Tips for Camping In the Desert

Have you ever woken up to a clear blue sky in the middle of nowhere with nothing but the sunrise to greet you?

If not, planning a trip to the desert might be in order before the heat of summer arrives. Once you get a taste it may well become your favorite destination

Yes, desert camping is not the same as mountain camping. On the upside, depending on your choice of adventure partners, you don’t have to worry about an elbow to the ribs during the night waking you up so you can make sure “the bear is gone." Also, it is relatively easy to escape the crowds that have come to be associated with many campsites in mountainous areas. One of my favorite parts about spending time in the desert is how the landscape changes with every direction you look and every turn in the road. It seems never ending and the night skies are among the clearest I have ever encountered.

The Precautions

Just like the mountains, the desert can be extremely unforgiving. Always take more than enough water for your party (one gallon per person per day minimum). Make your campsite far from any washes or creek beds. Stick to the high ground if there is rain anywhere in the region, or avoid traveling through low lying areas if there is weather in the forecast due to the high risk of flash floods and roads washing out. Let somebody know where you will be going and when you expect to be back.

Cell phone service is typically unreliable in most desert areas, so you cannot count on calling for help. If you are driving long distances on dirt roads, two vehicles is better than one in case one gets stuck or breaks down. The goal is to make it back out in one piece so you can return multiple times.

With a few minutes of planning and prep, you can make your desert excursion an adventure you will want to repeat over again and again.

The Gear

Here is a small list of my favorite pieces of extra gear to make a desert excursions a little more enjoyable:

  • Tarp. Being able to enjoy shade during the middle of the day is a welcome relief from the intense rays that are always present.
  • Sandals. Airing out the feet after a hike is a spectacular feeling and often leads to naps.
  • Sleeping bag liner. When it’s warmer than expected and your toes look like they are made of clay.
  • Camp table. Keep your food and camera gear out of the dirt.
  • Refillable water jug with spout. Holds a lot of water and doubles as a kitchen faucet.
  • Long sleeve shirt. Shade you can wear.
  • Favorite multi-tool. File down a jagged toenail, cut moleskin for a blister, secure a taillight that rattled loose on the washboards, you want something that does it all. I keep a Wave in my camp gear at all times.

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