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5 Tips for Desert Camping

Red Tent Glows, Red Rock Formation, Photographer, 5 Tips for Desert Camping

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Plan ahead and enjoy the peaceful solitude of desert camping.

En español | If you’re the kind of person who plans well ahead, winter is the perfect time for the peaceful solitude of a desert camping trip. But if you’re headed to the desert, you’ll need to take some extra preparation and special precautions.  Keep the following five tips in mind.

1. Double your water

An arid climate demands constant hydration. Even if the weather is temperate, you’ll need more water than you would in more humid climates. And don’t count on purifying fresh water: Springs and creeks may be few and far between. The best rule of thumb is a gallon per person, per day, but you should pack at least twice that volume to be safe.

2. Prepare for cold nights

It might be bright, sunny, and comfortably warm during daylight hours, but the short days and thin air will nullify this in a hurry after sundown. Pack cold-weather clothing, including several layers, hats that cover the ears, and heavy gloves or mittens. You might not need the extra clothes, but you’ll be grateful you did when the winds start to whip.

3. Leave no trace

The desert is a more sensitive ecosystem than most; its climate drastically slows decomposition. You must take all of your trash and waste with you after camping in the desert. Visit the site of the nonprofit organization Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics for additional information.

4. Don't forget Fido

Although you might enjoy camping with your pets, the desert isn’t a good place for dogs. The plants have spines and needles; coyotes and other predators are commonplace; and the trails are often unsuitable for leashed companions. Do your best friend a favor, and leave him or her with a pal.

5. Pack a telescope


The wide-open spaces of the desert mean there's almost no light pollution, so make time for some serious stargazing after nightfall. It's not uncommon to see the Milky Way staring back at you in the wee hours — well worth setting an alarm for 3 a.m.

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