Camping in the desert can be one of the most exciting experiences you’ll ever have. From sunrise to sunset and hours after dark, the treasures you’ll find by staring up and out at the sky are incomparable to any other place you’ll ever pitch a tent. Chilly nights and hot, dusty days are ones we’ve ventured all too often. We’ve laid down our tent amongst the red rocks in Moab and pitched multiple tents in Red Rock. Taking an overnight to Joshua Tree is not a rarity and often a must.
Whether you’re living on the road or this is your first night out under the stars, camping can at first be intimidating. And camping in the desert presents another set of challenges than more traditional camping experiences. However, with proper education + a little extra prep time, the result will be a camping experience like no other.
There are challenges posed by the harsher environment you’ll find in the desert and there are a few things that may seem like common knowledge, but best addressed than left unspoken. Make sure that packing significantly more water than you would otherwise is top of the list. As a general rule, plan to bring one gallon per person per day just for drinking. And a little extra for basic hygiene + cleaning cooking equipment or other campsite needs. Be sure that every member of your group takes some time to familiarise themselves with the symptoms and treatment of heat stroke and dehydration, maps of the area and typical wildlife, plants, and elements of nature found in the area you’ll be calling your outdoor home away from home for a stint.
* sleeping pad (trust us, will make all the difference)
* a sleeping bag
* headlamp, tent lantern, and/or flashlight
* a paper copy of a map of the area, compass + download a digital map from Google Maps onto your phone in case you lose reception.
* filtered water in refillable jars or jugs + a hydration pack and/or refillable water bottles
* eco-conscious sunscreen
* clothing for layers that are made to help you distribute + regulate temperature. a good pair of outdoor shoes that will provide support for hiking and exploring + protect your feet from things like cactus burrs.
* sunglasses, a hat + a bandana
* a camping stove and a JetBoil areas under burn bans
* water filter or Lifestraw with rehydrating salts/tablets(for emergencies)
* first aid kit
* extra blankets for campfire hangs and snuggling up under the stars
* bathroom bag (inclusive of eco-friendly soap, hand shovel, baby wipes, hand sanitizer + eco-friendly toliet paper)
* reusable dinnerware to eat + drink
* hard-sided cool box (pro tip: lining the cool box with aluminized bubble wrap helps keep the contents cool for longer)
* eco-friendly insect repellent
* tarpaulin groundsheet (to pitch your tent on top of)
* campfire snacks + sips
* outdoor games, a good book or personal journal, camera and/or instruments like a guitar
Here’s a general go-to-guide that will get you out the door + into the outdoors whether you’re a camping connoisseur or this is your very first time. Looking for a more detailed pack list? Check out this Ultimate Camping Checklist on Explore Outdoors.