Desert Camping

Rick Sosebee
by Rick Sosebee
A little different than your backyard!

A few weeks ago we talked a little about staying in the outdoors and using your ATV or UTV to get to the final destination for your nights camp. Although some of the same things may be taken to your local desert to camp many people forget just how different the desert is from your typical wooded landscape.

We started to look into just what products would be available for desert specific camping and most of these we found were more of common sense things instead of a must have product line.

Of course I never go anywhere without my SPOT device as it is the only connection that will reach help in most any terrain and especially in the wide-open desert landscape. DO NOT depend on your cell phone for making emergency calls out in remote areas because unless it is a satellite phone chances are there are no cell towers around you.

Yamaha Rhino Desert Ride

Desert camping can be fun but it’s important to be prepared.

But aside from safety nets like the SPOT personal GPS locater device I would say your first thoughts are to what your body might need in case of emergency. Here are a few things we came up with that would be must haves in the desert if you were planning on primitive camping.

Water – This seems like an obvious choice that many would say “well I knew that” but many of the same people will get dehydrated because they underestimate just how much water their bodies actually need in the dry heat. Be sure to take as much water as you possibly can with you and do some research on where potential water sources

Kolpin UTV Cooler

Water is important but so is having enough food to keep your strength up.

Also, do not wait until you are thirsty to drink your water because you have most likely already become dehydrated. If you choose to camp near a stream or water source do not assume the water is good enough to drink. Bring a small water purification kit in case you have to use the water source.

Fly Racing Petrol Jacket

Desert terrains are known for the heat but at night the temperature can drop dramatically.

Weather Gear – The climate can change from one extreme to the next in the desert and when the sun goes down you can be caught off guard in an instant especially cruising in the open cockpit of your UTV or ATV.

Be sure to pack an extra coat/sweatshirt or possibly layers of under garments in case the temps change during the predawn hours. Some temperatures can go from 95 in the day to around freezing in the night. Bring a lighter and matches in a waterproof container in case you have to start a fire.

First Aid – Keeping a small first aid kit is a must on any trip much less one that requires a stay over night away from immediate medical attention. This one should be self-explanatory.

Tent – A night in the desert under the stars may be fun but it is always recommended to bring a freestanding tent. Some say the enclosure of a typical tent can prevent the contraction of the Hantavirus. In the desert the wind picks up dust from dried rodent urine/feces and this dust contains the virus. Breathing this dust in during your sleep can cause many bad symptoms and even eventual death.

Camping ATV Tent

A tent provides protection from the elements while you sleep.

The night’s wind can also be deflected well by a tent and in the cool morning you don’t want to be awakened by Mother Nature’s alarm clock.

Dust Mask – Using some sort of dust mask or good goggles will keep you seeing well even if you are just hanging around camp. Dust storms created the desert landscape and the wind throws the ever-changing mountains of sand around. You do not want to get the crunch of sand and dust in your mouth or lungs for that matter.

ATV Dust Mask

A dust mask will allow you to breathe in desert storms without getting sand and dust into your mouth.

If you decide to travel out to a populated camping area such as any popular Dunes most likely there will be sections of huge campers and toy haulers in the most popular areas. Setting up camp here may insure you will have plenty of people to chat and ride with but sometimes the noise can be overbearing. That can be a problem when the campers down the block want to ride through camp all night long while you’re trying to sleep.

Yamaha ATV Ride Trailers

Campgrounds are great places to make new friends.

Look for campgrounds that have hookups if you are hauling a camper as well as a dump station for the tanks in the camper. If the desert terrain you are seeking to ride on is popular enough then it’s a great possibility that there will be some campgrounds close by. Be sure to bring leveling blocks for the camper too as some spots may be a little uneven. These same planks or blocks of wood could be used to get you out if your lead foot sinks the hauler into the sand.

Camping in the desert can be very fun and adventurous but always remember to be mindful of the desert inhabitants and plant life. Ride only on the trails or areas designated for off road use. Most importantly when camping anywhere in the desert use common sense. Also be sure your machine is in top shape before taking off into the wild desert landscape as it is better to ride than push an off-road vehicle in the sand!

ATV Desert Ride

Above all else, have fun!

Related Reading

Camping With An ATV: Advice on Gear and Trip Planning

How To Help Maintain Off-Road Trails

Destination Off-Road!

Rick Sosebee
Rick Sosebee

Whether he is in Mexico covering the Baja 1000, building ATVs for local racers, or out enjoying the trails, Rick’s passion shows in his stories. Learning to wrench his own machines from his grandfather, Rick also has an undying appreciation for the mechanics of off-road vehicles. Do not let the dirt and mud fool you, though, as Rick also has a deep love for street cars.

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