Cooler temperatures put desert camping firmly on the weekend agenda. But before you pack up the car and head off into the dunes, take these important safety tips on board:
Planning your trip
- If it’s your first-time camping in the desert, it’s a good idea to go with friends who have camped before. Even if you’re an experienced camper, you should always go as a part of a bigger group, especially if you’re planning to venture deeper into the desert.
- Decide where you’re going to camp before you head out, and ensure that you and anyone else you’re with sticks to that location. It’s all too easy to lose your bearings and get lost in the desert.
- Let your friends or family members know your destination in the desert before setting off on your trip.
- When it comes to choosing a location, avoid the edge or the bed of wadis, as these are susceptible to flash flooding.
- 4x4s are the best type of vehicle for heading into the desert with, and should be serviced or checked prior to the trip to reduce the risk of a breakdown. You also need to deflate the vehicle’s tires before venturing on to the dunes.
What to pack
“Not everyone anticipates the significant temperature swings that occur in the desert. Bringing additional clothes and supplies to keep warm at night is very important,” says Dr. Jacques Kobersy, Chair of Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi’s Emergency Medicine Institute.
- The desert during the day is hot and dry, but at night temperatures can drop dramatically, so make sure you have clothes for both climates, as well as a suitable sleeping bag.
- Take sun protection, including sunscreens, suitable clothing, eyewear, a hat and awnings that can be attached to the car to provide shade from the sun during the day.
- For your vehicle, you need to pack a working tire pump to re-inflate the tires, shovels and a tow rope in case you get stuck in the sand, and a jerrycan with some petrol should you run out.
- A full first aid kit is a must, and can be used to treat insect bites, grazes or minor burns. Make sure you check your first aid kit is replenished before you set out.
- Water. Lots of water. Dehydration is one of the biggest concerns in the desert, and you’ll need water for more than just drinking. It’s recommended to carry at least 20 liters of water person per day, with 5 of these liters being drinking water. Also have a cool box to keep food and beverages chilled.
- Other items that you will need include a properly fastening tent, an in-car phone charger, lights and some firewood.
Staying in camp
- You want to set up camp on a flat area, ideally high on a dune, so you have good visibility and your site can be easily seen by others.
- Set up your fire away from the tents and be mindful of the direction of the wind. A smaller fire is easier to control, but any fire should always be attended too.
- The desert is home to lots of different creatures, most of which won’t cause any harm unless they feel threatened or provoked. However, you should always wear shoes around the campsite and give them a good shake in the morning, just to make sure nothing has crept inside. Always fully close your tent at night.
- Be sure to use lights around the camp at night and inform others of your movements. It’s easy to become disoriented at night, plus it’s also the time that many desert creatures venture out.
- Before you leave, play your part in looking after the natural environment, tidy up and take home any rubbish to leave the site safe and clean for future users, and for its natural inhabitants.