While most of the country is snowed in during the winter, for those in the west and southwest winter means opportunities for camping in the desert.

Normally a formidable landscape, the desert becomes much more tolerable in the winter. However, there are still some essential things to keep in mind. Here are six important tips for camping in the desert.

Hydration

As with anytime in the outdoors, hydration is key, but even more so when you’re in a desert environment. Always bring more than enough water, especially in a climate known for being sparse with the stuff. For this reason also do not rely on springs labelled on the map as springs in the desert are often seasonable if not dried up for years on end. So you have to always bring your own water, trekking in more than you are likely to use.

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Prepare for the cold

It might seem counter intuitive but even in the desert you still need to prepare for cold weather. The desert during the winter time is characterized by large temperature swings where it could be in the 80s during the day and below freezing at night. So don’t let that clear blue sky fool you, when camping in the desert prepare for the cold.

Pay attention to the weather

Whenever you head off into the outdoors you should always check the weather, but especially when camping in the desert. Swings in weather, not just temperature, can occur extremely rapidly. Something to pay critical attention to is the chance of thunderstorms. Large amounts of rainfall in a desert environment can create flash floods, so you don’t want to be caught in a slot canyon or put your tent somewhere that could potentially become flooded.

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Beware of critters

When camping in the desert there are many types of critters that can possibly do you harm. Some of the most dangerous ones are those that are difficult to see such as snakes and scorpions. Be aware that whatever you leave on the desert floor, including your warm body and sleeping bag, will potentially become a resting place for a dangerous critter. So best to sleep off the ground on a raised bed and be sure to shake out your clothes and boots before you put them on.

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Free standing tent

Another consideration you might think about it is the type of tent you’ll be using. For camping in the desert you are going to need a free standing tent rather than a hammock tent or a tent that requires being strung up to a tree. In the desert, obviously, there aren’t many trees so the chances of finding something suitable are unlikely.

Trap an animal for dinner

The desert actually has an abundance of resources. You just have to know where to look. For those on the extreme adventure side, the desert opens many opportunities for trapping rodents such as ground squirrels and rabbits. Who knows? You might even catch a fox. Check the local hunting rules in your area.

Photo credit: Wikimedia