On the other hand, there is extreme heat and little water. It is all the more surprising that human inhabitants are wrapped in so much clothing.
But the extreme weather and the little water are the reason for the complete coverage of the skin. The high levels of sunlight, wind-blown sand, and water loss through sweating cause desert people to wear long clothes.
I’m referring here to arid deserts like the Sahara, but there are actually a few other areas that fall under the term desert.
In the following article, I would like to go into more detail about clothing in the desert. I want to understand them more precisely in order to prepare and protect myself well in these latitudes. If you are also interested, then read on here!
Why do people in the desert wear so much clothing? – A closer look
People in the desert wear lots of clothing to protect themselves from the extreme weather. This is because the weather in the desert can be extremely hot during the day and very cold at night.
Even though I have already answered this question, I would like to go into more detail here. In this way, we understand the background and can prepare ourselves well.
In the desert, the sun shines down on you without mercy. Everyone knows that! However, you will not only be irradiated from above, but also from below.
The light-coloured sand reflects the sun’s rays in all directions. That is why it is so important to protect both our skin and our eyes accordingly.
A hat is often not enough for your face. Therefore, the peoples in the deserts often wear a turban. This not only protects your head but also your neck and neck. If necessary, you can also tie the cloth in front of your face for additional protection.
If you own sunglasses, it’s time to wear them now. If you find yourself in a survival situation, you build your own glasses out of some bark. Cut small slits in the bark to see through and tie them around your head.
If you don’t wear head protection in the desert, you’ll not only get sunburn but also heat stroke. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Because once you are affected, I wish you every success in your search for a shady place!
But the rest of your body should also be protected, because here, too, sunburn comes faster than you think.
When it comes to shoes, desert dwellers often wear sandals. These are airy and protect your feet from the hot sand. However, the foot is also directly exposed to sunlight here. If you decide to wear sandals, you should definitely put lotion on your feet.
sand and dust
Let’s face it, sand is and will be everywhere on your body. Especially with airy clothes.
However, you can protect yourself from having the sandblasted directly on your face or on your skin. Because sand also leads to skin irritation and becomes extremely uncomfortable in strong winds.
Extreme temperature differences
Dry deserts are an extreme habitat. Only a few animals and plants have found their niche there and defied the heat and lack of water.
The temperature fluctuations between day and night are just as extreme. This is due to the nature of the sandy soil. The sand is aerated and conducts heat poorly. In addition, the ground can hardly store any heat energy. The result is that the ground only heats up superficially and that the heat is released back into space unhindered at night.
This creates temperature differences of up to 30 degrees Celsius! In winter it can get down to -10 °C at night, and in summer up to 60 °C during the day.
Long clothing not only protects you from the sun, but also from the cold. In any case, you should have warmer clothes ready.
In combination with the sun’s rays, the dry air poses a number of risks for our skin. It also dries out our skin, causes cracks and can even lead to minor bleeding. Not a pretty idea with all that sand flying around.
Airy clothing, which I strongly recommend, will only protect you minimally from the dry air, but there is another crucial factor.
The low humidity also makes us sweat more. Sweat simply evaporates from bare skin and we continue to perspire. This does not cool down our bodies and can lead to dehydration.
You can counteract this by wearing long clothes. Because the body can sweat out up to 15 litres of water. Wearing long clothes catches the water and cools your body. This in turn leads to less water loss.
Here I also clearly recommend cotton or even sheep’s wool, at least for the tops, as these can absorb water. It’s different with underwear. To avoid infections, you should use nylon underwear here. But more on that in a moment.
Suitable textiles to live (or survive) in the desert
As mentioned above, cotton clothing is well suited for the desert. It is light and absorbs moisture. It’s not exactly pleasant to walk around in sweaty clothes, but you get used to it.
Unless you’re into letting your clothes absorb that much sweat, linen should be your number one choice. Linen is also very light and airy. Just make sure you have enough sun protection. If the fabric is too thin, the sun will still find its way.
Wool keeps you warm at night and there is merino wool that is also suitable for the day. This should have a temperature-regulating effect, so perfect for the desert.
4. Synthetic clothing
As I pointed out above, synthetic fibres don’t work well for the top layer of clothing. However, it is ideal for underwear!
Synthetic fibre wicks away moisture so you don’t sweat your underwear all the way through. This is especially useful if you can’t change them every day. Close-fitting underwear is preferable here because it doesn’t rub as much as shorts do.
The best clothing options for people in the desert
Wearing lots of clothes is not the only solution. Choosing the right clothes is also important.
Some of the best clothing options for people in the desert are:
1. Loose-fitting clothing
The first and most important thing to remember is that you should always wear loose-fitting clothing in the desert.
That’s because loose-fitting clothing allows your body to breathe and helps you stay cool and dry in the desert.
2. Lightweight fabrics
Another important thing to remember is to choose lightweight fabrics for your clothes. That’s because lightweight fabrics help you stay cool in the desert.
3. Bright colours
Another thing to remember is to choose light colours for your clothes – like some white clothes. Light colours reflect the sunlight, so you don’t get too hot.
4. Long sleeves
Long sleeves and long pants are just as important. This is because long sleeves and pant legs protect your skin from the harmful effects of the sun and sand.
Another important thing to remember is to wear a hat. The hat protects your head from the harmful effects of the sun.
Sunglasses are also an important piece of clothing. With it, you protect your eyes, because the strong brightness of the sun and the sand can damage your eyes.
Questions and answers
Why does long clothing help against heat?
Long clothing helps against heat because it protects the skin from UV rays. The long sleeves and legs also provide a larger surface area to dissipate body heat.
Why do desert people wear dark robes?
The dark colour absorbed the sun’s heat, keeping the bodies of desert people cool. In addition, dark clothing protects better against UV radiation – which is permanently harmful – than light-coloured textiles.
What clothes for a desert trip?
The clothing you should wear for a desert trip depends on the type of trip. For example, if you’re driving through the desert in an open-top jeep, it’s important to wear long pants and sleeves, and a hat or scarf to protect yourself from the dust and sun. However, if you plan on hiking or camping, you should wear light clothing and sturdy shoes.
Which provides greater cooling – white or black clothes?
A white t-shirt provides greater cooling because it reflects most of the sun’s energy. However, this only applies in our European latitudes. In the Sahara, you should always wear dark and long textiles to protect yourself from UV radiation, sand and heat.
Conclusion: shorts and a t-shirt will kill you in the desert in the long run
You see: shorts and a t-shirt are in no way appropriate in the desert and can make your time there hell.
By orienting ourselves to the people who live there and have the most experience, we can also ideally prepare for the difficult conditions in the desert.
Beduins or Tuareg have lived in the desert for thousands of years and know about the treasures and dangers of the sea of sand.
Above all, they know how people protect themselves against the extreme weather there!