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Salt Flats Survival Guide


Being unprepared many years ago at Springfest, I packed up my stuff and was back in my room by 1:00pm. The temperature was 112 in the shade when I left. Lesson learned! Temperatures during Hellfire can easily exceed 100 degrees and the surface temperature of the salt is about 120 degrees! What can you do to thrive in this type of environment? 

Bring Lots of Water

Basic survival requires 1 quart per day, we are not interested in just surviving! We want to have fun so this means you should drink about 1 litre (quart) per hour.

(During LDRS 17 on the Salt Flats I drank 2 gallons a day.) Hydration packs are good for carrying water as it's always there when you need it. How do you know that you are drinking enough water? Very simple. If you are using the facilities (4-5 times a day) you are drinking enough.

Do not consume alcohol. I have seen in years past many people like their beer out on the salt. This will actually reduce you ability to tolerate the heat. Save it for the room at night.

Keep Your Body Temp Down

You need to keep you skin temperature at 92 or below. Wear long sleeves and long pants. Wear lightweight (but not transparent) and light colors as the light colors will keep you cooler, dark colors have a tendency to hold heat in your body. Proper clothing will protect you better than sunblock.

Use sunblock to protect areas not covered by clothing, if you are wearing shorts or short sleeves be sure you sunblock above the hemlines of the clothing.

Use a spray-mister. This is actually easier than building a mister tent as I have seen done at LDRS. Get one of the garden sprayers with a pump and fill it with water. Pump it up and spray yourself and family. There are also lots of readily available models already made.


Bring Shade

Portable shade such as an EZ-Up and spend lots of time under it. There are many companies that are making these now. They all run around 100.00 but it's a great investment if you spend any time in the desert. It's a good idea to buy one that can have the canopy easliy removed so you can take the canopy off for the night. The winds at night are notorious for picking up awnings and rolling them for miles across the flats.

Bring a Snack

Bring a high protein snack. I like jerky but there are other choices, granola, chips, etc.
Sunglasses are more than a Fashion Statement
Bring high contrast UV sunglasses. Sunglasses will cause your pupils to dialate, opening your eyes up to even more of the damaging Ultraviolet (UV) rays so it's important that the sunglasses will filter out the harmful UV.

Bring a Hat

Full brim like a Fedora or Foreign Legion style something that will shade your neck and face as well as the top of your head. A bandana around your neck soaked in water is another good option to keep you cool and your skin protected.


You will need something to sit on to rest or to build motors under your shade.

Bring a Worktable

You can leave your table in your parking area at night if you are coming back each day. It's not a bad idea to flip the table upside down before you leave for the night to keep it from blowing over in the winds that sometimes come up on the salt in the evening. For table choices, “Lifetime Products” has some good options.

Bring a Jacket, Wait, What?

Contrary to popular belief Salt Lake City is not a desert. It is one notch above and called “Steppe”. Deserts like Bonneville cool off a lot a night. You may also need the jacket in the morning before the sun warms up the launch site.

Safety in Numbers

If you are going out on the salt or returning to Wendover at night do so in convoys of two cars or more. It is easy to get lost out there as I know from experience (Black Rock too). It is important this year as we are near new moon and there is very little light on the salt at night. During the day there is enough back and forth traffic it should not be an issue. Remember the curvature of the earth begins to become a factor at 5 miles. Be careful in traveling great distances from the launch site.

Megan Marion has written up an additional Survival Guide just for the girls...

What to Wear?

Megan Marion on the Salt
No matter how often you reapply sunscreen, you'll still get tan lines. Don't be fooled by the folks wearing shorts and t‐shirts on the salt. Unless you don't care about farmer tan lines, lightweight long­‐sleeved shirts and pants with built-­‐in sunscreen are really nice to have. Not only will they protect you from the sun but from those tiny little insects that cause skin irritation. Sport bras and moisture wicking fabrics are great. The salt reflects the sun so even though a skirt is lightweight and comfortable you may still get sun burnt underneath the skirt. Speaking of the sun bouncing off of the salt to sunburn you in embarrassing places, be sure to apply sunscreen to under your chin, under your nose, etc.

And now a note about our mutual love, shoes. You may be tempted to wear comfy sandals. Resist the urge unless you want to be sunburned in places you never knew you could. Walking just three feet on the flats will leave your shoes coated with a quarter-­‐inch of salt meaning dedicated hiking boots are preferred over your favorite sneakers. Lastly, a wide brim hat that covers your neck, comfortable UV sunglasses and SPF chap stick are necessities.

What to Eat?

You'll need to be drinking water constantly. To keep things interesting, Crystal Light Hydrate is a great water additive. The To Go packs work great with water bottles.

Turkey Jerky 100 calorie packs are perfect to keep you fueled and keep the portion sizes in check. Fresh fruit and veggies work really well in a cooler.
What Else to Pack?
After a day on the salt flats, you'll want to disavow your clothes. Pack something clean to wear in the evening. The casinos have their air conditioning blasting full strength so you'll probably want a little sweater to wear at dinner in the evenings.

The air on the salt flats will suck all of the moisture out of your skin. At the end of the day, you'll feel like a dried up sponge. You'll want lotions and moisturizing body washes handy.

Gallon zippy type bags make it easy to get ice from the hotel and keep your coolers cold.

Finally, even if you're going to MacGyver a misting system, a travel sized squirt bottle, with or without a fan attached is necessary to keep cool.

When You Get Home

After you put the sprinkler under the car tire, you'll want to exfoliate the top layer of damaged skin. Make sure you have your favorite body scrub on hand.