The desert can be a real dessert if you treat it right! Having eco-friendly gear on your desert camping checklist will make the adventure easier on you and your environment.
Living in the Pacific Northwest, I never heard much about “desert camping”. If you wanted to visit a desert, you’d have to take a very long drive to get there. Now living in Southern California, I’ve learned desert camping is popular! You’ve got places like Joshua Tree National Park, Borrego Badlands, and the Mojave Desert. Not to mention Arizona and Mexico next door.
If you’re on the hunt for a desert camping checklist along with the best tips and tricks for when you’re there, then you’ve made a good stop! By bringing the right type of gear that is eco-friendly it makes your trip more manageable for you and the environment you’re occupying, which in turn makes it more fun 🙂
This is a staple desert camping checklist with sustainable recommendations in parenthesis. Scroll down for eco-friendly desert tips and tricks. Let’s go!
Desert Camping Checklist
Each section has the essentials along with a little extra at the bottom. Most of the gear in this list will be useful for any camping trip, not just in the desert! The main idea is that you’ll want to bring toxic-free products so as not to harm the wildlife or environment.
- water (hydro flasks, EcoVessel)
- tent (Bergans has sustainable ones)
- backpack (Bergans, REI)
- sleeping mat (Vaude)
- sleeping bag (Vaude, The North Face)
- first-aid kit (adjust accordingly)
- portable phone charger
- insect repellent – especially around seasonal rainfall
- breathable raincoat (Patagonia)
- wind breaker
- sandals for around the camp
- lightweight hiking boots
- wicking undergarments
- wicking, quick-drying t-shirt and long sleeve
- quick-drying hiking pants and shorts
- insulated fleece jacket or vest
- headwrap/Buff/bandana (Krochet Kids)
- blanket for stargazing (Sackcloth and Ashes – 100% recycled material)
- shampoo bar (here are some options and how they work)
- toothpaste chewing tablets (sounds weird but they work! Get them here) with a bamboo toothbrush
- eyedrops for the dust
- sunscreen (Everyday Humans)
- toilet paper (Betterway, Seventh Generation)
- cleansing wipes (Botanics, Pacifica)
- deodorant wipes (Pacifica- see below)
Snacks and Meals
- energy gels
- bars (protein, energy, Nature Valley)
- oatmeal, instant rice
- peanut butter
- trail mix, seeds
- dehydrated fruits
- plates/cups/stainless steel mugs
- camp stove
- reusable food bags/containers (try silicone bags)
- hat and/or sunglasses
- flashlight/headlamp/light on your phone
- Garmin watch with GPS or some sort of map
- Bring a LOT of water – Many desert campgrounds don’t have access to drinking water, and you will need more for washing, putting out the fire, and cooking. It’s recommended to bring 1 gallon per person per day of camping. You don’t want to be dehydrated in the desert…
- Wear light-colored clothing – I know you want to look good for the rattlesnakes and birds, but you don’t want to flirt with heat exhaustion. The best colors the sun reflects are white and blue.
- Avoid the sun from 11 am-4 pm – While midday seems like the time to be out and about, it’s not the case in the desert. The sun can be damaging during these times, so try making these rest hours in the shade.
- Wear sunscreen – I used to purposefully tan without sunscreen in the summers so I could get the best color…please don’t let your kids do that. In the desert, the sun is worse than in your backyard and it can lead to many diseases including skin cancer.
- Bring salty snacks – This is one I saw off of a rad survivor’s blog and it makes sense! Gary, the wilderness guru, says consuming salt helps replenish the salt and minerals you lose when you sweat (and you will).
- You brought it you bring it back – In other words, don’t leave your trash on the beautiful desert landscape. By leaving waste, you’re exposing harmful substances to insects and wildlife who aren’t used to it and will likely get sick or die. The land is sensitive to change as well. Bring a cloth or reusable waste bag (NO plastic).
- Don’t travel in the rain – Desert rains can catch you off guard! Avoid slot canyons and anywhere rocks could fall. Reach higher ground if you are stuck in it.
Since camping in Joshua Tree, I plan on adding to my desert camping checklist (more like bucket list). I recommend experimenting with camping locations and sticking to the important tips to stay safe and sustainable. Now head out there and kick up some dust!