The desert is at its best when viewed up close and at a slow pace. From a zooming car, the landscape may appear bleak and lifeless. Closer examination reveals a fascinating world of color and life. Rocks sculpted by weather and time contrast with the brilliant blue sky and Joshua trees seem to move with the sky and light. Joshua Tree National Park has endless opportunities for exploration and discovery. If you have the right camping essentials, experience, and fitness level, overnight camping in the backcountry can be one of the most rewarding experiencing and a beautiful journey back to nature.
After spending four days in Joshua Tree National Park on a Driving Matters trip with Mazda, I’ve created a list of camping essentials to make the most of your Joshua Tree National Park camping trip.
10 Camping Essentials for Joshua Tree National Park
- Plenty of Protective Cover – It’s the desert so sunglasses, a hat, and sunscreen will save you a world of pain from the scorching sun. A good pair of hiking boots fall under the protective cover category as well. Your feet need support and cover from rocks and spiny plants. I’m a huge advocate for LOWA, especially the Renegade GTX Mid boots. Experienced hikers everywhere understand the need for proper foot care. Blisters in the desert can ruin your hike.
- Water, Water & More Water– It is recommended drinking a minimum of one gallon of water per day. You will need more fluids if you are active: vigorous hiking, cycling, or climbing can cause you to lose water and salts at a rate of 1 1/2 quarts per hour! Replace these fluids and electrolytes by drinking water or sports drinks and consuming salty foods.
- Dress in Layers– Prepare for temperature extremes by dressing in layers. Early February may have some very chilly nights, while temperatures may hit 100 °F later in the spring. Always carry extra layers with you. Desert weather changes fast and the landscape offers little shelter.
- Food, Grill, & Utensils – It wouldn’t be camping without a fire and roasted marshmallows, don’t forget to bring sticks because they are hard to come by in the desert, but you’ll need a little more for dinner than snacks if you’re going to enjoy your time in the desert. We brought the Napoleon Portable Grill and propane along with Hormel Foods like hot dogs, SPAM, bacon, and hamburgers. I like a lot of meat, especially when camping. It’s easy to cook on the grill and filling.
- Tent – I had the Coleman POPUP 4 tent and it was up in less than five seconds. I’d never seen a tent so easy to use for both set up and put away. Since you can park your vehicle at the campsites, there’s no need for a smaller tent that is easy to carry. An instant tent is ideal for car camping.
- Sleeping Bag & Mat/Cot – Nights in the desert can be cold. Once the sun goes down, temperatures plummet. I had a sleeping bag for 40 °F but it wasn’t warm enough. Even with a sleeping mat under my sleep bag, a warm jacket, socks, and thermal pants, I was shivering. Be sure to check the temperatures before leaving home and pack accordingly.
- Fire Wood/Propane – Once in the park, it’s a far drive back to civilization. You need to bring your own fire wood and propane. It’s not provided in the park. Also, it’s helpful to have some paper or kindling to start the fire because there aren’t a lot of twigs or sticks around. that goes hand-in-hand with something to start the fire unless you’re going Bear Grylls style.
- Flashlight/Headlamp – Our campsite had a bathroom onsite, but it was a short walk from the tents. If you need to go during the night, a flashlight or headlamp is essential to watch for snake or other wildlife. It’s helpful in the tent at night as well. After from the fire, it can be very dark.
- Camping Chairs – It’s easy to forget camping chairs when you read that a picnic table is provided, but it’s not very comfortable while sitting around the fire. Bring your camping chairs and relax after a day of hiking or exploring.
- Camera – This is a trip that you’ll remember for the rest of your life. Don’t forget your camera so you’ll have quality photos to support your memory.
These 10 camping essentials will make your trip more enjoyable so you can focus on what matters – having fun and exploring the desert.
This trip was made possible by Mazda, but all opinions and beliefs are my own. Stay tuned for more details and stories from my DrivingMatters road trip with Mazda. The bizarre is just beginning.
If you’d like to read more about our Joshua Tree trip with Mazda, check out Men Who Blog to read stories from the other participates.