Always Be Prepared.
The Southwestern United States possesses tremendous ecological diversity ranging from the narrow, water carved canyons and sagebrush of the Colorado Plateau to the rugged, isolated mountain ranges and saguaro cacti of the Sonoran desert.
Arizona itself has several different Climate zones, ranging from the Lower Sonoran Zone (from sea level to about 4,500 feet) to the Alpine Zone found above the 11,500 foot mark in the San Fransisco Peaks north of Flagstaff. For this reason, it is important to be aware of where you plan to hike or backpack and to prepare accordingly. It is important to have a map and compass and know how to use both. Let someone know where you are going and when you will be back. Consider this a "Flight Plan". This plan could be the difference between life & death if you become lost. Because so much of Arizona is covered by National Forests, good maps are easy to find. The USGS Quads are also a very valuable resources to have with
Water, Water, Water
Water is essential in this state. At the lower altitudes, you'll be hiking in the desert, where the temperature calls for a good supply of water. At altitude, where you may not be hot,however, you still need water because your body needs more fluids at altitude. Don't forget to bring lot's of water for your Dogs also. Never underestimate the amount of water you will need, on a per person basis. Studies say 1 gallon per person/per day. Don't be a statistic!
First Aid Kit
You never know what might happen out in the woods, so always carry a basic first aid kit, with any luck you'll never need it, but bring it anyway. Better safe than sorry!
Some people feel hiking boots are unnecessary for most hikes. Regardless, wear boots when hiking in the desert, if for nothing else than to protect your feet from rocks, cacti, and more importantly to keep your feet from getting wet. Make sure your boots are lined with some type of waterproof material.
Maps and Compass
A Compass is a hiker's best friend & you should always carry one. Even if you know the area to be hiked bring a good map and a compass anyway, make sure you know how to use both.
Let There Be Light
Bring a Headlamp or Flashlight (with extra batteries/ bulbs). I am a flashlight freak, I usually have at least two flashlights on me at all times while out hiking/camping. I really like the headlamps they have now, very light weight and inexpensive. These are great when holding the flashlight in your mouth so your hands can be free just isn't working!
Always a good idea to bring two pairs, regardless of where you are hiking. And a strap to hold them to your body if they fall off. Nothing is worse than watching your last pair of sunglasses disappear down the stream.
Did I Mention Water??
Bring some extra water, I like to freeze water bottles and stuff them down inside my pack. You can never have too much water & you can always give it to someone else who needs it. Also you will need a means to purify water if you run out. Iodine tablets will do fine for quick day hikes. Keep a bottle of tablets in your pack. Do check the expiration date, if they stay in your pack too long, they will not do you much good. In many parts of the state water isn't available year round, but in most areas there are plenty of streams and creeks.
The Benefits of Staying Well Hydrated?
More energy, power and endurance. Stay cooler, feel better. Go farther, faster. Work harder, burn more calories. Decrease your recovery time so you can go out and do it all again.
Always bring snacks!! Chances are that, wherever you hike, you'll be doing it far from the nearest convenience store. Bring some food, even if it's just a bag of trail mix or some PowerBars.
Don't we all?!? Seriously, it's not a good idea to hike alone, especially in the more remote and rugged areas of the state. Chances are you won't see anyone all day, and with something as simple as fall or a twisted ankle, your going to be in for a long day or worse night. The two(2) way communication devices are quite common and not very expensive, $60-$120 is not a bad investment, especially if you've become stranded or hurt. Just make sure every one in your party has the correct emergency channel, and off you go!
Pack It In, Pack It Out
Consider it a challenge or even your duty to bring out everything that you brought into the backcountry. Pick up and pack out all of your litter. Trash has no place in the backcountry. On the way out, when your pack is light, pick up litter left by others. "Leave No Trace"
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Jim Samonte. All rights