Camp Style | Desert CampingThe desert is a unique, and beautiful destination. Each desert has its own fascinating features, including amazing rock formations, types of cactus, interesting wildlife and more. Many of the stunning natural wonders and National Parks in the United States are located in desert landscapes. Everyone should take some time to explore a desert, but its unique characteristics require a little bit of extra preparation from other non-desert trips.
Desert landscapes can become extremely hot during the day, so hot that it is unbearable to be outside even in the shade. If you plan on visiting the desert you may want to consider avoiding the hottest months of the year. In Arizona during the day the temperatures begin to exceed 100 degrees in early May and remain that hot into September. You should plan your trip to the desert during a time when the temperatures seem bearable for the activities you plan on engaging in.
The sun blazes down during the daylight hours when desert camping, often uninterrupted by clouds. Even if you plan your activities for the cooler times in the morning in afternoon, you will need to protect yourself from the dangers of the suns rays. Be sure to apply sunscreen, at least 30 spf, every two hours. The key to using sunscreen properly is reapplication, so be sure to keep track of how often you put on sunscreen. Also be sure to have a hat that shades your face and ideally your neck. Long-sleeves also provide excellent protection from the sun. Even if you are wearing long sleeves you will want the added protection of sunscreen, which should be applied under your clothes. You will also want to make sure that you protect your eyes with sunglasses.
If you visit during the winter when the daytime temperatures are warm, but not excessively hot, you should be prepared for the temperatures to cool significantly during the evening. This type of temperature change requires that you bring proper layering clothes, as well as appropriate sleeping arrangements.
Water & Hydration
Water is another key factor in desert camping and exploration. You will not find water in the desert and you will want plenty of water to stay hydrated. The hot, dry weather makes dehydration a quick and very dangerous issue. Always be sure to pack more than enough water when adventuring in the desert. You will not find a place to refill your water bottle when hiking in the desert, and access to water in the desert is even more important than when hiking in other landscapes.
You should also be prepared with food and any other supplies you may need while camping or hiking. Bring all of the food you will need, and maybe more than you need. You don't want to take any chances of getting caught in the desert with plenty of food and water, which are key to a healthy and happy trip.
If you are camping or RVing when the weather is hot, which is almost the entire year, you may want to bring some sort of portable shade. Having a cool, shady place to sit will make your camping experience much more comfortable. You will find that you want to escape the blazing heat during the hottest part of the day, and having shade will help.
Many deserts experience a rainy season, which can have monsoon-like conditions. The extreme dryness of the land makes it difficult for the soil to soak up all of the water when it rains heavily. These conditions lead to the real possibility of flash flooding. Throughout desert states there are warning signs telling drives not to cross certain areas if there is water, these areas are called washes. These washes, or dips in the road, although they may not look dangerous can be extremely hazardous when filled with water, they have the power to sweep cars away. If there is any chance of flooding be sure not to drive through washes or walk through washes.
WildlifeWhen you are hiking through the desert you will want to keep an eye out for many of the amazing species that inhabit the landscape. These can include deer, rabbits, quail, scorpions, snakes, lizards and more. Many of these animals are harmless and fun to watch, but you need to be quiet and still so you don't scare them away. The desert is also home to some poisonous animals, including rattlesnakes, scorpions and more. When hiking stay alert for the warning sounds of the rattlesnake and stay watchful of where you walk. You should also be sure to shake out your shoes in the morning before you put them on, just in case an insect crawled in during the night.
Click to see a list of desert camping destinations.