Families such as these camping near Lehbab, Dubai, will have to take note of new municipal guidelines on camping. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Dubai: The weather is perfect this time of year for getting away from the bustling city life and head to a serene tranquil life surrounded by nature — be it in the desert or near the wadis.

Before going on a camping trip for a weekend getaway with family and friends, it is important to make a check list of all the essentials you may need, as well as ensuring that all the camping equipment meets safety standards. But the to-do-list does not stop there and once you hit base, it is vital to take all the necessary safety precautions to ensure you have a safe camping trip at one of the many popular sites across the country, including Shwaib, Wadi Bih, Wadi Sana, Musandam and Khasab.

There are two types of camping trips in the UAE — long term and overnight. According to officials from Dubai Municipality, long term camping is regulated and requires a permit to do so, while outdoor enthusiasts may camp at any place that takes their fancy.

“Hunting for animals in the wildlife is not allowed and it is a criminal offence to do so. It is also prohibited to remove sand and big trees, but if residents want to take small plants then there is no problem with that,” explained Jaber Al Ali, head of the building inspection department at Dubai Municipality.

“Campers should always remember not to litter and to keep their rubbish with them until it can be disposed of in a designated area, so that the environment is not affected and remains clean,” he added.

Weekend camping

According to the Public Health and Safety Department at Dubai Municipality, a number of guidelines concerning camping outdoors are in place to ensure that campers are safe outdoors.

Guidelines to ensure a safe camping experience give advice on how tents should be set up in safe areas, and how tents and generators are used in a safe manner, and states how to use fires and grills safely.

Sites for setting up the tents:

The site should not be in low areas such as stream valleys, or next to a cliff, and the tent site should also not be set up at the base of a cliff.

Tents should be set up far away from cooking stations or where wood is burned, and be a safe distance from fuel depots, fuel storage tanks, generators and electricity poles.

The guidelines also state that tents should be in high areas far enough from water tide levels.

Campers are also advised to avoid mud floors which may be infested with scorpions, ants and other insects. Use flat lands that are free of stones and potholes to avoid creating a moist environment in the tent. The guidelines further stress avoiding shallow or semi-marsh areas in which water may appear as a result of a rise in sea-level.

Safety and health guidance related to tent specifications:

Tents should be made from non-flammable and non-absorbent materials that are equipped with the essential ventilation holes to allow proper ventilation.

Tents must be set up tightly so as not to fall or fly away in the event of strong winds, and ropes must be kept in a length that is safe and will not cause people to trip and fall.

Safety and health requirements for generators:

The person responsible for operating the electric generator should have it periodically maintained and use the appropriate adapters, and place the generator properly to avoid leakage of exhaust gases into the tent as a result of the direction of the wind.

If children are present, a safe barrier should be set up to prevent their exposure to the generator and the fuel.

Health and safety instructions relating to fire, grilling, and heating operations:

Firewood must be stored away from the tent by a minimum of 15 feet in normal situations.

The burner stove must be in a safe location compared to the tent; so that the direction of the wind is towards the fireplace and not the tent, and the burner should be surrounded by a barrier, such as sand or stone.

The municipal guidelines also state that burning coal should not be left unattended at night as it can cause a fire hazard.

Other safety instructions:

Use a suitable four-wheel-drive car for easy movement and carry all the required maintenance tools to aid you in the event of any damage to the tyres. Above all, learn how to change a tyre before heading out on a camping trip.

Do not drive into valleys when it is raining and always pay attention to the road.

Avoid throwing waste in unhealthy and unsafe ways as it attracts insects and creates an unhealthy environment.

Avoid pouring water in small burrows, which can push scorpions out and other harmful insects, and take precaution when lifting rocks as you do not know what kind of harmful animals or insects may be hidden nearby.

Long-term camping:

Long-term camping sites in Dubai are designated to the areas of Wadi Al Amerdi, Wadi Al Shabak, Al Warqa, and Al Khawaneej 2. According to the building inspection department at the municipality, permits are required to set up long-term camping sites, which are valid until April 2013.

Only Emiratis can apply for the permits, and camp owners are required to pay a Dh2,000 deposit and a fee of 22 fils a week for each square metre of campsite. The permits are eligible to Dubai citizens, who are required to present their car registration, passport and Emirates ID car to be registered.

The maximum size of a winter camp is limited to a maximum of 300 square metres, and once the camp is registered, a wooden plaque in A3 size is placed outside it. “There are 587 recreational camps in the designated camping sites and we expect it to increase to 600 this month,” said Jaber Al Ali, head of building inspection department at Dubai Municipality.

“To protect campers, the Roads and Transport Authority, Civil Defence, police and the Emergency and Rescue Department have set up camps and rolled out patrols to inspect the camping areas 24 hours a day,” he added.