Hi Mark -- Sorry about taking so long to respond, but its been busy this week, and this deserved a bit of thought before answering.Originally Posted by Editor
The thread listed is pretty good about desert travel. I'd add a couple of minor points, some which were hinted at in other posts, as suggestions
- DRINK lots of water. I do a fair amount of camping with the Boy Scouts, and the single worst problem (by far!) is dehydration. It's not that they don't have water, but they don't drink it. If you start to feel you have a headache, or feel naseous on a hot day, there's a good probability you're started to get dehydrated. A lot of folks on roadtrips don't want to stop for a bathroom break, particularly if its hot outside, so they don't drink water. Bad idea... Camping in really hot weather (100 F+), we required the boys to drink a half liter bottle of water every half hour. And if you haven't pee'ed in a couple of hours, or the fluid is very dark, then you haven't had enough water. And as noted, you still have to be careful about electrolyte balances and etc if you're consuming (and sweating out) lots of water -- so gatoraide or other electrolyte replacement fluids are also good. Just have to be careful you don't get the brands that are also loaded with sugar (and in a at least one brand, caffeine too).
As you said.. take lots of water. Like you I start with filling all the cup holders in the car with water bottles, as well as a bunch in the ice chest, with some soft drinks (for the caffiene if I get fatigued). Then a flat of water bottles in the back, and usually one of those rectangular 2.5 gallon water containers with the pull out spigot.
As an aside, don't forget that the water in the ice chest from the melted ice is also drinkable and usable. 20 or 40 lbs of ice on the start of trip makes 20 or 40 pints of water that's usable. I once helped my dad repair a leaking radiator hose in the middle of nowhere New Mexico with pink first aid tape, and refill the radiator with the water from our ice chest. Got us back to civilization in Gallup where we could get the hose replaced and the radiator refilled with a proper anti-freeze mixture, (A good mixture gives a better ability to handle the thermal load in the engine as you know, but pure water will work OK -- just not as well).
- If you get stuck, don't try to do heavy labor in the heat of the day, or leave the car. You were very specific on this, and I agree 100%. If you can, stay by the vehicle if there's a hope of help coming by. I'd signal for help before walking out in just about everywhere -- a tire will burn for a smoke plume if desperate, and I've seen CD's used for signal mirrors. Plus I've got the cell phone, the needed car charger for the cell, and some GMRS walkie talkies (plus spare batteries) to call for help first of all. If you decide to do heavy labor (like digging out the tires of the car), do it in the cool of the evening, not during the day. If you have to stay the night, there's always the back seat, or the back of the SUV.
- Avoid sitting on the surface, and consider moving out of the car into shade. I've got a dark colored car and in the desert it gets reallllly hot during the day on the inside if the engine is turned off, even with the windows down. So you might want to move out of the car if it seems cooler. It's pretty common knowledge that the surface of the desert might be 50 F hotter than 12" above it, so you don't want to sit on the ground. Use a pad, blanket or etc. I always have a couple of camp chairs in the back of the vehicle, and a couple of tarps, and a couple of hiking staffs (about 6' long, and at least an inch in diameter). I've used the tarps, a couple of pieces of string or zip ties, and the staffs to make an awning for shade at the back of the car (using the open back gate as one side). And with the chairs and a cooler of water we've had fairly comfortable waits for activities in rather hot weather in mid summer in the desert.
- Sun protection/ clothing. I was a little surprized that no one mentioned clothing. Hats and loose clothing are the best. I've seen too many people whose idea of desert dress is tanktop (or halter top), short shorts, and flip flops. Long sleeves work OK, as long as they are not too heavy, as do long pants (which also protect your legs from jumping cholla and other spiny desert plants). Plus they help protect from sunburn, which can leach fluids out of the body as the body reacts to the large burn. I always have a hat in the car, and sunglasses (an old prescription pair as well as clip ons which I normally use). And I have sunscreen as well in the car with SPF of 40 or so.
- Shoes. Have a good pair of walking shoes in the car, just in case. Desert terrain will be rough with lots of sharp objects around your feet if you decide to get away from the road. Flip flops dont work well off cement or on rough terrain for any distance. And when its hot enough you can leave foot prints in the asphault outside, you really really don't want to go barefoot anywhere.
- Work gloves. A metal surface in the sun can get too hot to touch. Plus if you have to do any work, it might help.
- Carry basic tools, just in case, which is more than that little packet included with the spare tire. You want something to tighten the connections on a battery, and some type of radiator hose tape (duct tape!), as well as to be able to change a tire. Ever had your car not start because one of the battery terminals loosened? I have.. One of those universal belts kits is something I've considered, but I have my belts changed at about 2x the recommended interval, and usually have an extra belt in the car somewhere (not in my current one though :().