Desert Gear to Look, Feel, and Stay Cool in the Southwest Arizona's deserts are dry and harsh, but exploring the landscape is easier with the right gear

My home state of Arizona is a beautiful place, filled with desert, mountains, lakes, rivers, canyons, forests, and more. We have great trout fishing, gorgeous gemstones and precious metals like copper, and our cacti are bountiful. Prickly pear juice is a local favorite you can’t miss.

But if you do come out here, know that the Sonoran Desert comes with a fair amount of danger. The unprepared can easily find themselves in trouble when facing the elements alone (temperatures are above 100 degrees Fahrenheit for much of the year), much less the desert wildlife. Hell, even the vegetation here is trying to kill you.

Here are a few essentials we use to protect ourselves from the desert.

Sun and Bug Protection

Patagonia Hats

Patagonia Summer Shorts and Hat

The first thing you need to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays is a good hat. Patagonia is a great outdoor brand that makes a ton of solid hats and other outdoor clothing. I’m a big fan of the brand because of my proximity to Patagonia, a completely unrelated lake in Cochise County, AZ. I spent many summers in and around that lake growing up, and I may even buy a house there when I retire.

Wood Sunglasses

Woodworn Sunglasses

Wood sunglasses and jewelry are my favorite fashion statement. While Christians and rappers wear gold and platinum, I prefer something a little more down to earth. Wood Worn went out of business, but there is always another wood sunglasses company popping up to try and create a trend I’ve been on my whole life. Just make sure you get polarized, UV-coated sunglasses, preferably with anti-glare to fight that Arizona sun.

Thermacell Repellants

Thermacell Bug Repellant

Thermacell creates and distributes a wide range of insect repellents that are essentially portable essential oil diffusers. The oil is allethrin, a synthetic version of an insecticide in the chyrsanthemum flower. This active ingredient is toxic to humans in large doses too, so it’s best to use these sparingly. But they’re a lot better than citronella candles at repelling mosquitoes.


Nathan Sports Hydration Gear

Nathan Sports creates a host of hydration gear, ranging from bottles to belts, vests, backpacks, and more. They also make a ton of running gear that’s perfect for beating the heat and wicking away sweat. If you’re planning to check out one of Arizona’s thousands of scenic hiking trails, make sure you have plenty of water available to stay hydrated.

Grayl Water Filtration Bottle

liberty and Grayl water bottles

If you find yourself out camping in the desert and needing to salvage water, Grayl’s water purification bottles are the perfect way to do it. It uses ionic and activated carbon filters to remove 99.99% of waterborne pathogens, like viruses, bacteria, microplastics, chemicals, pesticides, heavy metals, and more. These all-purpose filters are the best on-the-go filtration bottles on the market.

On-the-Go Tech

Xiaomi Mi Band 4

Xiaomi Mi Band 4

At only $50, the Mi Band 4 from Xiaomi is a great fitness tracker that outperforms Fitbit’s offerings in many ways. The large color AMOLED screen makes it easy to navigate, and the battery lasts seemingly forever. I had no issues pairing it to my phone and tracking activities ranging from running to biking, playing basketball, fighting, and sleeping. Even Android Central recognizes Mi Band 4 as the best budget tracker around.

Xiaomi Mi AirDots

Xiaomi AirDots Earbuds

If you’re looking for truly wireless earbuds, Xiaomi’s Airdots are an affordable, entry-level solution from China. These $50 earbuds have a solid design and sound great. Some users have complained about pairing issues, but overall, they’re well received by critics, who especially praise the bass quality from the tiny, 7.2mm drivers and 12+ hour battery life.

Jabra Active Elite 65t

Jabra Active Elite 65TEarbuds

Taking a step up from Xiaomi, Jabra’s Active Elite 65t earbuds are phenomenal at the high end of the quality spectrum. I’ve personally owned and used these earbuds for several years now, and they always perform perfectly. The 14 hour battery life and 6 5.1 mm speakers makes for amazing sound quality. And the built-in microphone can actually take calls, something the AirDots struggle with.

A Good Pair of Shoes

Reef Shoes

Reef Shoes

Reef makes surf-inspired shoes that are perfect for the desert too. After all, much of Arizona is just a beach waiting for the ocean to come closer. The Cushion Bounce Mateys on the left above have a cork insole for natural support, moisture wicking, and odor control. In short, they’re the perfect casual shoe for walking in the desert cities and towns.

Timberland Boots

Timberland Boots

If you’re going hiking in Arizona, you need a good boot, and Timberland makes the best sand-colored boots out there. I even prefer them over the Army-issued desert boots. These boots are waterproof, sturdy, and a gorgeous suede that keeps them looking clean for a long time. Be sure to get a suede cleaning kit to take care of them.


Dr. Brian Penny is a former Business Analyst and Operations Manager at Bank of America turned whistleblower, troll, and freelance writer. You can find his work in Cracked, High Times, HuffPost, Lifewire, Forbes, Fast Company, and dozens of other places, although much of it is no longer under his name. Dr. Penny loves annoying fake media.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: