Camping tips for the desert

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of November 21-27, 1996
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Camping tips for the desert
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Camping tips for the desert
Question: My wife and I are going rock climbing at Red Rock Canyon in Nevada in March, and we've never camped near or in the desert. Are there any special precautions we should take?

Brian Engel
Toronto, Ontario
[email protected]

Adventure Adviser: Aside from the standard you've-seen-these-on-the-Brady-Bunch precautions such as keeping your tent zipped at all times and never--and I mean never--leaving your sneakers outside and unguarded against yicky scorpions and the like for prolonged lengths of time, there aren't too many other safety tips for desert camping you need to know. Water, of course, can be pretty scarce in the desert (now that's profound!), but because you'll be camping at one of Oak Creek Canyon Campground's designated full-service tent sites, packing in plenty of fluids for overnights won't be an issue. In that same vein, you've also got the fact that the southern Nevada desert gets most of its rain during the winter months, so there'll likely be some spillover into March. And even though you'll be a scant 15 miles west of the bright lights and beckoning slot machines on the Las Vegas strip, there are still a few good desert rules-of-thumb you'll want to keep in mind. Wherever possible, stay on marked trails: The desert is an exceptionally fragile environment, and even a few careless sole-prints can take years to be erased. Not to mention the fact that getting lost is a lot easier to do when you leave the beaten path; arm yourself with plenty of current, detailed maps, as much water as you can carry, and a high tolerance for sand, sun, and prickly thorns. The bad news? Rattlesnakes generally sleep out the winter from late November through late February, so they may be yawning and stretching by the time you arrive in March. Make shoe and sleeping bag protection your mission in life while you're there. For additional camping details (22 first-come, first-serve sites, $10 per night) and maps, call the visitor center at 702-363-1922.
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