An Article In Meteorite-Times Magazine
by Robert Verish

Safety Tips for Desert Hikers and Travelers

Be safe by being aware. Take steps to be prepared for any contingency.

This has been a hotter than average summer, here in the southwestern U.S.A. And already there has been an above average number of reported deaths having occurred in the desert this summer. Although not all of the coronor's reports have been made public, it is expected the cause of death in most cases will be "dehydration" and "heat stroke". Maybe before going out on that next trip to the desert to search for those meteorites, this would be a good time to review some safety precautions for averting situations that could bring about "dehydration" and "heat stroke".

--- Planning A Desert Trip ---

If you are planning a trip into the desert during the months when high temperatures can occur, this is usually June through September, with July and August being the hottest.  Consider if this trip at this time of year, is really necessary.  The most elaborately planned desert trip could result in your being placed in a survival situation.  Desert temperatures can rise in excess of 120 degrees.

Before You Go

Desert Survival

If you don’t have it with you, don’t expect to find it in the desert.  Carry everything you will need to survive until help arrives, should you become lost or stranded. 

·         Don’t leave your vehicle if it becomes disabled. 

Stuck In The Sand?

Stop the vehicle immediately, get out and assess the situation – go forward or reverse?  Make roadway of brush or burlap bag, slightly deflate tires, slowly rock car back and forward, inching your way out.  Someone standing on the rear of the car will help, or jack car up, place rocks under rear tires for better leverage. See the section on “Special note to Meteorite Hunters” for more suggestions on how to avoid getting stranded by being “stuck in the sand”.


In as much as you are unable to carry a sufficient amount of water to sustain you in a survival situation, you should have positive back up with water, or, limit the range of your activity.  Remember, in the early stages of dehydration, mental impairment can occur, often causing disorientation, making survival virtually impossible.  It has been shown that a 154 lb. Person carrying a 20 lb. Pack and walking in the sun at 100 degrees, would require 1.3 quarts of water per hour to replace that which is lost due to sweating.


The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has temporarily restricted motorized vehicle use to specific routes of travel in certain areas of desert tortoise habitat in many California counties.  Vehicle travel in all BLM wilderness and on military lands is also prohibited.  A pamphlet denoting these areas is available at your local BLM Office.


When in remote areas, or there is any possibility of adverse weather conditions, it is strongly recommended that people hunting for meteorites conduct their search in TEAMS using MULTIPLE VEHICLES. The risk of being stranded in a remote area by being stuck in sand is reduced, if there are team members in another vehicle. This will require that both vehicles be equipped with communications gear (2-way radios or satellite phones) and extraction gear (i.e, a winch).

There is much more on the subject of Safety Tips for Desert Hiking and Travel in the Reference section, below. If you plan on searching for meteorites in the desert this summer, these links would be well worth the read. Be knowledgeable – don’t let yourself become a victim. Let’s all work together towards having a Safe Summer.


Desert Safety Tips:

Desert Hiking and Travel:

Desert Survival Primer -
Text by David Alloway
Photos courtesy John Babb and Big Bend Ranch State Park:

Desert Awareness –
File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat
Travel in the desert can be an interesting and enjoyable experience or it can be a fatal or near fatal nightmare. This is a very good manual for travelers in Arizona:

Black Rock Desert Travel Advisory –
New transient dunes have formed over a large area on the Black Rock Desert playa west of the Coyote Springs vicinity and are a potential safety hazard:

Geologic Hazards -
Slides are masses that travel along the surface, usually as a single, coherent mass. ... Debris flows are the most common form of mass wasting in the desert:

U.S. Army Survival Manual FM 21-76
This manual can either be viewed online or it can be saved to your hard drive:

US State Department-Chile Consular Information Sheet –
Persons planning to travel in isolated and wilderness areas should first learn about local hazards and weather conditions. Information at:

Hazards of travel in Mongolia –
Mongolia is indeed a challenge to operate in. The country is having difficulty adjusting to a market economy and it will take years to improve. We do not wish to encourage travelers to come to Mongolia for a luxurious holiday. Mongolia cannot provide this at the present time:

Assumption of Inherent Risk in Outdoor Activities –
All outdoor recreational activities include risks integral to those activities. Although it is possible to minimize these inherent risks, they cannot be eliminated without destroying the unique nature of the activity. Activities occur in the wilderness. Environments include canyon, mountain and desert terrain remote from medical facilities, roads and communication sites. Red Mountain Spa makes reasonable efforts to manage the risks, but does not provide a guarantee of a risk free experience. Some, but not all, of the inherent risks of outdoor activities that you may be exposed to include, but are not limited to, judgments by self, others, or Red Mountain Spa; not following instructions, falling or stumbling, rough and steep terrain, trails with or without maintenance, off-trail (cross-country) travel, fences and barbed wire, loose rock, sand, sharp branches, cactus, vegetation, boulders, exposed ledges and paths, standing or running water, flash flood conditions and rock fall:

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