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Desert Companion

The Answers

Q: What should I pack for summer road trips?

A: While the dewdrops of spring still glisten across much of the country, Southern Nevada heads directly into summer. Triple-digit temperatures can be daunting, but a little preparation is all it takes to enjoy hot-weather road trips.

Of course, your vehicle should be in A-1 condition from headlights to tailpipe and roof rack to tire tread. Next, consider your cargo space and these three categories: comfort, emergency and survival. Comfort is easy, and you’ve probably already got it covered. Choose your tunes, pack your cooler with your favorite noshes, and dress for the conditions.

Now for some ICE. A good thing for any desert road trip, but in this case I’m talking “In Case of Emergency.” Obviously, you’ll pack your cell phone and charger, and you probably already have a first aid kit, fire extinguisher and tire-changing equipment. In addition, throw in a flashlight and extra batteries, extra beach towels and a tarp. (If you ever have to get up close and personal with road surface on a blistering day, you’ll immediately understand how effective a tarp can be against asphalt capable of inflicting second-degree burns.)

Worrying about survival may seem paranoid, but in the chiaroscuro extremes of a summer desert, denial is a poor defense. Enough canned food or Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) to feed two people for four days require remarkably little space. Use the extra room for water — as much as you can fit in. I carry a minimum of three gallons in addition to whatever I expect to consume.

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“So last-century,” I’ll hear you cry when you think about these next items, but that’s exactly the reason they’re valuable. Paper maps of the areas where you will travel will never suffer a power outage, and a CB radio works without Wi-Fi. A whistle, a signal mirror, a knife and a magnesium (waterproof) fire-starter are all cheap, reliable tools that can make a game-changing difference in an emergency. While assembling these antiques, why not toss in a deck of cards and a few paperbacks? Breakdowns can be dangerous, but they can also be plain boring.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of everything you might want to pack for a summer desert foray. My own vehicle is stocked with dozens of items I’ve found useful over my years of exploration in the arid expanses of the American West. From dog leash and bungee cords to coveralls and teddy bears, I like to think I’m equipped to handle everything from lost Rover to traumatized child. It’s hubris, though. That’s a mighty desert out there. Enjoy it with respect.

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