Recently I did some hiking in Southern Utah, including an amazing day hiking The Wave, and I learned something important from the experience: Your gear can make or break your hike. It only took one time with no hat and the wrong shoes to realize those seemingly small articles can make such a big difference. Here are a few things I found essential to a positive day wandering around amid the rocks and cactus.
Wear Good Shoes
Opinions can vary on this point, when it comes to what type of shoes are best. Shannon wore Keens Waterfront shoes. She wears them on all her hikes. I wore Sketchers Trail Runners that have taken me to Europe and back three times. Both worked well for each of us.
Tip: The important takeaway on a long hike is wear shoes your feet are intimately familiar with. Neither one of us had blisters at all from our hike to The Wave, but I wore different shoes recently on a much shorter hike and ended up with blisters on my toes. Good shoes matter.
Wear a Shady Hat
A good hat in the desert is a must. It is like your own little shade tent. I am not generally a hat person, but it made such a huge difference, so I've been converted. The one I bought was expensive but lightweight and kept me from sunburns on spots I often miss with sunscreen, like my ears or neck. It was also cool to support a local business I love when acquiring this piece of necessary desert gear.
Tip: Aside from wearing a hat, be smart about scheduling. In warmer months, hiking in the morning is generally cooler, but for any hike of length you will still find yourself out during midday or afternoon when temperatures reach their peak. Spring and Fall are usually much more pleasant for high desert hiking.
Take LOTS of Water
When you get your permit to hike the wave the rangers iterate their recommendation to take at least three liters of water with you on your hike. They aren’t lying! I drank nearly all of the 3 liters in my Camelback when I hiked The Wave, plus another liter of homemade electrolyte lemonade and 16 oz of warm tea early on in the day.
Tip: Hydration packs are not over-rated. Instead of having to stop, remove my pack and chug down water at intervals, I was able to just sip my way through the hike. It was so effortless.
Safely Stow Your Camera
Make sure your camera (or phone) is easy access. I learned this the hard way. I did not have pockets on my pants when I was hiking and the side pockets of my pack were just far enough out of my reach to risk dropping my phone on the rocks. I was using my camera all the time, but did not want it in my hands for steep scrambles up the rocks.
- Sunscreen - Obviously. I bought a nice tinted natural sunscreen stick for the face that was recommended by the saleswoman in the Willow Canyon shop. She knows what she is talking about. It didn’t sting my eyes even when I sweated.
- Snacks - Snacks probably are not needed on a shorter hike, but something simple like a granola bar won’t take much room and you will be glad you have it if you stay out longer than you planned.
- Lighter or matches and pocketknife - There are several emergencies one of these two items could solve. You will probably never use these, but things can get so dire in the desert so fast, it doesn’t hurt to make room.
- Compass - My husband bought me a compass for my hike to The Wave since we heard about so many people getting lost on the way back. It was absolutely essential for navigating our way through the undeveloped terrain.
Desert landscapes can really only be fully appreciated by exploring on foot. It isn’t a hiking environment for the faint-at-heart. But, with the right gear you can have a great time exploring the rocky, sandy places that make the desert so unique, whatever your hiking skill level.