March 5, 2024
Lifestyle GCC UAE

20 tips for responsible camping in the UAE

Best weather camping: December 22, 2023 – March 20, 2024

Whether for the first time or one of many, camping in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) offers a unique and exhilarating experience.

With its diverse landscapes, from the towering dunes of Liwa in Abu Dhabi to the rugged mountains and wadis of Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah, the UAE provides outdoor enthusiasts with a perfect backdrop for an unforgettable camping adventure.

In addition, the 2023-2024 outdoor camping season has begun in the UAE, with the winter season running from December 22, 2023, until March 20, 2024.

Camping generally means different things to different people, depending on one’s culture, upbringing, age, fitness level, interests, etc.

While some prefer wild camping (off the grid, with no restrooms, etc.), others prefer camping with nearby toilets.

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The UAE camping season is on! Image: Arnold Pinto

Depending on one’s preference, there are adequate camping sites nationwide. Commercial camping ground operators across the UAE also offer camping facilities with some creature comforts. So, decide what kind of camping experience you want and plan accordingly.

To ensure a safe and enjoyable camping trip this winter season in the UAE, here are 20 essential tips worth bearing in mind:

1. Thoroughly research camping area: Before leaving home for a camping location – either in dunes or wadis – check if the area you intend camping in permits camping or if you need municipality permits for the specific area you plan to camp in. The UAE has regulations to protect its delicate desert terrain ecosystems, and it is essential to adhere to them. Remember that specific beaches, dunes, and locations near private property do not permit camping activity, and are usually signposted as such.

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Do not camp near private property, like this desert orchard. Image: Arnold Pinto

2. Prepare for the weather: The UAE experiences extreme temperatures, so plan your camping trip during the cooler months, typically from November to March. This will ensure a more comfortable and enjoyable experience. Also, depending on your camping location (altitude, beach, dunes or mountains), especially during the winter months, the night temperature can range from 10 to 22 degrees Celsius, so dress accordingly. Be ready for a light overnight shower too!

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Too hot or too cold? Check the weather forecast, before setting out to camp. Image: Arnold Pinto
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Take local weather conditions into account, when planning a camping trip. Image: Arnold Pinto

3. Crucial hydration: Staying hydrated is crucial in the desert climate. Carry plenty of water, at least one gallon per person daily, and your favourite drinks. Keep all liquids cool in an ice box with adequate ice.

4. Sun protection: Protect yourself from the intense sun by wearing sunscreen, sunglasses, and a wide-brimmed hat. Consider setting up your tent and sitting in shaded areas when possible.

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Set up your tent under shade, whenever possible. Image: Arnold Pinto

5. Proper clothing: Dress in lightweight, breathable fabrics that cover your skin to protect against the sun. In the evening, temperatures can drop, so pack a jacket or layers. Wear adequate footwear, too. Leave the fancy trainers for Dubai Mall! Wear sturdy shoes with good ankle support if you plan to explore dunes or wadis while camping.

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Choose the right footwear for your camping trip. Image: Arnold Pinto

6. Campfire and BBQ protocol: Check if campfires are allowed in your camping area. In general, it is illegal to light a BBQ or campfire directly on the ground in the UAE as doing so damages the fragile desert ecology, including the native desert creatures. So, only light a BBQ or bonfire on a raised metal pit well off the ground. Municipality authorities in the various emirates constantly patrol and impose hefty fines in this regard. Keep the fire small and manageable, and never leave it unattended. Also, take all the used coal and ashes with you and dispose of them responsibly, away from the camping location. Do not throw the spent coals and ashes on the ground. Buy firewood from the city for your campfire and BBQ. Do not ever break off branches from seemingly dead desert shrubs and trees to use for your fire. Desert flora may appear dead, but they are not! Protect nature in this context.

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Only light a campfire or BBQ on a metal pit off the desert sand or wadi ground. Images: Arnold Pinto
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Do not break off tree branches, twigs, etc., to make a campfire. Image: Arnold Pinto

7. Respect wildlife: The UAE has unique flora and fauna. Respect the local wildlife and observe from a distance by day or night. Do not disturb or unnecessarily kill the local insects, reptiles or other desert creatures you come across. These native desert creatures, even scorpions or snakes, will not attack humans unless deliberately provoked. Also, be cautious when walking in dunes or wadis as you may encounter native creatures that live there. Exercise caution; you are not strolling through a mall but in the creatures’ natural habitat!

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Do not disturb or unnecessarily kill desert creatures you come across. Images: Arnold Pinto

8. Navigation tools: Familiarise yourself well with the area you intend camping in. If you can, use a GPS device. Do not always rely on Google Maps or Waze to reach a target camping location, as mobile phone coverage may be limited in remote areas, especially in wadis. It is also best to go camping with someone familiar with driving to the camping location – the best way to get there.

9. First aid pit: Pack a well-equipped kit with essentials like bandages, antiseptic wipes, pain relievers, and personal medications.

10. Campsite etiquette: Leave no trace of your camping activity apart from footprints. Pack out all your trash, including burnout coals and ashes from a campfire or BBQ and leave the campsite as you found it. Do avoid the practice of cairns – piling pebbles or stones one on top of each other as a balancing act – just because you like doing so, for posting to Insta! This is necessary as native desert creatures like beetles rely on pebbles or stones undisturbed by humans for permanent protection from the hot sun and other creatures. Be considerate and leave the natural world for future outdoor enthusiasts in the same condition that you found it in – without cairns! Follow the “Leave No Trace” principles to minimise your environmental impact.

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Resist the cairns urge! Image: Arnold Pinto

11. Dune bashing safety: If you plan to engage in dune bashing or off-roading activities, ensure your vehicle is adequately equipped and always follows safety guidelines. Be aware of the local regulations.

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Ensure you have a capable vehicle if combining off-roading with camping activity. Image: Arnold Pinto

12. Emergency contacts: Keep a list of emergency contacts and the location of the nearest medical facilities to the area you will camp in. In case of an emergency, it is crucial to have this information readily available.

13. Insect repellent: In certain areas, especially during midday and evening, insects can be a nuisance. Pack a reliable insect repellent to keep bugs at bay. Flies can be a nuisance, especially near camel farms. A rechargeable ‘mosquito bat’ is also advisable to help fend off flies and mosquitoes.

14. Proper camping gear: Invest in quality camping gear suitable for the UAE climate. This includes a sturdy tent, camping chairs, lights, sleeping bag, stove, table, etc. Test all the camping gear before leaving home as you do not want to reach your campsite only to find that the zip of a new tent does not open fully, etc. When buying a new tent in a supermarket or sports store, do not go simply by ‘6-person’, ‘2-person’, etc., or rely on the salesperson to recommend a tent. This is because tents are primarily designed for people of certain regions, such as Asia. So, a ‘6-person’ tent may be suitable for people of a particular global region, but not yours. If possible, always check out a fully open tent to confirm if you and your fellow campers can sleep comfortably in it. Nothing ruins a camping trip more than spending a sleepless night due to buying a small tent!

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Check a tent carefully, before buying, to ensure it will be comfortable to sleep in. Image: Arnold Pinto

15. Check vehicle condition: If you are travelling by a 4×4 or a sedan car, ensure it is in good condition. Carry essential tools, a spare tyre, and sufficient fuel. Ensure you can safely reach your target camping location with your type of vehicle.

16. Star gazing: The UAE offers stunning night skies. Take advantage of the clear nights by bringing binoculars or a telescope to enjoy the breathtaking celestial views. Al Quaa (Milky Way spot) in Abu Dhabi offers optimum night skies for star gazing.

17. Camping lights: Illuminate your campsite with LED lights or lanterns. Remember to charge the lights at home 24 hours before leaving for your camping adventure.

18. Camp cooking: Plan simple and delicious meals that are easy to cook in a camp setting. Pack non-perishable food items and a portable stove.

19. Cultural sensitivity: Respect local customs and traditions. Be mindful of prayer times and avoid playing loud music, shouting, etc., when camping near others. Also, do not infringe on other campers’ physical space; keep your kids and pets in check.

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Observe local laws and regulations. Image: Arnold Pinto

20. Plan for waste disposal: Pack reusable containers for food and bring trash bags for waste disposal. Properly dispose of waste in designated bins or take it with you.

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Take all trash with you, after camping. Image: Arnold Pinto
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Ensure that trash does not litter the campsite during and after camping. Image: Arnold Pinto

By following these 20 essential camping tips, you can ensure a safe, enjoyable, and environmentally conscious camping experience in the UAE. Remember to respect the environment, local regulations, and fellow campers, and you will create lasting memories of your camping expedition.

Featured image: The camping season is on, across the UAE. Image: Arnold Pinto

Last Updated on 4 days by Arnold Pinto

    Arnold Pinto

    Arnold Pinto

    Arnold Pinto is an award-winning journalist with wide-ranging Middle East and Asia experience in the tech, space, aerospace, aviation, defence, luxury watchmaking, business, fashion, and automotive verticals. He is passionate about conserving endangered native wildlife globally and protecting the world’s oceans from plastic pollution, overfishing, and climate change. Arnold enjoys 4x4 off-roading, camping and exploring global destinations off the beaten track.
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