Long-distance desert hiking is usually done across routes. Routes may encompass several known trails along with cross-country hiking. If you're headed for a hike in the desert, it's essential to know what you're getting yourself into. For example, the Oregon Natural Desert Association mentions thathiking the Oregon Desert Trail may mean a lack of cell communication and environmental hazards. Most desert hikes are the same. If you're looking at a long-distance hike, you'll need to prepare. Unlike short walks, these long-distance routes can span several days or weeks. Having a plan in place will make life easier for you. But where do you start when you're planning a hike in the desert?
Know Your Enemy
A desert is an unforgiving place, but many people have made their way through it just fine. Hiking is a pastime that benefits from the experiences of others. People who may have covered one or more of the trails you're hiking may offer some good advice on dealing with the dangers. Luckily, many of these hikers have personal blogs that they update with each new hike. Have a read of some of the journal entries that deal with the area you'll be hiking through.
Most preserves and organizations that maintain these trails also have their own websites. The maintenance organizations may also have maps, landmarks, and other helpful information for your trip. If the route you're taking is frequented, you should get good information about what challenges you may run into. However, you may find it a bit more complicated if you're looking at an unmarked path. If you haven't been to the area before, deciding to follow an unmarked trail could be a dangerous decision.
Route Planning vs. Trail Planning
Experienced hikers would have covered trail planning in their previous tours. Route planning requires a few more skills. Things like navigation skills alongside GPS resources are a necessity. Navigation shouldn't rely on your cell phone since reception in the most remote areas will be nonexistent. Electronics can fail or break, and losing the single navigation aid you have could end badly. While you can use technology to make your life easier, it's always better to have a failsafe. Paper maps and compass (as well as the ability to read them) are crucial in ensuring that you have a solid backup plan.
The next important sticking point between trail and route planning is water. On a trail, you usually have a good idea of the start and end location. You can easily carry enough water that will last you through the day. Unfortunately, routes are much longer, and the best you can do is estimate the amount of time you'll take on it. While you might be able to get away with carrying water on a trail, you won't be so lucky on a route. Usually, this means planning ahead and caching water where you'll find it when you need it. You may be lucky to get cached water from "trail angels," but depending on these public caches isn't a good idea.
One of the skills you'll need in your quest to have enough water is a caching strategy. Ideally, you'd figure out how much water you'll likely consume over a period of time. If you have a daily average of your water conservation, you can estimate how far a day's travel will take you. Keep an eye on available natural water resources and factor those into your estimation. Remember which season you'll be hiking in since some water resources may not be available in certain seasons. Once you have those crucial points sorted out, you can figure out how much water you need to carry with you to get from one point to the other. The ideal setup would be to take just enough water to get you between refill points. If there's too much distance to cover in a single day, you may need to set up a cache point in the middle before you set out. Keep in mind the season you're hiking in as well since your water needs will vary based on how hot it is.
Work Out What Gear You Need
It's obvious that you'll have the gear to cater for every condition under the sun. Yet being aware of what the trail is likely to serve up can help you streamline your gear choices. If you set out in the middle of summer, for example, you probably won't need your 20-degree sleeping bag. This choice could result in a much lighter backpack to carry along with you. You should do a few practices runs with your gear to get used to the weight and carry. You don't want to find yourself in the backcountry with a pack that you're not comfortable carrying. A few test runs will also help you figure out if you need to balance things a bit more before setting out.
Resupply Strategies Are Important
Since routes can span large swathes of the country, it's crucial to set up a resupply strategy. Make a list of towns and settlements you're likely to run into on the way. Some trails and routes already have compiled lists that you can use. Once you figure out how far your estimated mileage will take you and the distance between the towns, you can figure out what each settlement offers. Your estimations should always underestimate your mileage per day. It's better to get to a new location a few days early rather than run out of food a few days before you can resupply.
You can send your resupply boxes ahead of you, but try to use priority mail if you send them via post. You could set up those resupply crates from home or rely on larger towns. If you set up one in a larger town, you can forward others to smaller towns further on the route. If there's a lot of cross-country travel involved in your route, you'll probably find this strategy a useful one to employ. Stove fuel is among your most essential resources since smaller towns may not carry it. As an alternative, you could invest in a wood-burning stove. Using wood as a fuel source could simplify logistics issues you may encounter.
Don't Take Your Success for Granted
Setting out on a trail is an adventure. Just because you succeeded in covering the trail in the past doesn't make it any less dangerous. If you find yourself with some downtime after setting up a business in New Mexico atthis website, you might be inclined to hit the trails to clear your head. Planning is the only way you'll ensure your success in this endeavor.
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