Adventure junkie Tammy Lowe shares her ultimate packing list for desert adventures, safaris, and more! Do you have everything on her list? Get it now!
What to Pack for a Trip to The Desert
Written by: Tammy Lowe
Deserts can be an amazing travel destination: from camel riding in Morocco, to sand boarding in Peru or star gazing in the Atacama desert, Chile, there is something adventurous, but also very romantic about deserts. However, it is also important to pack the right gear because of the extreme climate. Below are some essentials that should come with you on all desert adventures:
Wear white/reflective, long-sleeved and long-legged clothing, to protect you from the intense sun during the day. Deserts also get really cold at night though, so it is important to take some warm clothes with you as well.
- Windbreaker jacket
- Warm hat and gloves
- Wide brimmed hat (If the top of your head is exposed to the sun, your body needs to work harder to keep itself cool, so it is very important to cover your hat, as it will prevent you from getting a sun stroke.)
- Large cotton scarf, such as a shemagh, to protect your face, neck and head from the sun, dust and sandstorms (when I went to the Moroccan Sahara I got caught in a sandstorm and wore my scarf around my entire head and face and only left my eyes uncovered-this saved me from getting my skin pierced by the sand corns).
- Cargo pants (If you are going camel riding on your desert adventures, don’t wear shorts as they will be too uncomfortable and you will end up getting a rash or blisters as camel fur is pretty rough. Plus they won’t protect your legs from the sun.)
- Long-sleeve shirt linen/cotton or wool based tops (I like Icebreaker products as they wick moisture away, which means they keep you cool when it is hot and warm when it is cold).
- Sports bra and high wicking underpants
- Hiking boots (They should be heavy enough to protect your feet from the hot ground surface, and also from sharp and heavy rocks. High ankle hiking boots are ideal.)
- Gaiters (To prevent sand getting into your boots)
- Trekking sandals (For the evenings, as your feet will get very sweaty, so it will be nice to take your boots off and let your feet breath a bit.)
- Talcum powder (Will absorb all the moisture from your feet at nighttime. Believe me, there is no better feeling after a long day in the heat!)
- Hiking socks (To prevent blisters carry extra socks to change into when your socks get wet from sweat.)
- Backpack (ideally one with an airflow system in the back. Your back will probably get very sweaty in the intense heat and an airflow system will provide you with a bit of space between your back and the backpack for some air to flow through.)
- Sleeping bag (2-3 seasons – you can often rent these in local trekking shops or tour agencies if you don’t want to bring your own.)
- Silk sleeping bag liner (If you are renting a sleeping bag it is more hygienic and it also provides you with an extra layer for cold nights)
- Walking poles (It is really difficult to hike up sand dunes as with every two steps you take you slip one back. Walking poles can offer you something to hold on to, to keep your balance.)
- Sunglasses (Darkly tinted, ideally category 3 or above – the categories are always printed on the inside of the frame.)
- Compass (Always carry a compass and know how to use it, just in case you get lost.)
- Emergency whistle
- Swiss army knife
- Suncream (With at least SPF 30.)
- Aftersun (In case you get sun burned.)
- Lip balm (With at least SPF 30.)
- Toilet paper
- Small microfiber towel (if you get the chance to wash yourself at night it is good to have a towel with you. Otherwise it is really handy to wipe off the sweat.)
- Baby wipes (In case you can’t get access to water, you can wash yourself with baby wipes.)
- Flashlight/headlamp (For those nightly toilet visits.)
- If you are a contact lens wearer bring a spare pair. Sandstorms are likely to happen and if you get a sand corn or dust in your eye you will be pleased to have a set of spare ones with you.)
- Hand sanitizer (Because the rumours are true – there really is no running water in the desert.)
- First aid kit with bandage materials
- Tweezers or pliers (For cactus spines.)
- Anti-diarrhea medicine and rehydration sachets
- Insect repellent (There can be a lot of sand flies in the desert, which can give you nasty, blistering bites.)
Food & Drink
- Hydration bladder and water bottle
I personally find it easier to drink out of hydration bladders (i.e. from Camelbac) as you can push the drinking tube through the top of your backpack and over your shoulders, so it is always handy when you need it. A water bottle can be a pain to get out of your backpack side pockets, especially if your hands are full. I still recommend bringing a water bottle with you as well though for night time and in case you need to purify some water and need an extra container.
- If your tour operator is not providing water bring plenty of water yourself. The general rule of thumb is four liters a day for all desert adventures.
- The type of foods you consume on a desert trip can increase your perceived need for water, so try and avoid salty snacks.
- High Energy Snacks (energy bars, dried fruit and nuts) are good to get those blood sugar levels rolling again.
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So there you have it ladies, my ultimate packing list for desert adventures. I hope you find this list useful and have fun on your next desert trip.
For more tips on adventure travel, please read these posts:
- What to Pack for a Trekking Holiday
- 9 Gift Ideas for Active Travelers
- Trekking Pants Go to Trial- Pack them or Forget Them?
- 10 Hostel Travel Essentials
- 5 Must Have Essentials for Adventure Travel
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Bio: Tammy is a travel blogger and adventure junkie. She has endured the Everest Base Camp trek, abseiled down a skyscraper, cycled down the world’s most dangerous road, and trekked through the mosquito infested Amazon jungle. You can follow her adventures on her blog Tammy & Chris on the move or on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest.