Help! What do I need to pack for my trip to the desert?
You’re excited! You’ve booked that once-in-a lifetime desert trip after seeing all those amazing photos and videos on your Instagram feed of other people doing all the things you want to do in the very place you want to do them. You’ve observed their happiness as they ride camels into the high dunes for early morning sunrise or for sundowners at sunset; lounge on hammocks or huge floor cushions with long, cold drinks; sand board down high dunes; listen to the beating of African drums under the unobscured night sky; eat amazing food (and thought ‘how do they make that in the middle of nowhere?!’); go for walks on the highest ridges of dunes with distant views over sand seas – and much more besides. You’ve trawled the websites and have chosen the camp that offers you the best experience (that’ll be us of course!) Now, what to pack?
First things first. The desert is an amazing place to visit. It can be beautifully calm and serene with a stillness beyond anything else you can imagine, deep blue skies, and golden sands that shimmer under the African sun – but equally it can also be a harsh and unforgiving environment, with very high temperatures during the day and cold temperatures at night, sandstorms which blow up out of nowhere and even the occasional deluge. The desert is a unique environment and you need to be prepared for whatever comes your way in this trip of a lifetime.
So, what should I bring?
Preparation is key. Some guests arrive at the camp with huge cases full of all their beautifully ironed and folded clothes. Nothing wrong with that BUT for one fact…sand gets everywhere, and I do mean everywhere! We really don’t want your favourite outfits to be ruined or your shoes to be damaged.
We therefore suggest packing a separate bag just for your desert trip; this will ensure that your best clothes will stay fresh and clean in their locked suitcase and you can stop worrying about how they may get damaged by that demon sand.
For the desert environment you only need one bag that you will be able to easily clean afterwards, maybe a waterproof rucksack or holdall would be best. You will thank yourself later for not having to rummage through your suitcases searching for that one item you can’t do without and inadvertently coating your favourite clothes in fine sand. As for the contents of this ‘desert bag’, well here goes…
1. Functional clothing - Comfort is key
Lightweight and breathable clothing in natural fibres such as cotton or linen are ideal.
Some suggestions: Loose fitting trousers, T-shirts, baggy shirts with long sleeves you can roll up, a sun hat with a wide brim or a peaked cap, long shorts for around the camp if you wish, a light sweater and warm lightweight jacket (a fleece is ideal) in case the nights/early morning are cold. A pair of leggings or joggers are useful for activities such as camel riding or sandboarding.
You may want to stop off en route to the desert and treat yourself to one of the beautiful long colourful scarves you will see hanging in all the shops as you pass by. Our team can help you to tie your scarf as a desert turban (making a chech, pronounced ‘shesh’) – these are great for protecting your skin from the burning sun or indeed the blowing winds. Everyone in the desert wears a chech as they are just so adaptable.
If you want to bring a dress or smarter outfit for that Instagrammable shot, please be aware it’ll be difficult to keep clean and isn’t the easiest thing to wear if climbing dunes.
Pack intelligently! You don’t need loads of clothes for the desert. A mix of the items above that you can layer up as necessary is ideal. If you’re not having to worry about what you wear or how you look, it will free up your mind to focus on your enjoyment of this unique destination.
Don’t bring your best Nike trainers; you will be forever trying to remove sand from their inner depths. Avoid mesh or fine materials where very fine sand particles can get inside and render them never the same again. But do bring some comfortable strong footwear; walking boots or sports sandals are best. Climbing those sand dunes is no mean feat, despite local people making it seem so easy, and your feet need good support. The sand can get very hot during the afternoons too, so don’t forget a pair of socks or two. Keep your flip-flops for lounging around the camp. Having said all that, a slow evening walk up the dunes in bare feet once the heat of the sun has diminished is a real treat for your toes – just be careful to avoid any spiky plants growing on the pans between the dunes.
Eye protection is much needed. With all those rays of light bouncing off the dunes, make sure you bring sunglasses with good UVA and UVB protection. Those labelled with UV 400 are considered the most protective from harmful rays. Don’t forget to bring some for the kids too.
4. Sun cream
High factor sun cream is a necessity in the desert. This isn’t the place to come to top up your tan. The North African sun can be very strong indeed, especially in desert regions where there is very little natural shade. Even in a Moroccan winter, UV levels can still be high, about 5-6! You will be spending a lot of your time outside, so stay safe by using adequate sun protection and reapplying it frequently. Or better still, just cover up and plaster sun cream on any small areas left exposed e.g. your face and neck!
5. Travel First Aid Kit
When you’re in the desert, the last thing you need or want is to fall ill or injure yourself in any way. But if the worst should happen, you need to be prepared. Even sunburnt lips can be uncomfortable on your holiday (been there, done that!)
Although not exhaustive, here’s a list of items you may want to bring:
- Any personal meds you take
- Travel sickness tablets if you suffer in this way
- Lip balm with high SPF
- Headache tablets
- Imodium or similar for stomach upsets
- Rehydration powder
- Savlon cream or similar
- Eye drops
- Insect repellent (if your skin is usually a delicious treat for pesky insects)
- Bandage and plasters, a few safety pins
- Tweezers (for splinters or sharp cactus spines that may stick in your skin)
- Antiseptic wipes
- Hand sanitiser/wipes
Pop all these into a sealable plastic bag and they will be protected from sand and will be light to carry. You never know if or when you may need them. If you forget something you feel you may need, do pop into one of the ubiquitous local pharmacies on route where you can pick up most things!
We provide nice smelling shampoo and shower gel, but if you are partial to your own particular brand, don’t forget to bring it. Also, of course, bring any items you may want/need that are of a personal nature.
7. A Camera
Not everyone likes photography but most people like a record of their trip, whether that’s a quick snap using your phone or a full-on photography session on the dunes. If you do bring a camera, you may want to take note once again that sand is your enemy! A few tips that might help:
- If you have one, use a rain cover when taking photos to protect the camera from sand getting in.
- A little tip – if you don’t have a rain cover, you can wrap your camera thoroughly in cling film to stop fine sand getting into the mechanism and potentially causing permanent damage to it.
- Clean your camera with a fine brush regularly after use.
- Always keep the lens cap on when not taking photos.
- Keep your camera (and lenses) in a sealed plastic bag (Ziplock or similar) when not in use.
- If you’re worried about your camera getting damaged, just use your smartphone. Often, photos taken on smartphones are more than adequate for sharing with friends and family or on your socials.
8. Charger, lead and a battery pack for your phone; spare batteries for your camera.
You don’t want your phone to suddenly go dead when in the desert or your camera to die just as the sun sets behind the dunes so you miss that one-time-only incredible shot, so don’t forget your leads, chargers and spare batteries. Although in our camp you can charge your phone in your tent, you may wish to bring a portable battery pack so you have extra life for your phone should you get caught out; and don’t forget to bring plenty of spare batteries/memory cards for your camera too.
9. A fan
If you’re visiting the desert between March and November, you would be wise to bring a small portable fan, battery-operated or a simple hand fan. Our camp does have an air-conditioning unit and full-size fans for tents but when you’re out and about, a small fan can be very useful to cool yourself down quickly.
10. A torch
Although most phones have inbuilt torches, you may want to bring a small torch with you. This is useful for finding your way to your tent if it is on the outskirts of the camp or for those middle-of-the-night toilet visits when you don’t want to wake your partner. Our camp has lanterns to show the way to your tent, but a back-up light is always helpful.
11. A good book/your Kindle or E-Reader
There will be times when all you want to do is relax. We have an activity tent with some books and a few games, but many guests like to bring their own reading material and just lie in a hammock or chill in one of the covered cushioned areas of the camp, where they can just lose themselves in their latest novel in comfort. Here’s our review of five Morocco-based light reads: 5 Light Reads to Whet the Appetite
So there you have it, our suggested packing list. It is not exhaustive, but hopefully we have answered your most frequently asked questions about what to bring to the desert. Our team looks forward to meeting you and helping you to enjoy your stay at our luxury desert camp in the dunes of Erg Chigaga.