Next up in our series of specialized camping articles is desert camping. They say that when you lay your head to rest in the desert, you will never wake up to the same sight. The landscape is forever changing, sand dunes spreading endlessly in all directions. To visit such a place with a rather magical atmosphere can be great fun, especially if you take the time to learn a little about how to make the most of your camping trip to the desert!
Pick Your Desert
First things first, you need to pick out your desert. Surprisingly enough, North America is full of these sandy places, so all you have to do is to choose one of the many. There are deserts with special colored sand, deserts known for special rock formations and deserts known for their strange climates. You can do a little background research on the Internet for more information.
Now that you have chosen the desert you wish to visit, it is time to prepare for the trip. The primary concern, as with most nights spent without a proper roof under your head, is how the climate will be like. US deserts are usually relatively warm in the daytime (think above 100 degrees) and can cool to about 70 degrees in the nighttime. Be careful, as some deserts are notorious for being extremely warm while the sun is up, only to drop to rather cold temperatures in the dark. The best is to read about the climate specific to the desert of your choice. You should then pack clothes and equipment such as sleeping bags and tents appropriate to the foreseeable conditions.
Next, it is time to determine how many nights or days you intend to spend out camping. Food and other supplies must be prepared accordingly. Be sure to stay close to a reliable supply of water at all times as you will need to rehydrate often in order to prevent severe headaches or a heatstroke.
Here is a quick note on clothes for those who have never been to a desert before. It may seem intuitively obvious to bring as short and thin clothes as possible in order to spare yourself from boiling to death, but in fact we advise you to bring long sleeved and long legged tops and pants, preferably made of linen. Not only will this protect your skin better from the harmful rays of the sun, but also it will actually keep you a little cooler than if you had been exposed directly to the heat.
When you think of a desert, what may be the first thing that comes to mind? Hopefully, it’s sand. When you think of sand, think of tiny little grains that will stick to your body, go inside your shoes, go into your eyes and just cause you a great deal of discomfort in general. That is, if you don’t dress appropriately. Shade your eyes with a pair of sunglasses for protection not only against sand but also the sunrays reflected off the hills and try to wear a good shoe that you can tie tightly onto your feet.
Again, a little counterintuitive advice: try to drink warm drinks such as green or fruit tea in order to cool your body. Not intending to go into the science behind it, simply put, drinking cold drinks in the heat will just confuse your body and can actually make you a little sick. Eat mostly after the temperature has gone down, it will feel much better. Try to limit your consumption to light foods to avoid unpleasant dizziness.
It goes without saying that those body parts not covered by clothing should be covered with sunscreen. This is probably not the location you would want to get a tan, so do be gentle to your skin and apply a protective lotion with a high factor rate.
The wildlife in the desert is indeed beautiful, but the creatures can also be dangerous. Scorpions, snakes, you name it. If you are able to obtain a vacuum suction device that can be used to suck away poison from a sting wound, do bring it along just in case. Of course, professional medical help must be sought immediately if an animal has attacked you or one of your fellow campers.
Speaking of fellow campers, never ever go camping in the desert by yourself. Why? Because getting lost amongst the sand dunes is just so much more fun when you have company. Plus, you can always eat your friend if you run out of food. Jokes aside, having company is a safety requirement that we recommend for all types of camping. If anything happens to you, it is always good to have another person nearby who can help you out.
Things to do
As for the fun part of being in the desert, for those whom we could not scare away with our previous section, there are plenty of opportunities for having a good time. The desert is a place with a long ecological history and special wildlife, so those interested in zoology can go on a little discovery tour to get to know the species that inhabit the land. For those passionate about photography, there could hardly be a more romantic subject than capturing the sunset or sunrise in the desert. Mind the sand though, and store your camera in a white container bag if possible, to avoid overheating.
Horseback or, if the location is such, camel riding tours can be great fun and a lot less exhausting…for you, not for your four legged carrier. Exploring the terrain on four wheels is also a popular and rather modern form of desert tourism. For those crazy about extreme sports, trying desert dune skiing or boarding is an absolute must. As you can see, the desert offers numerous sources of entertainment. Just about the only thing you cannot do is to go fishing.
Desert camping, despite our efforts to make it appear dreadful, is a lot of fun when it is done right. Definitely bring along a camera to record some of your most special experiences. Also, it could be fun to collect a little glass tube full of sand and take it home with you as a physical token of your stay in the desert!
We are interested in your input. Have you ever gone camping with in the desert? Share your tips, experiences or anecdotes below in the comment section!