OUR TOP 3 PICKS FOR THE BEST DESERT CAMPING TENTS
Boasting stunning rock formations, an abundance of succulents, and truly magnificent nighttime skies, desert camping is an experience you certainly won’t forget.
In a harsh desert environment, however, you must come prepared with the right gear to keep yourself cool, comfortable, and safe while you’re out on your adventures.
One of the most important pieces of gear you can bring on any desert camping trip is a tent. However, finding the best shelter for your outing isn’t as easy as it may seem.
To help you determine the best tent for your next camping trip to the desert, we’ve reviewed 10 of the best tents for desert camping in 2021. Plus, we offer some helpful tips for adventuring in these amazing landscapes.
Best Tents for Desert Tent Camping Review
Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 2
Our top choice in this review, the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 2, is a solid choice for any backcountry desert camping trip. The Copper Spur HV UL 2 is lightweight and packable, which makes it a nice option for more remote desert adventures.
What really sets this tent apart, however, is its great selection of desert-friendly features.
In particular, the Copper Spur’s bathtub-style floor with fabric panels that cover the bottom half of each wall helps prevent sand from blowing into your tent.
Moreover, the shelter’s awning-style vestibules provide you with plenty of shade from the intense desert sun for ample outdoor living space on your adventures.
Quechua 2 Second Tent
Budget-friendly yet oh-so-functional, the Quechua 2 Second Tent is a revolutionary instant camping shelter that’s perfect for the desert environment.
Thanks to the tent’s pop-up design, you can set it up in just a few seconds, allowing you to maximize your free time while in camp.
The 2 Second Tent is also durable enough to withstand the heavy winds that sometimes sweep through the desert. This means that you’ll have a reliable shelter in the backcountry.
When it comes to protecting you from the heat, this tent doesn’t disappoint. It features Quechua’s proprietary heat-resistant Fresh & Black fabric technology to block out up to 99% of sunlight and heat for a cooler, more relaxing camping experience.
Black Diamond First Light 3
A newly revamped single-walled tent, the Black Diamond First Light 3 is a do-anything shelter for backpacking and desert camping.
Decidedly compact, the First Light 3 is made from a single layer of the company’s NanoShield fabric, which is durable, waterproof, and highly breathable.
This single-wall fabric is also beneficial for desert campers because it makes it nearly impossible for sand to accumulate in your tent.
The tent even has a set of integrated windows and vents to provide increased airflow on stifling hot desert days. As far as durability goes, the First Light 3 is no slouch thanks to its 2 extra-tough DAC Featherlite poles, which are crafted to withstand high winds. What more could you ask for?
Kodiak Canvas Flex-Bow Deluxe 8
A modern take on a more traditional desert tent design, the Kodiak Canvas Flex-Bow Deluxe 8 is a versatile shelter for frequent adventures.
The tent is made with Hydra-Shield 100% cotton duck canvas, which is extra durable, even in windy conditions.
Additionally, canvas is a particularly great fabric for desert camping tents because it’s capable of blocking out the sun’s heat to create a cooler living space while you’re out and about.
With a 6’1” (185cm) tall ceiling height and space for up to 8 campers, the Flex-Bow Deluxe 8 is a comfortable and highly livable abode. It also comes with a large front awning for shade on sunny days as well as 4 large windows for increased ventilation.
Gazelle T4 Pop Up Camping Hub
Perhaps the most unique offering in our line-up, the Gazelle T4 Pop Up Camping Hub is a home away from home while you’re in the desert.
As the name suggests, the T4 Pop Up Camping Hub features an instant pitch system to save you time on set up when you arrive in camp. It has a large open floor plan with a 6’6” (198cm) ceiling height, which can comfortably accommodate up to 4 campers and their gear.
In addition to being sturdy in the wind, this tent is built with UPF 50+ fabrics to help protect you from the sun’s harsh rays. The floor of the T4 Pop Up Camping Hub is also completely removable, allowing you to quickly shake out any sand or dust that you might have tracked inside at night.
Nemo Dragonfly 2
If desert backpacking trips are more your style, the Nemo Dragonfly 2 might be what you’re looking for.
Striking a balance between ruggedness and weight savings, the Dragonfly 2 is made from some of the most durable materials on the market, such as DAC Featherlite poles, which are crafted to hold up well in high winds.
However, we like this tent particularly for desert camping because of the design of its inner body.
Nemo built the Dragonfly with bathtub-style floors, as well as lightweight fabric panels on the lower half of each wall to prevent sand from accumulating inside. At the same time, the tent has a full mesh canopy overhead, which is perfect for stargazing on clear nights in the desert.
White Duck Outdoors Premium Luxury Avalon Canvas Bell Tent
When comfort is king, the White Duck Outdoors Premium Luxury Avalon Canvas Bell Tent is hard to beat for use on large group or family desert camping trips.
Featuring a full-cotton canvas construction, this tent is UV-resistant and highly breathable, which makes it a solid selection for desert outings. The Luxury Avalon Canvas Bell Tent also boasts double-stitched seams throughout for added durability in windy environments.
Though the tent’s cotton canvas fabric is naturally breathable, White Duck Outdoors designed this shelter with mesh windows on each wall, as well as vents on the roof.
These windows and vents allow you to control the temperature on the inside of the tent so that you can maximize airflow on hot days in the desert.
MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2
An absolute classic of a backpacking tent, the MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2 is an all-in-one solution for camping in desert, mountain, and forested environments.
Although the Hubba Hubba NX 2’s waterproofing abilities are usually the main point of discussion with this tent, its performance in the desert is particularly impressive.
The tent’s desert functionality is a result of its intelligent inner body construction, which integrates a bathtub-style floor with fabric panels around the canopy to prevent sand from invading your sleeping area.
Moreover, the Hubba Hubba’s use of Easton Syclone poles and its half-dome construction make it exceptionally strong in the wind. If that weren’t enough, the tent’s lightly colored rainfly also helps to keep interior temperatures at a minimum, even during the midday heat.
The North Face Stormbreak 2
The North Face Stormbreak 2 is a reliable and affordable tent for cost-conscious desert campers. It has a spacious interior with a surprisingly tall center height for maximum comfort on the trail.
At the same time, the Stormbreak 2 has fabric paneling throughout the lower half of each wall to block the wind and prevent sand from invading your personal space.
For increased breathability, The North Face also designed this shelter with lots of mesh around the upper walls and canopy ceiling.
When it comes to keeping you cool in the heat, the Stormbreak 2 leaves no stone unturned. It has an adjustable vestibule system that can be configured into awnings to provide you with extra shade on hot desert days.
Black Diamond HiLight 3
A burly single-wall shelter solution for desert camping, the Black Diamond HiLight 3 is a roomy abode for any backpacking adventure.
It features a single wall of high-tenacity 30D polyester fabric that can block out blowing sand and withstand heavy winds.
At the same time, the HiLight 3 is built with rugged aluminum poles that quickly clip into place to provide you with a reliable shelter in windy conditions.
What sets the HiLight 3 apart from the competition, however, is its breathability. This tent has Black Diamond’s patented Flow Manifold ventilation system, which enables superior interior airflow, even on hot days in the desert.
How to Camp in the Desert
Organizing a desert camping trip may seem like an insurmountable challenge, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are some important things to keep in mind while planning your desert getaway:
Know Your Water Source. Deserts are inherently arid places, so water isn’t as abundant as it may be in the mountains. If you’re planning on car camping, you may have water at your campground.
However, backpackers sometimes need to drop off water caches along their routes, so you’ll want to do your research before you leave home.
Pick Your Campsite Wisely. You might think of the desert as a hot and arid place, but it can get quite windy and stormy in the desert, particularly during the spring and fall. Flash floods are dangerous yet frequent occurrences in the desert, so avoid camping in drainages in the desert, no matter how dry they look.
Perfect Your Backcountry Navigation Skills. The desert can be a difficult place to navigate, particularly if you start wandering off-trail. In these situations, knowing basic map and compass navigation skills is essential to making it back to your campsite at the end of the day.
Have a Food Storage Plan. Hot weather and perishable foods don’t mix so, before you head to the desert, you must know how to keep food cold while camping in hot weather. Plan to bring a quality cooler or a portable fridge, or consider skipping the perishable food altogether.
Desert Camping Safety Tips
Desert camping can be a fun and rewarding experience. However, it can also be dangerous if you don’t come prepared with the right gear.
Here are some key safety tips to remember while you’re out and about in the desert.
Pack More Water Than You Think. In the desert, there’s no such thing as too much water. At a minimum, ration at least 1 gallon (3.7L) of water per person per day of camping. However, the more water you can bring, the better!
Create Shade With Awnings & Tarps. Shade can be hard to come by in the desert, so plan to make your own by pitching tarps or setting up the awnings on your tent. During the middle of the day, these shaded areas may be the only safe place to sit and relax away from the heat.
Avoid Afternoon Activities. Deserts can be exceptionally hot during the middle of the day. In fact, temperatures up to 120ºF (48ºC) or higher are possible in some of the world’s deserts.
Needless to say, temperatures this hot are not ideal from a human perspective, so it’s best to avoid hiking or engaging in any other physical activity during the hottest parts of the day. If you want to hike while in the desert, plan to get up early for a sunrise hike or wait until the temperatures start to cool in the late afternoon.
Don’t Forget the Sunscreen. It can be difficult, if not impossible, to avoid being in the sun while you’re in the desert, so you must come prepared with enough sunscreen to protect yourself from the sun’s damaging rays.
FAQs About Desert Camping
Here are our answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about desert camping:
Is it safe to camp in the desert?
It is safe to camp in the desert so long as you’re prepared with the right skills and equipment to handle the conditions.
This means packing the appropriate tent and clothing, planning your activities to avoid hiking in the middle of the day, and drinking plenty of water to prevent dehydration or heat stroke.
What should I wear when camping in the desert?
When camping in the desert, you need to come prepared with lightweight, highly breathable clothing with integrated UPF sun protection to help you stay cool and comfortable in the heat.
What is a Shiftpod?
A Shiftpod is a type of tent that’s designed to be used in hot desert environments. These tents are made from a high-tech reflective material that allows you to stay cool and comfortable while on a car camping trip in the desert heat.
Any desert camping trip starts with a quality tent. Among these 10 models, it’s clear that 2 stood out above the rest.
The Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 2 wins our best choice award because it combines weight savings, breathability, sand protection, and durability into one compact package.
Meanwhile, the Quechua 2 Second Tent is a sure bet for campers on a budget thanks to its affordability, ease of set-up, and excellent protection from the desert heat.
Ultimately, what’s important is that you get the right tent for your desert camping needs so that you can make the most of your time in the great outdoors.
About the author
Gaby is a professional outdoor educator, guide, and wilderness medicine instructor. She holds a master's degree in outdoor education and spends most of her time hanging out with penguins and polar bears in the polar region. When she's not outdoors, you can find her traveling, reading Nietzsche, and drinking copious double espressos.