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Camping in the Desert Heat

Any recommendations/good tech for camping in triple digit weather? 

36 Replies


Hi jacer,

Personally, I would avoid desert camping during triple digit outside temperatures, due to the heat related heath threats. Take a lesson from nature. Animals of the desert are active at night for a reason. They are smart enough not to be exposed to triple digit outside daylight temperatures under normal circumstances. They are inactive and under the protection of shade or underground during those daylight conditions. 

If one must camp during such conditions:

Hydrate with water often. Urine should run clear. If yellow, your not drinking enough water. If you start to feel woozy, that’s an indication of dehydration. Your body should generate about 150cc’s of clear urine per hour. Plan on drinking a minimum of one gallon of water per day. Avoid alcoholic beverages of which may impair your judgement.

Protect your skin from the Sun: SPF50 Sunscreen. Wide brimmed UV blocking hat. Wraparound UV Blocking Sunglasses, Long sleeved UV resistant fabric shirt. Light weight cargo pants. Cotton Socks, Premium Quality Hiking Shoes or Boots.

Flash Light is a must for night travel. Gen 3 White Phosphorus Night Vision Goggles if you can afford it.

Hike at night or prior to sunrise and stop before mid morning. 

Find natural shade or create shaded protection from the Sun, by mid morning and conserve energy the rest of the day. 

If you must cook your meals, use a stove not a campfire, because of the wildfire hazard during hot outside temperatures.

Advise others of your travel routes and schedule. Let them know you will contact them as soon as you return from your camping trip. If you don’t call them after (#) hours after your expected arrival back home, they should call the Sheriff’s Office and advise them of your travel route and schedule. 

Above post is right on.  Just a few embellishments......

A light is crucial for night travel, either a headlamp or flashlight.  you do not generally need high power.  it is generally preferable to enhance your night vision by dimming your light as much as possible.  Usually no more than 100 lumens is sufficient.  My preference is a headlamp, which is frequently , but not always used best used handheld.  Versatility is the key....

Hiking at night is definitely preferable during hot weather, starting the earlier the better.  On one occasion I started down the South Kaibab trail at 230 AM, hiking almost entirely by natural light.  There was no moon, but starlight was quite adequate with fully adapted night vision.  On trails less distinct than the Kaibab, more illumination would have been necessary...

The occasion for this trip was to work on an archaeological dig near Phantom Ranch.  We began the day at 430 AM, working until noon.  Then lunch and seeking shade, working on our notes until evening when we returned to the dig.  This continued for about two weeks.....

Sometimes you will start a hike in the desert, climbing to higher, cooler destinations.  An early start really pays off here.  You will attain cooler conditions as the day progresses.

A wide, full brimmed hat is essential, preferably cotton, so you can soak it in water and enjoy the cooling effect. This works extremely well in low humidity conditions.

You can't carry enough water.  Learn about dependable sources, if any, along your route, and use them, especially for soaking your hat.

Are your adjusted to high temps?  I did much better after living in the desert for a year or two....

Shade and water are priceless in hot times.....

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.


Thank you for the response! Hiking down the South Kaibab trail at night sounds like a fantastic adventure.

I’ll be purchasing a wide brimmed hat as noted. Looking forward to some early starts and days spent in the shade.  




Thank you for the AWESOME response. This was very helpful - I appreciate you taking the time to write this (along with everyone else who has responded). I’ll be sure to take all your notes into consideration when heading out. I’m aware the heat is no joke and trips must be treated with caution. 


I have had heat exhaustion twice and it's no joke. Both times I was lucky that my hiking companions realized what was going on and took care of me.  If you are going to be out in extreme heat, be sure you know the symptoms and treatment.

Unfortunately, one of the symptoms is, you get disoriented so you're not making rational decisions.  People with heat exhaustion might also be cranky and oppositional so they will fight you about trying to help them.  Then they might start throwing up water, or get a severe headache and feel too weak to hike further.   If that happens, lie down in the shade and (if it's not too humid and you have enough water) get your clothing wet for evaporative cooling.  Note that the danger of heat depends on something called "wet bulb temperature."  Heat + high humidity is the most dangerous  since when the combination of heat and humitity is over 97 degrees F sweat can't evaporate. 

If you are hiking in the desert it's super important to have something in your kit to treat heat exhaustion just in case.  Especially an electolyte drink (like gatorade powder), but I also suggest bringing some unsweetened dried coconut strips and dried ginger for something to nibble on until the nausea subsides. 

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.


This is some absolutely vital information. Heat exhaustion is no joke - I appreciate your tips. An electrolyte kit is a must and I’ll be bringing that along. 

Thanks for the help 🙂



“Tunas” are an excellent resource of emergency moisture and Vitamin C in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona.

No…not tuna the fish.

Tunas the cactus fruit.

Use leather gloves or a forked stick to harvest the ripe tunas from the cactus. Burn the small and very sharp needle like thorns off the tunas with the flame of a lighter or torch.

Peel the skin from the tunas with a sharp knife.

The raw fruit is ready to eat, seeds and all.

Tastes like a very mild kiwi fruit.



yes, but not available all the time.

REI Member Since 1979

This is awesome!! I’ll be sure to keep an eye for these while traveling.