Desert Test: Lessons And Gear That Saved Me
Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail has been on my bucket list for a few years, but to be honest, parts of it have me trembling in my boots. Since we will begin our trek with 700 miles through the desert, we decided to move to Arizona to test out desert hiking.
For the past ten months we have experienced living in hot, dry conditions. We quickly learned that desert hiking takes a lot more preparation than our usual East Coast hiking.
- Sleeping in is not an option; the afternoon sun is brutal.
- Sunblock, hats, and sunglasses are essential.
- Good traction shoes are helpful on the sandy pebbled trails, especially downhill.
- Water is no joke; bring more than you think you’ll need.
- Shade is hard to come by, so take breaks when you see it.
To help us finalize our PCT gear, we decided to do three-day backpacking trip in the Superstition Mountains of Arizona. This test run gave me more confidence with the gear I chose.
Here are a couple of key pieces that I found work for me.
I was skeptical going from a 65 L to 48L, but it has been the best decision. It forced me to take a closer look at each item in my pack. It is a couple pounds lighter than my old pack, making a huge difference to me. In my opinion, the best desert feature it has is the airy mesh back, giving me excellent air circulation instead of sweat stains.
If you want to feel like you’re in a little oasis of shade, this hat is a lifesaver.
Con: The back of the hat is extra long to guard the neck; it was so long it hit my pack. I ended up rolling up the back of the hat so it sat atop of my pack. That solved the issue, though it may look dorky.
During our trip I fell into a thorn bush and experienced a slightly bruised ego and a few battle wounds. As I pulled out an array of cactus thorns on many occasions, I’m glad I remembered such a small, important piece of gear.
These are great for the desert because they are airy yet warm. They stretch a lot, so in the morning I put them right over my shorts. When it is warm enough they stretch right over my shoes to take them off, easy peasy.
I’ve always enjoyed sleeping bag liners because they give me more temperature options. It adds a little warmth for cold nights. As for the warmer nights, I slip into my liner with my sleeping bag draped over me. They also make for a guilt-free sweat session in my sleeping bag because I can easily throw the liner in the wash vs. my sleeping bag.
Needless to say the desert isn’t that bad as long as you’re prepared. Living in Arizona has been eye-opening and I’m glad to have this experience.
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