Eric Murdock hiking with group on the Watchman Trail

Hiking in the Southwest? You’ll Want These 7 Desert Essentials in Your Pack

You’ve been looking through photos of Utah on Instagram for months now and you’ve finally decided to make the trek to the desert (hopefully on a MountainBased trip!). Now comes the hard part: what to wear? What to pack? What do I need to hike in the desert?

So we’ve come up with a list of essential items for hiking in the desert. It’s not comprehensive and each person’s pack is different, but here’s what we recommend:

Hiking in the Desert Essentials

hiking in the desert

Salty Snacks

It may go without saying, but extreme temperatures exist in the desert. Hiking in hot weather means an increased output of exertion and, ultimately, sweat! Packing your bag full of salty snacks like pretzels and potato chips will help restore depleted salt stores.

Lightweight Cotton T-Shirt

As counterintuitive as it seems, cotton can do wonders in hot desert climates. While wicking properties are necessary on long hikes through alpine environments, trekking through the desert with a cotton shirt can help cool the body down. It’s important to note, however, that desert temps drop dramatically at night, so packing heavier clothes for sitting around the campfire and sleeping is important.

Brimmed Hat

hiking in the desert

If you want to resurrect your cowboy roots, the desert environment is the place to do it. Bust out your cowboy hat to protect your face and neck from the intense desert sun. Outdoor companies all make their own version of desert hats with lightweight, wicking materials as well. Oftentimes their hats also include SPF protection to serve as double duty.

Lots and Lots and Lots of Water

This is not an exaggeration. Hiking through the desert requires excessive water intake, generally 4-6 gallons of water is recommended for people hiking through arid, desert climates. It sounds like a lot, and it is. But it’s also what your body needs in order to survive and perform in desert environments.


Lather it on! When hiking through the desert in shorts and a t-shirt, you are blatantly exposing your limbs to the sun’s aggressive rays. Trust us, you’ll enjoy tomorrow’s hike so much more if you protect your skin on day 1.


The best part about bringing a bandana to the desert is that as soon as you feel overheated, you can douse your bandana with some cold water and drape it around your neck, or over your head, for an instant cooling effect. Bandana’s are also great for emergency first-aid scenarios. Plus, they look pretty dang cool. 


hiking in the desert

There’s absolutely nothing like sandstone spires, red rock arches, and pods of cacti with snow-capped mountains in the distance. Trust us, you’ll want to bring your camera to capture the landscape, and the new friends you’ll make on your MountainBased trip.

Know what to pack, but don’t know where to go? Check out the 4 Hikes in Arches National Park You’ll Have to Yourself