Whether you’re hiking dunes in the Sahara or the Namib, you need the right gear before you head out into the vast deserts of Africa.
Walking on sand can be strenuous, so even what seems like a short hike in otherwise normal conditions can seem much longer over the dunes.
Before you even think about clothing, you should ensure you have plenty of water on hand as it’s easy to get dehydrated (even in the middle of winter) — carrying a few plastic water bottles should usually suffice.
Sunscreen is also important, even in the winter, and even if you “tan easily.” The reflection of the sun off the sand can easily cook your skin. We recommend at least an SPF 30.
And since you really can’t put sunscreen on your lips, carrying some lip balm in your pocket will stop you from getting chapped lips — it doesn’t take very long for the desert heat to suck out the moisture from your skin.
Sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat are also a must to keep the sun out of your eyes. A light scarf can help to add even more protection.
Consider wearing a long sleeve shirt in a light color to reflect the sunrays, preferably made out of a lightweight material.
Hiking sticks can also be useful at times, though probably won’t help as much as they normally would.
Shorts can be OK if you are in the Kalahari or Namib, but if you are traveling in Muslim countries, it’s best to put on long light-weight pants.
Insect repellent is usually an afterthought after spring and summer months pass but it can be just as valuable during winter months. You might want to keep some on hand just in case.
A good pair of socks and shoes are also a must, try to break them in before you go though, as there’s nothing quite like the combination of a blister around your ankle on top of a sunburn.
Finally, if your heading out in the morning or evening, you’ll probably need to add along a jacket — desert environments can quickly lose heat as soon as the sun comes down.
Bonus: Hiking sand dunes can be brutal on your legs. If you aren’t an experienced hiker (or if it’s been awhile), consider doing some squats and lunges to prepare several days in advance of a planned hike. Doing these exercise will stop you from getting so sore afterwards.