Oct 30 2019
Winter desert camping is the ideal method puff getting out early in the season to see what nature has to offer. Picture this: you spend the morning viewing high-meadow spring wildflowers, the afternoon basking in the sun, and the evening savoring the sunset while sipping tea to stay warm. The next morning, you wake up to a fresh blanket of snow!
If that sounds like a fun adventure to you, keep reading. This piece highlights how winter desert camping is different than other types of camping. We also tell you what to pack. (Hint: an LED headlamp and/or LED flashlight should be one of the first items on your packing list!) Finally, we suggest some prime winter desert camping locations in California and Arizona.
Winter Desert Camping 101
Many parts of the West are too snowy or rainy for comfortable winter camping. However, the drier eastern side of Western mountain ranges often offers dry, sunny winter conditions. Winter camping in these areas won't require a snow shovel, but you will need to be ready for large swings in temperature. Because dry desert air can't hold much moisture, nighttime temperatures tend to plummet quickly and significantly. If you choose to camp in the desert this winter, be sure to bring several layers of clothing so as to be comfortable in an array of conditions. You'll also want to pack an LED flashlight and/or an LED headlamp, since night is extremely dark in the desert, where no city lights glow.
Here are a few more items to bring on a winter desert camping trip:
1. A tent or camper, to provide a safe, dry sleeping area.
2. A waterproof shell layer, as well as warm medium and sweat-wicking inner layers. Avoid cotton, which holds onto moisture and sucks away body heat.
3. A sleeping bag that's rated to 0 to 20 degrees.
4. A sleeping pad, both to insulate you against the cold ground and for comfort.
5. Water, food, and other basic camping necessities.
6. A flashlight, preferably an LED flashlight or headlamp, to light nighttime activities and catch the attention of rescue workers if you find yourself in a jam. Why choose an LED flashlight over incandescent models? Because an LED flashlight or LED headlamp will deliver much more run time while using fewer batteries. LEDs are highly efficient, and they provide pure, powerful light. Many avid campers prefer an LED headlamp over an LED flashlight because headlamps leave your hands free.
Now that you know what to bring, let's scope out winter desert camping locations in the West.
Winter Desert Camping in Arizona
Arizona's camping season starts early, and the state boasts numerous gorgeous plates to pitch your tent. Just east of Flagstaff you'll find Bonito Campground, in the Coconino National Forest. Bonito provides flush toilets and large sites. Little Elden Springs campground is also nearby; it is geared toward equestrians. Another spot in the Coconino forest is the historic Chochise Stronghold campground.
Winter Camping in California
Check out Joshua Tree National Park, just 140 miles away from Los Angeles. Also stunning: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, east of San Diego. Wildflowers here begin blooming in late February - the perfect antidote for those who get the winter blues.
Wherever you camp this winter, be certain that you pack that LED flashlight or LED headlamp for reliable dependable light.