The desert: barren wasteland to some; thrilling adventure to others. But before you set off on your desert camping trip, make sure you know these facts.

The Sierra Nevada mountains are lush and green with pine trees and sequoias and the cool, flowing waters of the Sierra Nevada watershed. But for those wanting to explore entirely different terrain, there in the rain shadow of our mountains is a whole new world to explore—the Great Basin Desert.

But camping in the desert is a different beast than camping in the mountains. For those up to the challenge, here’s what to know before camping in the desert.

Overpack on Water

If you know nothing else about the desert, you know that it’s hot and dry. That alone can make it dangerous—but only if you come unprepared. On a regular camping trip, the recommendation is to bring one gallon of water per day for every person on the trip. If you’re in the desert, you should bring even more, especially if you plan on hiking.

Pack for All the Weather

Hot Days

When we think of dressing for a warm, sunny day, we generally think of donning shorts, tank tops, or breezy dresses. But the relentless desert sun can burn exposed skin after a while, even with sunscreen. For sunny days, it’s best to wear light, loose-fitting clothes with breathable materials that cover your skin. Along with sunburns, the sleeves will protect you from cacti and desert bugs.

Cold Night

Many people don’t realize that the desert can get cold. But depending on the time of year, the temperatures can drop surprisingly low, especially at night. For that reason, you should pack layers to put on as the sun goes down. Adding a merino wool beanie to your sleepwear is a good idea because it will keep your head warm while wicking the sweat from your forehead when the temperatures rise again.

Know Your Roads

Getting lost is a real risk any time you travel through sparsely populated areas, but this is even more true when you are traveling in formidable terrain like the desert. The locations of rest areas, gas stations, and houses are all things you should know before you go camping in the desert, along with exactly how long your trail goes.

About the author

Kayla Beirne

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