camping in the desert

9 Unbeatable Tips for Desert Trekking

Read time - 5 minutes

The sand dunes looked like the folds of a smooth silk cloth. Wrapped within a Jordanian scarf to shield myself from the sun, I trekked through the desert landscape taking in the gold-coloured sandstone mountains contrasting with green shrubs.

Trekking at Wadi Rum

Wadi Rum

I spent four days here, wild camping in the Wadi Rum protected area of Jordan. We camped under the stars, perched on golden dunes in the cool shade between two rocky mountains.  

I was surprised how comfortable soft sand is beneath a sleeping mat. With no light pollution, sleeping out in the open under a sky full of stars gives a sense of tranquility. I’d never trekked in the desert before but I did my research, and I picked up a few tricks along the way.

Here are my top ten desert trekking tips to consider - wherever you're desert trekking!

1. Sun protection

Head Scarves

In Jordan, the distinct red and white chequered scarf is strongly associated with heritage and the desert culture. The scarves are handy for protecting you from sunburn, dust and sand, and they are available to purchase from the local Bedouin people for as little as 3 JOD (£3, US$5 or AUS$6). Pair with high factor sun cream and SPF lip balm.

2. Follow the footprints in the sand

Footprints in the desert sand

Climbing up and down sand dunes can be very taxing and a good method for walking in the desert is to follow the footprints of other walkers. The compacted sand means that you don't sink as you walk and it is a more stable surface to walk on.

3. Wear walking boots

Sturdy walking boots

It may be tempting to wear sandals in the desert, however, the sand can be very hot and walking boots provide stability and grip for scrambling up sandstone mountains. A pair of short gaiters can also help with preventing sand from entering your shoes.

4. Drink lots!

Flavoured drink

Bottle of water flavouring

Carry at least 1.5 litres of water with you whilst you are trekking in the desert. Water flavouring is also a great item to bring with you as a thirst quencher and to add some variety to the water you drink.

5. Bring layers

desert camping

Campfire in the desert

Despite the unwavering desert heat in the day, as soon as the sun sets the nights can become very cool. Bring fleeces or jumpers with you to the desert to ensure you are adequately prepared for the drop in temperature.

6. Bring a head torch

Dinner in the desert

Serving up the evening meal

Seated together around a fire in the evenings, it was much easier to eat our evening meals with a handsfree torch so we could use our cutlery. A head-torch was also useful for any late-night toilet breaks in the desert!

7. Stay up stargazing

Stars in the desert

Starry sky over the desert

One of the best places to stargaze is in the desert! The stars glitter throughout the night and a good tip is to bring a book or use an app on stargazing as a fantastic way to embrace the night in the desert wilderness.

8. Keep an eye out for desert plants

Grinding desert herbs

Despite the harsh desert environment, Wadi Rum has a vast array of desert herbs, plants and vegetation that can be used for cooking, washing and medicine. Remember to look out for them and the local leader will be more than happy to explain the uses of the plants.

9. Take a sunrise camel ride

Camel train in the desert

Riding camels across Wadi Rum

Camels are owned by the local Bedouin people and it is a fantastic way of embracing the spectacular landscape in Wadi Rum. This is definitely a classic desert experience that should not be missed!

desert scenery

Wadi Rum

Thidara spent a week on the Petra and Wadi Rum Trek and the trip provides an excellent opportunity to fully embrace the desert scenery and the tangible sense of wilderness whilst camping out there.

It is an experience that should not be missed!

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