The Sonoran Desert surprises many a first time visitor. A dry barren wasteland it is not; the Sonoran Desert is lush, inviting and home to a wide variety of plants and animals, and opportunities for outdoor exploration include hiking, biking, scenic drives and more.

However you choose to explore the desert, there are several essential items you should always bring: 

Navigation

Whether out for a drive, bike ride, hike, or even a casual walk, you should have some sort of navigation aid with you while exploring in the Sonoran Desert. The desert can be hot and dry and getting lost even for a few hours can put you in an uncomfortable situation even in the best case scenario. Most people rely on their smartphone to tell them where to go, and this is better than nothing, but a good old-fashioned paper map will never lose charge and is extremely important when out hiking or driving in an area where you might lose cell service (common in the desert). If you are planning seriously rugged adventures, consider bringing a handheld GPS unit designed for hiking.
 

Water

Carrying water may seem like an obvious thing to do when exploring in the desert, but we can't remind you enough of how important it is. You should plan to have water on hand even when out for a short walk in the desert (remember when we talked about getting lost?), and when road tripping through desert regions.

When doing something active in the desert, a good rule of thumb is to drink one liter of water every hour. 
 

Food

Nutrition is almost as important as hydration during any sort of adventure. The heat in the Sonoran Desert can wear on you and it is important to keep your body fueled throughout the day. Always keep a few salty snacks on hand to replenish the electrolytes you lose while being active.
 

Proper clothing for the weather

The weather in Arizona can vary from extreme heat to extreme cold depending on time of year and where in the state you choose to adventure. Arizona does in fact have seasons and also comprises a variety of elevations with radically different climates.

If you are visiting Phoenix and hoping to see the Grand Canyon on the same trip, you’ll want to check the weather at both locations and pack appropriately. In the case of sunshine and heat, make sure you have a hat and long sleeves to protect your skin from burn. In winter, it’s important to have warm clothes and a rain jacket on hand wherever you are exploring across the state.
 

Backpack

Plan ahead and always travel with a backpack large enough to hold all of the above essentials. It is best to have a backpack with a chest strap and/or hip belt for extra support so your shoulders don’t get fatigued. Without a proper pack, you are more likely to leave things at home so you don’t have to “deal with” carrying them. Don’t put yourself at risk; keep the essentials on hand.

Backpacks equipped with water bladders/reservoirs and a drinking nozzle are especially handy.

 

Being properly prepared with food, water, clothing and the tools to keep from getting lost will greatly enhance your Sonoran Desert adventures. Happy exploring!