About one-fourth of California can be classified as a desert, which includes the Colorado and Mojave Deserts in southeast California and the area east of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, which is a high desert with hot summers and cold winters. If you're planning a trip to the desert, this checklist will help you keep comfortable and safe.
Things You Might Not Think Of
Pack a long-sleeved shirt: Despite what you might think, a light-colored, long-sleeved cotton shirt will keep you cooler than a tank top because it shades your skin.
Cooling neck bands help: Filled with water-absorbing gel, soak the bands in water and tie around your neck. They cool by evaporation. They're sold in many sporting goods stores.
Bring tweezers: Cactus seem to sneak up and lodge spines in your skin when you aren't looking.
Watch your equipment: Sagebrush oils can ruin cameras and tripods. Bring something to wipe everything off after use.
Combat the Dryness
You'll find the air much drier in the mountains than at sea level. Take these along to stay comfortable:
Saline Nasal Spray: Dry nasal membranes are not only uncomfortable, but they can also cause nose bleeds. A few spritzes of this over-the-counter remedy can help a lot.
Extra-Strength Moisturizers Your skin will soak up moisturizers like a sponge. Bring lots of your regular stuff, or get something extra-strength and don't forget your lips.
Artificial Tears: For those dry eyes, get individual packets of artificial tears and tuck a few in your bag.
Water Bottle Carrier: Buy the water once you get there, but a carrier helps. To reduce waste, take your own bottle, too.
Protect Against the Sun
High SPF Sunscreen: The sun will be bright in the desert, and at higher elevations there's less air to absorb it. Whatever you normally use, take something stronger.
Hat with a Wide Brim: A baseball cap will shade your face, but not your neck. You'll be better off in a hat with a brim all around so it protects your neck, too.
Sunglasses: It's easy to leave them at home, especially if you leave after dark, so find a way to remember them or pack a spare pair.
Desert Creatures to Watch Out For
While some of the other desert creatures are merely unpleasant, these few can be much more of a problem. It won't hurt to find out how to give first aid for a snakebite.