Winter is approaching and the pools are filling up by the hour. Alarms must be set to get to JBR beach bright and early to snatch the ideal spot. And evening strolls along the marina are getting just a bit too crowded. While the hustle and bustle of it all can be exciting, sometimes a little bit of serenity is needed. Set up a tent in the middle of the desert or up in the mountains and achieve that much needed calm, peaceful and untroubled feeling.
Convinced you need a getaway? Here are some tips for your next camping weekend.
Best time to go?
This blog is perfectly timed because the best time to go camping is now until March. Even as early as October is a great time to start dusting off up the ol’ camping gear.
The winter season is the best time considering the temperature is at a comfortable level and humidity is down. The desert records show the maximum temperature recorded is 30 degrees and minimum temperature around 15 degrees. However, at higher elevations, the temperature can drop below zero in the winter.
Despite the always sunny in Dubai mentality, rain does appear and if you’re looking at a mountain and wadi camp setting then, it’s important to check the weather forecasts. Although the rainfall does not happen often or last long, wadis are subject to flash flooding and conditions can change quite quickly.
Where to go?
For an introduction to the desert, why not try the Bedouin Camps about an hour drive away in Ras Al Khaimah. This campsite is a unique and easy experience, providing everything you need. There are also guides that can take you on an educational tour of the desert, full of history and heritage. This experience costs unlike camping on your own (~190 AED), however it is a great way to ease into the idea of sleeping in the wilderness.
Desert Camping in Ajman is a great for beginners if you’re afraid to venture out too far. This is a popular spot and you’re bound to see a few other campers in the distance. Make sure you get there for sunset and marinade some meats (or vegetables!) before you head out. Nothing beats the beautiful, colourful sky and the smell of a barbecue grill.
Al Qudra Lakes is a great for its proximity to the city and the ease of the drive – no 4x4s are needed here. About a 45-minute drive from Downtown Dubai, Al Qudra Lakes is located in Bab al Shams and Sheih Al Salam desert. Take the E77 from Dubai then the D63 and soon enough you’ll be mingling with wildlife you didn’t know 100 different species of birds and other wildlife. Set up by the quant lake and on a clear night, you can still see the Dubai skyline in the background. Another great selling point, is you can squeeze in a workout and go for a spin around the Al Qudra Cycle track. Perfect day activity before resting by a fire pit in the evening.
Lahab desert, Sharjah, about an hour away from downtown Dubai towards Mleiha, is what I imagine when I think of desert camping – acres of sand as well as a 300-foot-high sand dune called Big Red. Hitch up your tent by Fossil Rock which is known to be amazing for stargazing. During the day you can indulge in the hiking trails or have a gander for any fossils because as the name suggests, the area is full of them and it is indeed an archeological site.
A little further out, about 2 and a half hours from Dubai, is Jebel Jais. This place is very popular for daytime hikes. However, why not stay a night or two after the trek instead of driving back immediately. You probably deserve a rest after 15km+ of trails you can explore. This can be one of the coldest options of our list so far, so make sure you bring a sufficient amount of layers and blankets.
Wherever you decide to set up camp, make sure you stay safe. Ensure your vehicle will be able to endure the roads, especially the campsites right out in the deserts or in the mountains – many will require a 4×4. Along with a suitable car, carry maintenance tools such as a shovel or tow rope or for patching up a damaged tire. It is also best to go off roading as a convoy in case someone gets stuck. And it may be a silly reminder, but make sure you fill up with petrol!
As mentioned earlier on, checking the weather is important. Check for chances of rain and make note of the temperature for the duration of your stay. A few extra sweaters, blankets and socks will be the saving grace once temperatures start to drop in the evenings.
Do not settle in at the bottom of a dune as you can run the risk of getting into an accident with some off roaders that may not be aware you’re there.
Downloading offline maps will come in handy once data is out of range.
Shake shoes before wearing in case of scorpions and other little critters.
Pack enough water that will last the entire trip and then some.
First aid kit because you never know! It may not be seriously needed but a simple band air may come in handy for even a small cut.
Don’t forget to bring…
Tent: Sleeping under the stars, may sound romantic but a tent is essential for protecting you and your family from the elements. Unexpected rain, sandstorm, or even morning fog can make for a very uncomfortable awakening, so better to just stay indoors from the start – because who wants to wake up sticky or in shivers?
Air mattress: trust me. You may be camping after a hike or a long cycle, so the last thing you want is to have a sore back from sleeping on a rug on the ground. Invest in an air mattress or a padded sheet and your night sleep will actually be relaxing. Also don’t forget to bring along sheets, blankets or a sleeping bag. After a good night’s rest, it will set your morning off on the right foot.
Cool box: A cold beverage on a warm day in the mountains, sounds amazing doesn’t it? Not just for drinks, but great for keeping the food until it’s ready to be cooked. A good tip is to freeze a lot of the items that will be used later, i.e. Meat, water, drinks, and these will act as the cooling element as opposed to wasting space on ice.
Battery pack: We are not encouraging to be on your phone for the duration of your stay, but it important that your phone be usable in case of emergency. 999 is the number to call if you’re in any trouble. However, we will admit that our mobiles are great for group games – download the app ‘Heads up!’. Also, don’t forget to take a quick pic to remember the experience!
Clothing: Sweaters. Socks. Long sleeves. Hiking shoes. Jacket. Hat. It is extremely important to dress according to the weather. It can be a defining moment of the trip if it’s a couple degrees too cold and you’re a couple of layers short of being comfortably warm.
Sun cream/shade: The temperature may be a lot cooler than it is in summer, but the sun is still out in full force. Make sure you get some SPF on your skin, especially your face, during the day. A hat and maybe an awning for your car would be helpful because you can never have enough shade.
Firewood: Instead of scavenging for wood when you’re out there, it’s probably best to bring some from home. A fire isn’t just for smores and singing camp songs, it’s ideal for keeping warm at night and providing enough amber for when it comes time to BBQ. But make sure to put it out before bed.
Rubbish bags and rake: Always clean up after yourselves. Waste is not only awful for the environment but is a site for sore eyes and can attract insects and wildlife. Rake will be a handy tool if you’re in the desert and need to separate the trash from the sand.
Barbecue, grill and stove top kettle: Whip up your own mixed grill and brew some tea for after dinner, if you decide to bring your own shisha then get the coaling burning. Don’t forget all the cooking utensils you’ll need as well – tin foil, cutlery, tongs etc.
Flashlight or torches: The desert and mountains will not be flood lit, so when the fire is out the need for it is pretty self-explanatory.
Board games or cards: There are many things to keep yourself busy through the night, so bring your favourite game and get everyone involved. Some of our favourites are Monopoly and Scrabble! But once it’s dark out, don’t forget to look up. Another game we play is naming the stars.
Speaker: As for another source of entertainment, who doesn’t love music? Enjoy some singalongs and dancing with your family and friends!
Water: We said it above and we’ll say it again! It is so important to have enough water for your stay. It would probably be best to fill a larger cannister for non-drinking water and buy the regular bottles to consume. You’ll need it for more than just drinking, think brushing your teeth, washing your hands, cleaning up dishes and showering.
We hope this guide has encouraged you to escape the city for a night or two. With the weekend ahead and a much longer weekend next, now is the best time. The holiday season is always a stressful one so it may be a good idea to squeeze in a refresh and relax session whilst you can. Happy Camping!