Katchina Daisy

The Cedar Mesa Project

A Suggested Equipment List for High Desert Camping

"The last of the afternoon sunlight had long since vanished from the upper walls. I walked through lavender twilight, through the sounds of flowing water, rasping toads, swaying willows, the papery rustle of cottonwood leaves. It was time to make camp if I wanted to cook before dark, but the charm and magic of this canyon were so great I didn't want to stop. Each turn in the walls promised some new delight..."
Abbey, Edward, Slickrock, Endangered Canyons of the Southwest, Sierra Club, Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1971. P.60-61. p. 14.

This page contains the following sections -

Equipment Lists, an Introduction

While the subject of an equipment list is very personal and open to many opinions, here is a somewhat exhaustive - but subjective - starter for both personal and group equipment lists. Review, add and/or delete according to your personal requirements and experience.

Camping No-No's

A review of some of the considerations about camping in the Cedar Mesa area is in order -

Water Considerations

Water is not always available in this area throughout the year.Be aware of the locations and availability of water sources in the area you are visiting. Ask about water sources before backpacking.

Conversely, Flash flooding is possible in "dry" canyons; be aware of regional weather conditions before you go in.

Basic Equipment

A Personal Equipment List

Suggested Medical Equipments

Emergency Equipments to Consider

Keep in mind that a reality of the high desert country, especially in fall and winter seasons, is that severe cold weather can set in very fast. People have ended up spending the night huddling in a tent with snow meltwater dripping on them because they got caught in a surprise storm.

To that end, if you are going to be in the area at such times, consider adding some cold weather survival gear -

Other Equipments that may be Useful

Insect Repellents Discussion

Insect repellents. At certain times of the year, this is more of a survival item than a mere convenience. The most effective preparations contain n,n-diethyl-meta-toluamide (abbreviated DEET). Concentrations vary from 25 to nearly 100%; the stronger the brew, the longer it lasts. Buy liquid repellent, not the bulkier and more expensive aerosol or foam. And use with extreme caution around and on children.

However, aware that there are some unsettling questions coming out of the Gulf War Syndrome and consequent neurological studies that suggest that DEET may act synergistically with some medicines to cause permanent health damage. Research at Duke University, for example, claims to have linked DEET use direct neurological damage in animals.

One recent study in this area is by Dr. Robert Haley: "Research on GWS Neurologic Illness", at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

Recent research on the Gulf War Syndrome, again by Dr. Haley, has disclosed some more unsettling aspects about DEET. The researchers were able to categorize the veterans who had GWS into three different categories -

1) Those with "impaired cognition" were ones who wore flea collars filled pesticides.

2) Those with "confusion ataxia" or severe cognitive and vestibular symptoms were ones who were apparently exposed to nerve agents and/or were taking pyridostigmine drugs.

3) Those with "central pain" were ones who used high concentrations of DEET along with taking pyridostigmine drugs.

I.e., the study suggests that there may be genetic variation in some people that makes them more succeptable to problems brought on by using DEET.

Source - Neuroradiology, 200; 215; 807-817.

Tips on controling mosquitos are available at -

A recent discovery is that an active ingredient in catnip, nepatalactone, repels mosquitoes more effectively than DEET. While it is still an open question about long term human safety of nepatalactone, expect commercial products based on this discovery in the near future.

From: Our Toxic Times, August 2002.

Information on pest control in general is available at -

Suncream/sunblock Discussion

Suncream/sunblock. Suncreams vary. Almost all preparations are marked with a sun protection factor (SPF). This indicates how long you can be exposed without burning: a cream with SPF 5, for example would allow you to stay in sunlight 5 times as long as you could without protection. At low elevations any sunscreen will do, but above 8,000 ft (2,500 meters), you need at least SPF 15 reapplied often for best results. The sun in the canyons and mesas is, needless to say, very damaging to your skin.

Medical Information for Travelers

A good World Wide Web source of information of medical information for travelers in general is the U. S. State Department's Travel Advisories: http://travel.state.gov/. This site lists Travel Warnings and Travel Publications for most countries in the world as well as links to Travel Health Information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

High Altitude Illness Discussions

The elevations in the Cedar Mesa/Grand and Gulch areas range from 4,300 feet (1,300 meters) on up to some 8,000 feet (2,400 meters). Any elevation in the area of 8,000 feet (2,400 meters) is medically considered "High Elevation".

Travelers coming in from a low elevation, to say nothing of a few of us "old-timers", should be aware of what can - and should not - be done to minimize any problems. The following links take you to several detailed discussions about traveling at these elevations -

Hanta Virus Discussion

The Hanta Virus (also called Sin Nombre) is a potential concern for travelers in the Cedar Mesa area. Here are some excerpts from several web sites about this disease -

The Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) has been recognized as a disease only recently in North America, with most of the cases occurring in the Four Corners area and the state of California, although the virus is found across North America.

The hantaviruses that cause HPS are carried by rodents, primarily the deer mouse. It has also been observed in the following animals across North America -

You can become infected by exposure to their droppings or saliva (e.g., by being bitten). You cannot get this illness from another person.

While it is fairly uncommon and the chances of becoming infected are low, HPS is potentially deadly and immediate intensive care is essential once symptoms appear.

There are two phases in the diseases: a period of incubation that ranges from 3 days to as late as 6 weeks after infection following exposure during which symptoms (especially fever, coughing, and muscle aches) are similar to those of a bad cold or flu. The incubation period is followed by shortness of breath and severe respiratory difficulties - at which time medical attention is mandatory within 24 hours.

Prevention is the best strategy, and it simply means taking some very practical steps to minimize your contact with rodents and their droppings. HPS is not contagious from person to person in the United States.

Precautions for minimizing an infection include:

Variations of the Hanta virus have become a serious problem in trekker huts (refugios) in Chile and Argentina. To the extent that Argentine newspapers report that there is a severe shortage of house cats in some areas!

Here are links to several sites that discuss the problem in much more detail -

Return to Cedar Mesa home page.

Revised '21-Mar-2005,11:12:50'
URL of this page: http://bcn.boulder.co.us/environment/cacv/'CACVCAMP.HTM' ; Version '59'.
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