Packing for a Sahara desert camp can be both a thrilling and a daunting experience, especially if it’s your very first trip to the desert.
You must be prepared for extreme weather conditions such as intense heat or sandstorms, hiking the sand dunes and rocky terrain and dealing with limited access to modern conveniences.
Here are 18 travel essentials to pack for a Sahara desert camp in Morocco to ensure that you can enjoy a safe and comfortable holiday.
- Sunscreen and lip balm
- Sunglasses or goggles
- Cheche or a hat
- Appropriate clothing
- Appropriate footwear
- Small daysack
- A money belt, pouch or travel wallet
- First aid kit
- Wet wipes or hand sanitiser
- Insect spray
- A flashlight or torch
- Zip-lock waterproof bag for your camera and phone
- Biodegradable plastic bags
- Solar charger
- Travel adaptor
If you could only bring one item, it would be water. Always keep a bottle of water with you to stay well hydrated and prevent heat exhaustion or heatstroke.
Consider bringing electrolyte rehydration tablets to help replenish lost minerals and salt. Water purification tablets may also be useful if you don’t have access to filtered water.
Sunscreen and lip balm
In the desert, where the sunlight is reflected off the sand, the temperatures can rise very quickly. A good sunscreen will protect you from damaging UV rays.
The absolute minimum degree of UV protection you should use is SPF 50. It is important to always carry it with you so you can reapply it regularly during the day.
Consider buying sunscreen from a trusted brand, such as Banana Boat, Eucerin, Neutrogena or Heliocare. A hydrating lip balm with SPF is also essential to protect your lips, which are more susceptible to drying out in hot and dry weather.
Sunglasses or goggles
A good pair of sunglasses is essential for eye protection. Polarised lenses not only filter out direct sunlight but also improve visibility by reducing the glare reflected off the sand.
Choose sunglasses with larger lenses and UV400 protection, which will block almost 100% of UVA and UVB rays.
Wraparound frames offer greater coverage and protect the eyes from dust and sand, while goggles can come in handy during a sandstorm.
Cheche or a hat
A cheche (also known as a tagelmust, cheich, or litham) is a traditional headscarf worn by Berber tribes in Morocco that is made of breathable and lightweight fabric.
You can buy one at the desert camp or on your route there. It will protect your head, neck and face from the sun, sand and dust during the day.
It should also provide you with more coverage than ordinary hats. If you prefer to wear a hat, however, go for a sun-protective, broad-brimmed hat created with UPF 50+ fabric, such as those made by Solbari.
In late spring and summer, temperatures in the Sahara often swing from extremely hot during the day to significantly cooler at night. Dressing in layers will allow you to adjust your outfit according to the weather.
Your best bet will be loose-fitting and light-coloured clothing made of breathable materials, such as cotton and linen. Long-sleeved tops will protect your arms from sunburn.
If you go on a camel ride, choose long trousers to avoid discomfort since the camel’s coarse fur may irritate your skin.
Summer dresses look great in photos but are impractical for desert activities, such as sandboarding or quad biking.
A windproof jacket may be handy when the temperature drops in the evening, and thermal underwear and wool socks will keep you warm and cosy during cold desert nights.
Hiking boots and trainers with ankle support or closed-toe sandals with thick soles are excellent for walking on sand dunes or rocky terrain.
The ideal footwear should be breathable and should provide sufficient traction to prevent slipping on the sand. Popular brands for desert hiking footwear include Salomon, Merrell, Lowa and my personal favourite, Palladium.
A small daysack is an excellent storage solution for your essentials, which includes sun protection products, sunglasses and a bottle of water.
It is lightweight and portable, meaning you can keep everything you need during the day within easy reach. It’s also practical to carry on a quad bike or camel ride.
A money belt, pouch or travel wallet
It’s always best to keep your valuables secure and out of sight. With a money belt, pouch or travel wallet, you can discreetly store cash, cards, documents and other valuables while you’re out exploring the desert.
First aid kit
When it comes to preparing for emergencies, having a first aid kit is an absolute must in the desert. You can buy a pre-made kit or make your own.
Some essential items to include in your kit – apart from your prescription medications – are topical antiseptics, sterile gauze dressings and plasters, electrolyte rehydration tablets, water purification tablets and pain relievers.
Consider also bringing motion-sickness pills with you. As much fun as it is to travel to the desert, bumpy roads can easily make you sick or dizzy.
Wet wipes or hand sanitiser
On-the-go cleansers like wet wipes or hand sanitisers can be extremely handy in the desert when you have no access to water and can’t easily wash your hands.
The desert is home to a variety of insects, which includes dung beetles, ants and flies. Insect-repellent sprays are essential to keeping them at bay.
Some luxury desert camps may provide all the necessary toiletries for you, while others may require you to bring your own.
One product that’s especially handy in the desert is dry shampoo. Traditional shampoo is not the best option if you can’t shower, don’t want to wash your hair in a bucket or don’t have a hair dryer.
A flashlight or torch
A flashlight or torch is indispensable when exploring the desert at night. Although smartphone flashlight applications may suffice, a flashlight is a more reliable option.
Zip-lock waterproof bag for your camera and phone
Zip-lock waterproof bags are great for protecting your camera gear and phone from sand and dust. Sand can cause a lot of damage to your electronic devices, especially your camera (even if it’s weather sealed).
The fine particles of sand are very difficult to remove, so always keep your camera in a zip-lock bag when you’re not using it.
Biodegradable plastic bags
Morocco recently banned the use of plastic bags to protect the environment and reduce the amount of waste. It is thus recommended to bring along some eco-friendly and biodegradable plastic bags for your trash.
Lightweight and portable solar chargers are useful for quickly charging your phone and battery packs in the desert.
The desert does not have any cash points. Bring some cash with you for tipping or if you need to pay for any desert activities, such as quad biking or camel rides.
Be sure to pack the appropriate travel plug adapter that fits the local sockets. In Morocco, there are two plug types: types C and E.
Type C plugs have two round pins, while type E plugs have two round pins with an additional grounding pin. Ideally, you will need to bring a universal travel adaptor that fits both plug types.
I hope you found this list of what to pack for a desert camp in the Sahara helpful.
If you’ve been to the desert before and have more tips and recommendations that you think would be helpful for fellow travellers, feel free to share them in the comments below.
You may also check out this article by travel writer Stacey Wittig for more general tips and advice on travelling to Morocco.