I barely slept my first night of backpacking in the desert. Howling winds unrelentingly assaulted my tent poles, bending them close to their breaking point. I knelt for hours with my back against the tent wall, arms pressing upward to support my only shelter. I must have dozed off eventually as the gusts subsided, because I woke up at first light and started my second day of backpacking in the desert by brushing sand off of everything I owned.
I was naive to the extremes of the desert on that first spring break trip. I was coming out of a dark, damp Pacific Northwest winter, and I had imagined drying out in sunny, pleasant weather like a lizard. I was unprepared for the wildly fluctuating spring conditions I experienced in March.
Since then I’ve spent months traveling, camping, and sleeping in arid climates like Moab and Red Rock Canyon. I now call the Mojave Desert home, living in Joshua Tree for eight months of the year. Along the way I’ve figured out how to adapt to the heat (and cold!), coexist with desert creatures, and keep most of the sand out. With a little planning and some expert tips, it’s possible to live comfortably in the stark landscapes of the desert.