While much of the country engages in muscle-pulling snow shoveling, lucky snowbirds spend winter reveling in the mountains, lakes and warmth of the southwest. But driving in the desert is no easy feat for even the most prepared winter escapee. Here’s how to survive on a desert road trip.

Pack water. Then pack more water.

It’s not rocket science that hot desert days can lean to quick dehydration.  Service stations can be few and far between and contrary to cartoons everywhere, drinking water from a cactus is both not that easy and not that healthy. Having plenty H2O on hand not only prevents mouth-parching thirst, it’s also handy to have for your radiator in the case of your vehicle overheating, which is a pretty real threat in these hot temperatures.

Prepare for cold nights.

It’s true: the desert is cold at night. And we mean actually cold, like, below-freezing cold – a sweatshirt and a beer or two ain’t gonna do the trick. Pack for hot days but also pack for a winter night that feels like a winter night: blankets, jackets, long pants, gloves and scarves are good to have if you plan on stepping outside your vehicle on a desert night.

Don’t count on your smartphone.

There are several remote areas of the desert that even the big shot cell phone service providers have yet to conquer. If you plan on driving through long stretches of remote territory, consider investing in a satellite phone – it’s not just a nifty piece of equipment that will make you feel like a spy; it could be the difference between being stranded on the roadside or receiving help.

Get a GPS.

Google Maps on iPhone is not a formidable foe for desert roads. Maps are also handy, but a serious GPS can also help you locate nearby travellers should you find yourself in peril. Be sure to nab one that tells you your latitude and longitude.

Be ready for breakdowns.                           

Hot climates and a hardworking vehicle is a recipe for a breakdown. Be sure to have a top-notch rig before heading out and take it easy on your RV after you hit the road to try and avoid a dilemma, whether that means sticking it in low gear or pulling off to the side to take a breather. But things happen sometimes no matter how gentle you are, so having the supplies, tools and know-how to fix broken belts and blown tires is a must for desert travel.

Ready to hit the road? Check out some of these must-visit destinations for snowbirds.

Header via Flickr/David~O