Hot Stuff

Fierce sun, thorny foes, and bewildering terrain: The desert is no place to skimp on critical gear, such as these essentials heartily endorsed by a desert rat who's made most of his mistakes already�but never again

Jan 1, 2002
Outside Magazine

Covering your skin with tight-weave clothing trumps sunscreen, especially if the garments are as copiously ventilated as RailRider's Eco-Mesh Shirt ($50, buy a size too big for extra airflow) and Pants (with side-zip mesh panels, $70), both developed especially for the Marathon des Sables race across the Sahara. 800-437-3794;

The desert wind and intense glare off sand and rock take a toll on your eyes, making wrapping UV-resistant shades a necessity. Oakley's Straight Jacket Electric Blue shades ($195) do it all while staying color-true. 800-431-1439;
You'll cease sneaker madness once you've been cactus-thorned; opt for leather boots. (But not Gore-Tex-lined— too hot!) The nubuck leather Montrail Cristallo ($165) is out-of-the-box wearable and amazingly breathable, and a pair of Fox River HikingFox merino wool socks ($11-$14) will keep feet dry and in thermal equilibrium. Montrail, 206-621-9393,; Fox River,

The old gallon-a-day saw is for loafers. Hard hiking under the desert sun requires you to drink even more water, but few hydration packs have the ability to handle that much liquid. The 2,770-cubic-inch Ultimate Direction Warpspeed ($140) can tote an impressive 2.6 gallons— 128 ounces in its primary reservoir, 96 ounces in a second reserve bladder ($26), and a 54-ounce flask in each of two side pockets ($7 each). 800-426-7229;

Shade is easier to wear than to find. Besides protecting skin and pate, a hat reduces UV bombardment of the eyeballs by 95 percent. Sportif's Wind Knot Hat ($29) also shades the neck with a removable cape that tucks into a pocket on the cap. 800-776-7843;

Desert: cholla thorns, scorpion stings, rock abrasions, heat exhaustion, sunburn, blisters. Adventure Medical Kits Day Tripper ($38): splinter-picker forceps, tincture of benzoin, double antibiotic ointment, antiseptic towelettes. Add a few packages of CeraLyte oral rehydration salts ($7 for two liters' worth) and some sunscreen (SPF 30, at a minimum) and you'll probably cheat the buzzards...this time. 800-324-3517;

Navigation is tricky in the wide-open desert, but you damn well better know where the next waterhole is. Brunton's Multi-Navigation System ($400) uses 12 GPS satellite channels to pinpoint your locus within three feet, and a built-in magnetic compass minimizes battery drain when you simply need to take or follow a bearing. 800-443-4871;

Whether it's to signal your location or light your camp stove, you need fire in the desert, but incessant wind renders most sources impotent. A Zippo Outdoor Series Windproof Lighter ($20) is the virile solution—stays lit in a howler, antarget=_blankd is practically eternal. 814-368-2700;

Binoculars are a necessity and a pleasure—for route-finding and dispelling mirages, and for viewing wildlife. The light weight (10.6 ounces) and sure grip of the Pentax 8x22 DCF MC ($290) strike just the right balance of size and power. 800-877-0155;

The Leatherman Pulse ($72) has a locking blade so you can open up your can of Dinty Moore without opening your thenar muscles, too. Great for sharpening your chuckwalla-roasting stick, repairing your shades, or popping a Corona back at camp. 800-847-8665;

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