I live in the Northwest, but am planning a trip this fall to go backpacking in Arizona, besides water what advice do you have for a first time desert backpacker?
I enjoy hiking in the desert.
I always wear a sun hoodie and trucker hat which breaths but also protects my body, arms, hands, neck and face. It also frees me up from carrying large amounts of sunscreen. I just take enough sunscreen to cover my nose and lips.
Scouting out water sources is always key. Ask on local forums, ask the local rangers, but even then carry a bit more water than people recommend. In addition to my water bottles, I like to carry a few of the 2 liter Platypus bladders and a Sawyer squeeze filter.
Layers. The desert really is colder at night than you think it will be. (Even when people tell you this and you know it, it still surprises you)
Life straw or the like is not a bad idea in addition to water. Although it may be hot still depending on when you go, you may also consider long pants which are difficult for snakes to penetrate.