Camping! The word conjures different emotions in people. Some are happy to hear it and can’t wait to head out, others do everything to avoid it. If you are new to living in the UAE, at some point you will be confronted by your family or friends wanting to go out camping. It is for this very first trip that the team at blingmytruck.com has put together this guide: a beginners (that is you) guide (includes all things you need to bring, do and prepare for) to camping (the great outdoors – sand, beach and mountains!)
Camp to set up a tent or other temporary structure to give you shelter outside while you sleep or rest
Camping in the UAE is very different to what you might have experienced in your home country. The UAE is one of the safest and most enjoyable places to spend the night outdoors. There are no wild animals ready to eat you, no crazy locals wanting your cash and camping is allowed almost anywhere. The climate is usually very predictable and warm, the terrain breathtaking and the winter time is obviously the most popular time to go camping, for good reason… the temperature is perfect! However, there are a few fantastic spots to go in the summer too.
Nevertheless, you need to be prepared, especially as a novice, and it will take some planning, preparation and a few Dirhams before you should head out for the first time. You will need to know where you are heading to set up camp, who is going with you, and how long you intend to stay. A 4×4 is not always a necessity, as there are plenty of camping spots within walking distance from roads or tracks.
However, if you do venture further for more peace and tranquillity, make sure you know what you are doing. If you are heading into the sands, never venture out alone and especially not in only one 4×4. Whether you are a novice or professional – getting stuck in the desert is inevitable but usually a fun part of the game. However, as dehydration and weariness set in, the situation can become extremely dangerous and even life threatening. If you are unsure of desert driving, take it slowly at first, listen to more experienced drivers in your group or take some lessons prior to your first trip.
Looking for more Desert Camping Tips Read Let’s Go Camping in the Desert
There are numerous off road forums in the UAE which welcome beginner campers and off road drivers (such as: www.dubai4x4.com; www.ad4x4.com; www.me4x4.com ). Join a couple of trips to get to know like minded folk and make new friends.
Make sure your car is up to scratch in its service and maintenance – nothing is worse (and more expensive) than having to leave your car behind due to avoidable breakdowns. A few basic checks before heading out will save time and money in the long run: water / coolant levels, tire pressures and condition (all five tires), and having a relatively new battery.
Although sleeping on a rug in the sand at first seems the most romantic thing to do, you will soon find that it is also the most uncomfortable. Buy a tent, or an awning, add to this a blow up mattress or a camping bed, and you will sleep like a baby. This is especially advisable if camping in the wadis or mountains. A tent will keep you, your children, and your gear, dry, protects from the elements (a dense fog likes to form in the early morning hours, drenching everything left outside), and helps in the occasional rain or sand storm. Add to this some good blankets or sleeping bags as the desert and mountains can become very cold at night.
Invest in a good cool box, as there is nothing better than a cold beverage during the heat of the day or in the evening by the fire. Buy a decent size, as drinks, food and cooling elements quickly fill a cool box, and you could find yourself wishing you had bought the bigger one. Here’s a handy little tip for helping keep your cool box colder for longer: after you have filled it up, lay a few folded sheets of newspaper to make a nice tight fit over the top of the contents and be sure to use a fair amount so it is thick enough. This helps prevent the cool air from escaping when you open the lid. Pack the cool box with frozen meats, stews, water bottles and juice boxes so you don’t need to take up valuable space with cooling elements.
If you want to splash the cash there are varying sizes of 12v fridges available at some of the outdoor stores in the UAE. You get what you pay for, and brands like Waeco and Engel, although pricey, do deliver a quality product. A large fridge becomes essential for trips longer than a few days, especially in the summer months, but be very careful not to forget to unplug them from the cigarette lighter when you reach camp, otherwise you’ll have a nasty surprise of a flat battery in the morning!
Make sure you have a decent and reliable air pump with you. This will definitely come in handy if you decide to let your tires down for desert driving. The next petrol station might be a long way away and its best to minimize the time you drive on the tar road with deflated tires.
First aid kit:
You never know when you might need one of these! Camping in the UAE is very safe but things can go wrong and therefore it’s best to be well prepared, and as the saying goes…better to be safe than sorry!
Remember to pack your 12v (cigarette lighter) mobile telephone charger. You may not always get full reception, but it’s amazing how much coverage there is.
Whether you are camping in the sands or the mountains, in the winter or the summer, clothing is the most important element in your camping list. Always wear solid shoes / boots as soon as night falls, as rocks, creepy crawlies or nasty bushes will make your camp unpleasant and painful! In the cooler months, a couple of sweaters and jackets will keep away the chill, as the temperature drop at night can be extreme. Bring along a woolly hat for the night, something you can also sleep in, as you lose most of your body heat through your head.
Always take a cap / hat and sun cream, and long sleeved shirts and trousers are a good option to protect yourself from the sun during the day.
You can never have enough shade, and invest in a quality awning. Always tie it down with guy ropes securely as winds are often unpredictable.
Bring some wood along from home, especially for camping in the dunes. Finding wood to burn out there can be difficult, therefore, before leaving, scavenge your nearest building site, or ask your neighbour if you can have his tree cut offs. A roaring fire will not only keep you warm and provide enough amber for your BBQ but it’s an essential part of the camping experience. There is nothing more relaxing, romantic and mesmerizing than a nice camp fire.
It goes without saying, that water is absolutely essential, and unforgivable if you forget it. You need to wash, brush your teeth, cook and of course, rehydrate after a long day digging out your car. As an estimate, account for 15 litres/person/day of non-drinking (tap water) for washing up dishes and showering. Then at least 5 litres /person/day of drinking water.
It’s best if you can buy a jerry to fill with tap water for washing and buy the normal packs of mineral water from your local super market for drinking.
A solid table and some good camping chairs are not essentials, but make camping all that more comfortable, especially if you’ve camped in a wadi.
There is a huge variety of camp lighting out there. Some like to take their generator along and have it bright. Others prefer the gentle hiss and warm glow of gas lights. A good torch is essential and a head torch is great if you need your hands free, for barbequing or going behind the next dune.
– Respect others. If your camp is close to others, avoid making too much noise or doing doughnuts with your car!
– Ask before taking a picture of anybody you meet on your trip, be it local or expatriate.
– Take care of the environment and nature. Try to keep on the already established tracks. The environment in the Middle East is harsh – the flora and fauna are already having a tough enough time to survive without your tires ripping everything to bits.
– Litter. As the ancient Greeks have already said: leave only footprints! We are environmentally conscious campers and we implore all our customers to camp or use their new toys responsibly. If you camp, make sure not to leave any rubbish behind. This is not only an eye-sore for others, but will damage the fragile flora and fauna of the environment around you.
– Leave home without water. Be it tap or drinking water, always take along at least five litres per person per day to cover drinking requirements.
– Forget your shovel and at least one strong tow rope. If you are more advanced, invest in some good, solid and not too heavy tyre tracks. They are more useful than you might give them credit.
Cameron is an avid camper and running an online store for all off-road and camping needs: