Becoming Desert Adapted



I live in a desert.  

No really.  I do.  Phoenix has often been called (sadly) the least sustainable city in America, and possibly on Earth.  Yet 4-5 million people live here and a ton of them hike.

Too often, I see people that simply do not have enough water with them.  Most hikers I see, have SOME water with them but it usually is not enough.  The only folks that I see without any water, are typically tourists.

Since daytime highs are now in the low to mid 90s, I wanted to share with you my simple, yet effective hydration system, and how I generally keep cool.  These methods have allowed me to hike in Phoenix nearly year round with the exception of a very few days of the year.

There is nothing Earth shattering about any of this, but based on what I see on trail, maybe it is!

The first thing that I have and do is that I always carry more water than I think that I will need.  That’s probably my one inviolate rule.  I do this for a few reasons.  It allows me to change my plans, i.e. hike further than I expected to, go for a couple more peaks than I planned and also to give some away in case of an emergency.  On three occasions, I have given water to strangers, including all the water that I had left.  Frankly, I can do this because A. I know my body and B. I am SO hydrated that I know how long I can go without water.

As far as HOW I carry my water, I carry a few things.  Keep in mind that these routines work FOR ME, but they are just common sense techniques.  

First and most important, I carry a 3L water bladder inside my Camelbak Fourteener.  I LOVE this pack. It is big enough to hold enough for an extended day hike but small enough to not be heavy or too bulky.  Typically, I will fill up the bladder and place it in the refrigerator the night before.  I don’t like freezing mine because I find that it takes a while to thaw.

Second, I carry a small less than 20 ounce cheap disposable Smartwater bottle and I tuck it into my pouch on the side of my Camelbak.  Why would I do this when I have a bladder with 3L of water in it? Over the years, remembering that I am a huge peakbagger, I learned that my first instinct when I made a mountain summit other than to look for snakes is to take off my pack.  And it holds my water! So I found that I’d have to either put my pack back on, or contort my body back down toward the tube to drink.  So I started carrying a cheap, disposable bottle that I could drink from with my pack off.

Third, was something I started doing about a year ago.  When I am putting my Camelbak bladder in the fridge at night, I also freeze another cheap disposable water bottle.  Don’t fill it up all the way because the bottle will get out of round and will not sit up.  I take this bottle BUT I leave it in the vehicle. On a day hike, even in Phoenix in the summer, the water will usually be cold.  I drink this water on the way home from wherever I am hiking and I always know I have cold, or at a minimum, cool water waiting for me.

Probably the WORST thing that I do that breaks the rules, is that I do not personally subscribe to the covering everything rule of desert hiking.  I don’t like wearing pants and typically won’t wear long sleeves in the summer as some swear by.  I tend to be VERY hot natured, so I just don’t like getting even hotter than I need to.

As far as time of day, I begin my hikes anywhere from 3:30 AM to no later than 7 AM between around March and September here in Phoenix.  I do it for two reasons.  I love Arizona sunrises and so that for anything short of a 15 mile hike, I am finished before noon at the latest.

I am not super huge on night hikes, particularly in the summer time because there are snakes EVERYWHERE.  I feel that your chance of being bitten by a snake at night is exponentially higher at night.  Plus, you can’t SEE anything but the lights of the city, depending on where you are.

So to recap, take more water than you need, have a system, and stick to that system until it becomes habit.



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