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#88556 - 01/31/08 02:43 PM Desert Backpacking
grinagog Offline
member

Registered: 11/21/04
Posts: 22
Loc: Seattle
I've done most of my backpacking in the Northwest and Rocky Mountains, but I'm planning to go south for my spring break this year, and do some hiking in Arizona. Besides the obvious desert differences, what advice do you have for me? How do you store food when there aren't trees to hang from, etc. Thanks for your help.

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#88557 - 01/31/08 03:33 PM Re: Desert Backpacking [Re: grinagog]
mockturtle Offline
member

Registered: 06/06/07
Posts: 251
Loc: WA
Not sure which 'obvious differences' you are referring to, but water is the most obvious one. It is impossible to pack enough water to sustain you for more than a day or two so you will need to know of water sources where you are going.

Most desert areas get quite cold at night, so you will need warm clothes and sleeping bag.

Cactus are very pesky.

You don't need to hang your food, as there aren't any bears. But you will need to watch out for rattlers.

Wind is not usually your friend, especially when it's blowing sand in your face, your food and your clothing.

Storms bring very fast flash flooding. Stay out of washes.

I'm probably forgetting a few things, but that's all I can come up with for now. Enjoy! If you're going in the spring, the wildflowers should be great this year because of the rain.

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#88558 - 01/31/08 04:27 PM Re: Desert Backpacking [Re: grinagog]
Trailrunner Offline
member

Registered: 01/05/02
Posts: 1835
Loc: Los Angeles
The #1 issue in desert camping, at least for me, is water. It's heavy and bulky. And it's hard to predict exactly how much you'll need so I usually carry too much just to be safe. Drink lots at the trailhead so you start fully hydrated. Cache it ahead if possible.

Plan your meals so no water is wasted. Cooking pasta in a pot is out. So are meals that require lots of dishes. You can't drink dishwater.

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#88559 - 01/31/08 05:17 PM Re: Desert Backpacking [Re: grinagog]
Dryer Offline
Moderator

Registered: 12/05/02
Posts: 3591
Loc: Texas
Water. Plan all hikes with at least a 1/3 reserve of more that you think you'll need.
Springs/creeks are unreliable and you need a reserve just in case. Plan on carrying ALL your water, and don't push your luck. Depending on the weather, dress light and loose. I wear an old long sleeve, white, floppy, cotton poly blend dress shirt and a wide brimmed hat. I like convertible pants...light material. Umbrellas are wonderful portable shade...make yourself a ultralight umbrella. I like trail runners instead of boots, don't kick a horse crippler (armour piercing cactus).
Plan your equipment to handle wide temperature swings, but keep it as light weight as possible. Crazy hot in daylight, cool/cold at night, with dry high winds in between.
Never had a problem with food storage in the desert. It stays in the pack, near me unless I know of critters in the area. In the mountains, there are usually trees to hang from. Many national parks now have bear boxes for storage in each campsite. If you are going to a park, by all means pick the brain of the desk ranger.
Oh, and plan on returning over and over again....deserts are wonderful!
_________________________
paul, texas KD5IVP

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#88560 - 01/31/08 05:24 PM Re: Desert Backpacking [Re: grinagog]
Pika Online   content
member

Registered: 12/08/05
Posts: 1813
Loc: Rural Southeast Arizona
March and April can be windy months here in Arizona. If you are planning on camping you may want to consider some sort of a tent to protect you from a lot of the wind-blown sand that moves along in the foot above the soil surface. If you plan on tarp camping, you could wind up with a lot of sand in your sleeping bag. Also, it can get pretty darn cold at night even though the days are warm and pleasant. Prepare for cold and windy nights. Take plenty of water; at least 4 liters a day until you acclimatize. Unless it is really warm, you shouldn't have to worry about rattlesnakes that early in the year and if they are out, it will only be during the day. One last thing, just about everything in the Arizona desert has thorns, sharp edges, teeth, thorns, stingers, spines, is poisonous and/or has sharp points. Beware of everything! <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/laugh.gif" alt="" />
_________________________
May I walk in beauty.

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#88561 - 01/31/08 07:00 PM Re: Desert Backpacking [Re: grinagog]
oldranger Offline
member

Registered: 02/23/07
Posts: 1735
Loc: California (southern)
Water in the desert is highly seasonal, and also varies from year to year, depending upon the amounts of rainfall in any given year. Right now Arizona seems to be getting adequate amounts of rainfall.

I have hiked in the Superstitions when there was a trickling brook every quarter mile, and I did a winter trip in the Gila Bend Gunnery Range (by vehicle) where the roadway was a very decent stream for miles on end. This is one of the hottest and driest areas in the continent. I have also humped gallons of water and needed every drop, ending up fiercely dehydrated at the end of the trip. In the desert timing is everything.

Spring is a fine time to hike in Arizona. Get expert local knowledge on the water sources and don't hesitate to pack extra. You will be surprised at the number of trees (defined as plants with limbs high enough and strong enough to hang your food from) in nearly every part of the desert. Think palo verde, saguaro, mesquite, etc. Food storage isn't much of an issue unless you are in a heavily used campground.

You will have a great time.

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#88562 - 02/01/08 07:06 AM Re: Desert Backpacking [Re: mockturtle]
finallyME Offline
member

Registered: 09/24/07
Posts: 2710
Loc: Utah
Quote:

Wind is not usually your friend, especially when it's blowing sand in your face, your food and your clothing.


Since I am not a lurker, I can post here. I hate sand. After a year in sand, I have determined that my kids will have to do without a sand box. Man, I hate sand. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/smirk.gif" alt="" />
_________________________
I've taken a vow of poverty. To annoy me, send money.

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#88563 - 02/02/08 04:35 PM Re: Desert Backpacking [Re: finallyME]
Earthling Offline
member

Registered: 02/22/03
Posts: 3228
Loc: USA
That and it sticks to sillynylon <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/crazy.gif" alt="" /> Oh, and you can leave the 'food weight' behind, 'cause yer' gonna need all of it for water <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/tongue.gif" alt="" />
_________________________
PEPPER SPRAY AIN'T BRAINS IN A CAN!

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#88564 - 02/05/08 04:08 PM Re: Desert Backpacking [Re: grinagog]
Brumfield Offline
member

Registered: 12/23/07
Posts: 255
Loc: Expat from New Orleans, now in...
Grinagog, Bring all the water you'll need, plus about 1/3 more. And take the time to learn how to build a solar still using your cup or water bottle, a UL thin piece of plastic sheeting, desert plants, and a hole in the ground. Could save your life if you loose your water supply. Brum
_________________________



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#88565 - 02/05/08 04:23 PM Re: Desert Backpacking [Re: Brumfield]
Earthling Offline
member

Registered: 02/22/03
Posts: 3228
Loc: USA
And might I add gary, a piece of small diameter tubing 5ft long to leave in that cup with the end up top sticking out from under the plastic edge wieghted down with a rock. You can leave your 'still' undisturbed this way, and drink all you want <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/smirk.gif" alt="" />
_________________________
PEPPER SPRAY AIN'T BRAINS IN A CAN!

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#88566 - 02/05/08 06:57 PM Re: Desert Backpacking [Re: finallyME]
chaz Offline
member

Registered: 10/22/07
Posts: 1149
Loc: Tennessee
Yeah! It's hard to keep the sand in the box. It ends up in everything in the house or tent. I built my daughter a sand box but I never put any sand in it. She asked me about it once. I just kinda never got around to it. So I guess she just had a dirt box all these years.
_________________________
Enjoy your next trip...

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#88567 - 02/06/08 07:51 PM Re: Desert Backpacking [Re: Earthling]
Brumfield Offline
member

Registered: 12/23/07
Posts: 255
Loc: Expat from New Orleans, now in...
Quote:
And might I add gary, a piece of small diameter tubing 5ft long to leave in that cup with the end up top sticking out from under the plastic edge wieghted down with a rock. You can leave your 'still' undisturbed this way, and drink all you want <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/smirk.gif" alt="" />


Yes,, thank you, oh wise one of the desert rats <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/ooo.gif" alt="" />... that is the correct way, I forgot to mention a tube. Guess I should have drawn little stick people pictures too... <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/smirk.gif" alt="" /> Brum

_________________________



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#88568 - 02/06/08 11:28 PM Re: Desert Backpacking [Re: grinagog]
300winmag Offline
member

Registered: 02/28/06
Posts: 1342
Loc: Nevada, USA
To all of these sage comments I'd add a few:

Water in a hydration bag with the tube covered in a light colored neoprene sleeve to keep the water in the drink tube below "boiling" temp.

Stay away feom cholla cacti !! FAR away - and never camp anywhere near them Their spines are maddeningly painful. Don't ask me how I know.

Protect your skin. Rely more on specific UV barrier clothing than sunscreen. Do like the cowboys downhere do, wear a long sleeved shirt and a wide brimmed hat and TOUGH pants like denim or, my fav, "5.11" brand nylon canvas tactical pants.They turn sharp growth...and every plant in the desert is some kind of sharp or nasty.Check out the 5.11 website.

Eric
_________________________
"There are no comfortable backpacks. Some are just less uncomfortable than others."

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#88569 - 02/07/08 09:45 AM Re: Desert Backpacking [Re: Brumfield]
chaz Offline
member

Registered: 10/22/07
Posts: 1149
Loc: Tennessee
Looking at the picture of the hole you have to dig to get water, it appears that it needs to be about 6 or 7 feet deep if the people standing near it are to any kind of scale. I think if I were in the desert trying to dig a hole with my little shovel I would die of thirst before I could complete the hole and wait for water to drip into the cup. Besides the fact that I may be out of physical energy to suck the water up the long tube. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/tongue.gif" alt="" />
_________________________
Enjoy your next trip...

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#88570 - 02/07/08 11:19 AM Re: Desert Backpacking [Re: Brumfield]
Earthling Offline
member

Registered: 02/22/03
Posts: 3228
Loc: USA
Quote:
Quote:
And might I add gary, a piece of small diameter tubing 5ft long to leave in that cup with the end up top sticking out from under the plastic edge wieghted down with a rock. You can leave your 'still' undisturbed this way, and drink all you want <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/smirk.gif" alt="" />


Yes,, thank you, oh wise one of the desert rats <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/ooo.gif" alt="" />... that is the correct way, I forgot to mention a tube. Guess I should have drawn little stick people pictures too... <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/smirk.gif" alt="" /> Brum



Yes, one must bring their OWN tube to the drinking hole, 'lest they scuz up mine with desert dust mouth <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" /> Great Picture Barry <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" /> <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />

But Eric, those 'teddy bear' cholla are so fuzzy interestingly cute...come closer <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/smirk.gif" alt="" /> Yikes! <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/shocked.gif" alt="" /> been there, pulled that out <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/tongue.gif" alt="" />
_________________________
PEPPER SPRAY AIN'T BRAINS IN A CAN!

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#88571 - 02/07/08 11:42 AM Re: Desert Backpacking [Re: 300winmag]
finallyME Offline
member

Registered: 09/24/07
Posts: 2710
Loc: Utah
I didn't know that 5.11 made nylon pants. I thought they were all 100% cotton, or a cotton blend.

As far as cactus, never play capture the flag at night when there are a lot of prickly pears around. Don't ask how I know that one either. By the way, this took several times to learn, not just once. What can I say, sometimes it takes a while to sink in (pun intended). <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />
_________________________
I've taken a vow of poverty. To annoy me, send money.

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#88572 - 02/07/08 05:36 PM Re: Desert Backpacking [Re: chaz]
Brumfield Offline
member

Registered: 12/23/07
Posts: 255
Loc: Expat from New Orleans, now in...
Quote:
Looking at the picture of the hole you have to dig to get water, it appears that it needs to be about 6 or 7 feet deep if the people standing near it are to any kind of scale. I think if I were in the desert trying to dig a hole with my little shovel I would die of thirst before I could complete the hole and wait for water to drip into the cup. Besides the fact that I may be out of physical energy to suck the water up the long tube. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/tongue.gif" alt="" />


FORGET IT!!! I am not redrawing that hole to be true to scale.. If you'll note the people have no eyes either.. and they are one dimensional, and their heads are too big for their bodies, so... I suck at graphics. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" /> Brum

Crap., I forgot to add chopped up, moisture producing, desert plants in the bottom of the hole too! That's why I can never get water out of those things.... I can't get a job drawing either...
_________________________



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#88573 - 02/08/08 07:12 AM Re: Desert Backpacking [Re: grinagog]
tinaanderson Offline
member

Registered: 02/04/08
Posts: 18
I would love to do some desert backpacking, but I have never been out in those parts of the country. I'm from Michigan and my family only gets to visit other parts of the country in the summer, but we usually head east and south.
_________________________
Virginia Hiking

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#88574 - 02/08/08 04:11 PM Re: Desert Backpacking [Re: 300winmag]
Brumfield Offline
member

Registered: 12/23/07
Posts: 255
Loc: Expat from New Orleans, now in...
Quote:
To all of these sage comments I'd add a few:

Water in a hydration bag with the tube covered in a light colored neoprene sleeve to keep the water in the drink tube below "boiling" temp.

Stay away feom cholla cacti !! FAR away - and never camp anywhere near them Their spines are maddeningly painful. Don't ask me how I know.

Protect your skin. Rely more on specific UV barrier clothing than sunscreen. Do like the cowboys downhere do, wear a long sleeved shirt and a wide brimmed hat and TOUGH pants like denim or, my fav, "5.11" brand nylon canvas tactical pants.They turn sharp growth...and every plant in the desert is some kind of sharp or nasty.Check out the 5.11 website.

Eric


300 Winchester Magnum, Excellent advice. Glad to see that at least one of us can be useful here.. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif" alt="" /> Brum
_________________________



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#88575 - 02/08/08 04:33 PM Re: Desert Backpacking [Re: grinagog]
grinagog Offline
member

Registered: 11/21/04
Posts: 22
Loc: Seattle
thank you, everyone, for the advice.

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#88576 - 02/08/08 07:20 PM Re: Desert Backpacking [Re: Brumfield]
Jimshaw Offline
member

Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 3967
Loc: Bend, Oregon
Hey Brum
Get it right if yer gonna post a sketch eh?
<img src="/forums/images/graemlins/wink.gif" alt="" />Jim <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/cool.gif" alt="" />
_________________________
These are my own opinions based on wisdom earned through many wrong decisions. Your mileage may vary.

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#88577 - 02/08/08 07:39 PM Re: Desert Backpacking [Re: grinagog]
Arizona Offline
member

Registered: 02/26/02
Posts: 122
Loc: The Southwestern Deserts
There are bears in Arizona, lots of them depending on where you are.

Those stills don't work well enough to fuss with. Try one before you rely on it. We did some in depth tests along with others and had shovels. We placed them in several locations, it was a sunny day and the ground was damp from recent rains. You will loose far more water through sweat when building them than you will get back.

Not all of Arizona is sand. LOL

There are many zones here so it depends on where you are going to be. There are places we go where we will carry 2 to 3 gallons of water per person. Water is the serious issue depending on the conditions, time of year and reliable springs. People have died within sight of interstate highways here for lack of water and heat related problems.

Where exactly do you want to go?

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#88578 - 02/09/08 06:16 AM Re: Desert Backpacking [Re: Brumfield]
Dryer Offline
Moderator

Registered: 12/05/02
Posts: 3591
Loc: Texas
Brum, if you dug a solar still at 'scale' to your sketch, one would need an
ultra-light backhoe. Nice pic, just the same.
<img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" /> <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />


The thing about solar stills anywhere, is that they are very slow to make a useful quantity of water and require a huge amount of effort to dig a pit big enough to get the surface area needed. This is one of those "practice at home" things before you let your life depend on it. I've been in 'heat and water' trouble in the desert and digging a pit was the last thing on our minds. If we'd hung around to do it, we'd be dead from exposure. We were on bicycles and the only ground around for miles was loose gravel, with ocotillo and creosote. So, best bring enough water, with electrolytes, with 1/3rd reserve, AND PORTABLE SHADE!!! (like a poncho shelter or a couple mylar space blankets). When you run into trouble out there, the question becomes..."do I spend my time trying to summon help" ...or..."take the chance and trudge on", or "hunker down into survival mode". It's a tricky thought process to go through when you are under heat stress. Problems arrise VERY quickly and you're in trouble before you realize it. All desert survival water techniques take time and effort. "Bagging" creosote bushes sometimes works too, but you'll be spending the night out there to harvest a few drops of water in the morning. Expect to be disapointed, and really uncomfortable. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/tongue.gif" alt="" />

I'd also suggest that 'desert newbies' pick up some reading material about desert hiking and survival and get acquainted with how to "read the desert". Big Bend Ntl. Park offers a survival course, which I've never taken, but plan to someday. It's pricy but I understand it's good.
_________________________
paul, texas KD5IVP

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#88579 - 02/09/08 06:31 AM Re: Desert Backpacking [Re: Dryer]
Arizona Offline
member

Registered: 02/26/02
Posts: 122
Loc: The Southwestern Deserts
Portable shade, very wise advice. You would be very surprised at how much longer a person can last without water in the shade as compared to the sun.

I recommend Desert Survival Skills by David Alloway.


Edited by BoyNhisDog (02/09/08 06:31 AM)

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#88580 - 02/09/08 07:06 AM Re: Desert Backpacking [Re: Arizona]
Dryer Offline
Moderator

Registered: 12/05/02
Posts: 3591
Loc: Texas
Quote:
Portable shade, very wise advice. You would be very surprised at how much longer a person can last without water in the shade as compared to the sun.




Yup...its not the lack of water that gets you.....it's the heat and sun exposure. There's a body temperature point where all the water in the world won't help you. Your body just won't process it. The biggest hiking lessons I've learned in the last 15 years is "white floppy dress shirt", "big hat", and "hike with an umbrella". You can hike in complete comfort out on the desert floor, if you are in perpetual shade.
_________________________
paul, texas KD5IVP

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