Check Before You Trek: 6 Tips for Exploring the Desert

Carly SchollJanuary 2019
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1. Wear proper clothing for the time of year. Leadbetter suggests a sun hat with a wide brim and neck covering. He also wears a white long sleeved shirt as an extra layer of sunblock. “I hike in the summer and I actually wear cotton because it will actually hold onto the moisture and it will keep you cool,” he says. “In the winters, I’ll do the same thing but it won’t be cotton, it’ll be synthetic because that same cotton absorbs the moisture and it makes you cold.”

2. In Arizona, hydration is important, but don’t forget to prehydrate the day before. One mistake that people make is guzzling water instead of sipping, which does not keep you hydrated for long. “If you sip water, it actually absorb into your esophagus and your intestines.” While on the trail, Leadbetter recommends a liter of water for every two to three hours you hike.

3. Speaking of hydration, to stop yourself from overhydration, make sure to pack salty snacks or sports drinks. Leadbetter provides his groups with these foods so they can get the minerals that water cannot provide.

4. “There’s an old saying: everything in the Sonoran desert either sticks, stings, bites or eats meat.” If you encounter a dangerous animal while on a trail, don’t panic. Also remember to “stand your ground and don’t try to run.” Wildlife is just as scared of you as you are of them, so let them be. 

5. Don’t know where to start? A good trail system that Leadbetter likes is the Arizona Trail, an 800 mile stretch that touches Utah and Mexico. “People can join that because it goes right by Tucson, so people in Tucson can jump on the trail. People in Flagstaff can jump on the trail… You can access this trail within any metropolitan area at an hour’s drive at the most.” (aztrail.org)

6. The best way to get outdoors is to actually do it. Leadbetter also suggests starting small and with a partner.“The wilderness to me is the best medicine of all time. I even have a saying, put the sole of your foot on the Earth and the Earth will touch your soul.” 

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