Editor’s Note: Adventurers Justin DeShields and Bryan Morales have just returned from a five-week, 1,000-mile, hike-and-paddle trip through Mexico’s brutal Baja Peninsula with only a backpack and SUP each; That’s right. They did Baja by foot. They called the expedition What Is West, a project that spawned from the love of Baja and an insatiable appetite for adventure that highlights the area’s natural beauty, and they documented their entire journey. Below are five tips they offer to anyone who dares to replicate their adventure. And, oh yeah, welcome back, guys.

Water. You’ll need this in Baja. Photo: Justin DeShields

1. Water. This may seem incredibly obvious, but this precious liquid becomes your most valued possession when you are all alone in the middle of the desert. While we were walking down the Pacific side of Baja on our way to San Ignacio, we were (usually) able to find a fish camp every 3-4 days where we could refill our MSR water bags. However, while we were slowly trudging our way through the desert to Mulege (on the Gulf side), we started to run low on water. This caused us to become increasingly dehydrated, which impaired not only the way our bodies functioned but also impaired our mental state. For the SUP section of the trip, we brought along a Katadyn desalination pump. This little pump is hand-operated and weighs about 8 lbs.

Shade. Because that bright star above is really hot. It’ll scorch you. Photo: Justin DeShields

2. Shade. The sun can become one of your most brutal enemies in the desert. It is vitally important to make sure that you can either find shade or provide it for yourself. While on the Pacific side, we were able to take refuge under various rock outcroppings when we wanted to take a break. In the desert, we had to rely on what we had on: hats, long-sleeve shirts, and pants. One of our best (and cheapest) purchases has been our $10 straw hats we bought from a street vendor at the border. Somehow these hats are still functional after almost 800 miles of travel.

Gear. Don’t haul around too much, but then again not too little. Just the right amount. Photo: Justin DeShields

3. Gear. The weather in desert climates can be quite unpredictable. During the day, you are sweating buckets and doing your best to conserve what water you have, but by night the northern winds pick up and you start to shiver. At one point during the beginning leg of our trip, we woke up to find ice crystals on our surfboard and tent! We have greatly appreciated our Montbell down jackets and sleeping bag. Because we are traveling with backpacks, we need to make sure we can pack the most supplies possible in the least amount of space. The jacket and sleeping bag are small enough to fit in a pocket, but keep you nice and toasty at night.

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