probe, when walking through the desert. Ideally, hiking sticks are 4- to 5-foot tall wooden poles used for balance and to poke the trail in front of you for troublesome insects, reptiles or animals.

Warm Clothes and a Poncho

Despite the daytime heat, nighttime can be chilly, especially in the "high desert" that exists above 5,000 feet. So bring along some extra clothing, including a lightweight, plastic poncho, in case you encounter a rare downpour.

Miscellaneous Items


There are a few miscellaneous items that should be a part of every survival kit, whether you are hiking through an arid landscape or not. Bring some waterproof matches to start a fire. A pocket knife is an essential piece of the survival kit no matter where you plan to hike. Topographical maps of the area that you intend to explore and a compass are also crucial.

Don't forget the cell phone and GPS locator. Chances are you will be out of range to use either one, but here is the one exception that just might save your life. Other items that could come in handy are a mirror, fishing line, small fishing lure, sharpening stone as well as some paper and a pen (for leaving notes).

Article Written By Henri Bauholz

Henri Bauholz is a professional writer covering a variety of topics, including hiking, camping, foreign travel and nature. He has written travel articles for several online publications and his travels have taken him all over the world, from Mexico to Latin America and across the Atlantic to Europe.

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