Back in the late 1970’s I moved to Phoenix, AZ to go to college. Being from Colorado, Arizona was a nice change especially when it came to outdoor recreation. I spent many weekends camping out in the desert somewhere. Today, I get emails and talk with lots of people from Arizona and Nevada about Desert ATV Camping and its unique challenges.
The desert can be a harsh environment to camp in for those that are unprepared and lack the proper knowledge of the region. But by following some simple tips, desert ATV camping can be a very rewarding experience.
Plan your trip in advance. Just like regular ATV camping, research the proposed area for your trip. Talk to the local authorities about ATV camping in the area, fire restrictions & firewood, wildlife concerns, and availability of trail maps.
Bring Water! Unless you are camping close to a water source (scarce in the desert) bring plenty of water. Camping dehydration is one of the biggest dangers of desert camping. Your body will require more water in the dry heat of the desert than it would in a more humid climate. In the desert heat don’t wait until you’re thirsty: by then, you’re already dehydrated.
Avoid camping in low areas. If heavy rain is expected these low areas can turn into flowing muddy rivers very quickly. The desert nights can also get very chilly and because the air is so dry it feels a lot colder, especially in low lying areas.
Beware of the locals. The desert is home to many different creatures and you are a visitor in their backyard. Left alone most desert wildlife are harmless but a few, like scorpions, black widow spiders, tarantulas, and rattlesnakes, can be hazardous if provoked. Keep your tent zipped closed as much as possible. Coolers offer a cool spot for scorpions and rattlesnakes to crawl under as well as your tent. Shake out your boots before putting them on.
Beware of the sun. The desert sun can get very intense so apply sun screen often. Wear a hat and avoid heavy physical activity during the middle of the day. Use a tarp for shade, especially over your tent. Most lightweight tent fabrics are translucent meaning sunlight can filter through and heat the interior like an oven.
Leave No Trace. At the end of your stay please take the time to thoroughly clean up your desert campsite. Always make an effort to leave it better than you found it. Most desert vegetation are small, delicate, and easily trampled by careless visitors and ATVs.
The uniqueness of desert ATV camping is a wonderful experience. Using these tips will help you enjoy your next desert ATV camping experience.