DUBAI: As the temperature drops and the nights get longer, the camping season is in full swing in the UAE. When it comes to the experience, few can beat the Emiratis in ensuring it’s a perfect getaway. Gulf News spoke to a few experts to get a lowdown on what needs to be done to make camping an unforgettable experience.
Prepping for the trip
Prior to going on a camping trip, whether it’s an overnight stay or for a couple of hours, campers should make adequate preparations. Ali Al Shammari, founder of the renowned UAE Rescue Group that volunteers road assistance to people who get stuck in the desert and other remote areas, says: “People should ensure that their vehicles are well equipped. Your car needs to always have a full tank, even for a short trip. For sandy areas, campers should reduce the tyre pressure of their cars. For longer trips, there should carry enough food and water.”
He said many campers who go on short trips forget to bring chargers and power banks, but these are essential in case of an emergency. “The more daring campers who venture into areas with low or bad signal, must ensure that multiple people are aware of their general location and inform them about an expected arrival date as well.”
These precautions from an expert in rescue cases are great tips to plan a hassle-free camping journey.
Fire safety is crucial
When going out for a camping trip, setting up a fire for barbequing or warming up is critical. Campers would want to enjoy a long-lasting fire that does not require constant work. However, safety measures need to be taken into account around fires to avoid accidents.
Colonel Mualla Ahmed Al Muallah, Director of Operations at the General Directorate of Civil Defence in Sharjah, says fire safety is the first and most crucial tip at a campsite. “Make sure you bring fire extinguishers and first aid kits. Any lights and heaters inside a tent should not be left unattended and should be placed far away from the tent fabric,” Al Muallah recommends.
He says when building a fire, campers should take into consideration the direction of the wind and keep their tents at a safe distance from the open flames. Most campers enjoy taking the whole family on their trips and young children are fascinated by open fires. But they should always be supervised around fires, he cautions.
Location, location, location
Selecting the perfect area to suit campers’ needs is an integral part of a successful camping trip. Ahud Alkhaldi, an Emirati travel blogger, believes that each location in the UAE is tailored for a different experience.
“The main purpose of camping is that people want to escape the city and go somewhere quiet. The UAE encompasses a wide variety of locations. We have mountainous areas, desert expanses and even beaches where people can camp,” Ahud says.
The reason for camping also determines the camp site. If for instance stargazing is the main motive for camping, Ahud says campers should look at the ‘Light Pollution Map’ and find an ideal spot far from the light areas. “Another specification that campers look for is weather, and for those people I’d recommend going into deeper areas in the desert that are farthest from the cities. The lowest temperatures are recorded in these areas.
For a more secluded camping experience, Ahud recommends Al Ruwais, Liwa and Al Ain.
Ahud says location choices depend on the camper’s own expertise. While advanced campers can venture into remote locations with a small group of friends, beginners are better off going with a desert tour group.
“As a solo traveller, I enjoy socialising with others. That’s why I recommend desert tour groups for some campers who might like the cultural experience of meeting a diverse group of people and picking up many camping skills along the way,” Ahud says.
For a hassle-free trip, campers should carry the correct equipment. Bader Mohammed Sa’ab, founder of Bader Al Emarat, a company that deals with camping equipment in the UAE, encourages campers to pay more attention to getting the appropriate gear, right tents, best sleeping equipment, ice boxes and food bags and safety equipment.
“When it comes to choosing a tent, some can be set up quickly and packed easily. These are more suited for adventurous travelers. For those who camp at one location for longer periods, a sturdy tent that takes longer to set up is recommended,” Sa’ab says.
Another aspect to consider is the type of camping bags to be carried. Sa’ab recommends that if campers are spending an afternoon out, they should take lighter bags that fit tea and coffee pots. “For longer trips with a lot of cooking, you can find camping bags with many compartments to pack ingredients and cooking equipment. Some campers are naturally heavy packers, who take bikes and large items, and would not mind bigger bags,” Sa’ab adds.
His main tip is that beginner campers should compile a list of all their requirements, “I hear many stories of people who pack up and travel far to their campsite, then realise they didn’t pack a lighter to start a fire. Or they forgot to get a ball hook in case they get stuck in the sand.”
Food and BBQ
The most exciting part of camping is the interactive cooking experience over a barbeque or open fire. Bader Albuaijan, 28, founder and managing director of BBQ Box, says the key to a great camping meal is packing all necessary ingredients safely. “Handling food items and maintaining the best temperature until they reach the campsite is important. It is also recommended to follow a checklist or choose ready-to-use food kits that include all that is essential,” he says.
“Using separate containers really helps to avoid food wastage as these containers carry the exact required portioning of needed ingredients to make say, a perfect burger. This is especially true at a camping site where you don’t have the luxury of a proper kitchen.” Having vegetables previously sliced, or meats previously seasoned can also make the cooking experience at the campsite faster, easier and more enjoyable.