Desert camping presents extremely different conditions to other camping environments. The vast open space means that winds are constant and sand blowing everywhere is equally as likely.
This creates a dilemma when mixed with high heat and lack of shade. In normal circumstances, the ideal solution would be to open your windows, doors, and vents to allow air circulation, but the sand makes this impossible.
With all of this in mind, the best tents for camping in the desert have minimal mesh to prevent sand and dust penetration, have some kind of UV ray blocking system to keep the tent as cool as possible, and are sturdy enough to withstand strong winds.
Many awesome desert tents have come and gone over the years (we’re looking at you Alien Buffalo tent!). And while searching for a tent that’s suitable for the desert may feel like, well, tumbleweed blowing in the desert (*empty*)…there are actually plenty of exceptional tents catered towards desert camping out there.
In a hurry? Here’s our top 3 picks for the best tents for desert camping.
5 best tents for desert camping
Natural cotton canvas with a HydraShield coating to keep you cool while preventing sand from penetrating the fabric
The Kodiak Flex Bow tent is one of the best tents for desert camping. It’s super durable and will last for many, many years when cared for properly. It ticks every box for the necessary features of a desert tent.
The Hydra-Shield canvas stays cooler and is less muggy during the day than synthetic tents, while still being able to withstand extreme winds and torrential downpours. This is super important in hot climates. Synthetic tents, while great at being weatherproof, often struggle to disperse heat.
Hydra-Shield canvas is not only great for high heat and strong winds, but it also acts as a filter, keeping sand out of your tent. With the tent fully zipped up, the canvas works so well that the only sand that will make it inside your tent is what you will have trekked in with you.
The interior of the Kodiak can easily be described as a home away from home. It’s beautiful, roomy, tall and comfortable. You can, depending on the size you purchase, turn it into a studio-home style set up with beds, side tables, and other home comforts.
While the tent stakes/pegs supplied with the Kodiak are pretty substantial at about a foot long, they’re still not long enough to hold your tent strong in heavy wind when pitched on sand. In non-windy situations the pegs are fine to use in sand, but if you know there’s going to be some strong winds, dedicated sand stakes are advisable (about two foot long).
The only drawback of the Kodiak, and canvas tents in general, is their weight. Canvas is very heavy. If you’re planning to pitch up and stay in one spot this won’t be a problem, but if you’re hiking through the desert and need to carry your tent, the Kodiak is way too heavy.
A tent that will last you a lifetime when cared for properly
Its weather resistant and water resistant exterior can handle windstorms, downpours, and any dustpocalypse the desert throws at you.
The Springbar Highline is more of a palace than a tent. It’s a thing of beauty to say the least. Its sage green canvas really stands out in a sea of synthetic tents and will be sure to leave the campers around you with tent envy. And that’s just what they see from the outside.
The inside is a completely stunning and liveable space, with room for beds, tables, side tables, and even rugs if you really want to feel at home.
The Springbar Highline is slightly more expensive than the Kodiak but also offers some superior quality elements to the Kodiak. One major noting point is its zippers. Yeah, it seems trivial, but the zippers on the Springbar Highline are bomb-proof. You won’t feel like they’re going to tear or fail after a couple uses, and while we’ve had no problems with the Kodiak zippers, they just don’t feel as durable.
As with the Kodiak, the only issue you may have with the Springbar Highline is its weight, but this only really matters if you need to carry it for any kind of distance.
A great budget option for desert camping
The Quechua Fresh and Black is a 2-second pop-up tent that is great for desert camping. Featuring patented fresh and black technology, the tent stays cool in high heat and blocks out 99% of daylight, allowing you to wake up when you’re refreshed and ready (not when the sun/heat tells you to).
It offers excellent ventilation with large openings on all sides of the tent, allowing a cool breeze to blow through the tent when needed, and shut when winds are high and you want to prevent sand entering. Along with its excellent heat and light properties, the tent is also completely capable of handling weather at the other end of the spectrum. Tested up to 50 km/h in winds, and up to 5mm of rain, the tent can withstand extreme weather conditions with no problems.
Despite its relatively cheap price, the Fresh and Black feels super high-quality, looks slick, literally pops up in 2 seconds, and is easy to tear down once you get the hang of it. It packs away into a flat circular bag that is both easy and light to carry with you.
The Fresh and Black is available in 2 and 3-person sizes, but is a little on the small side, so if you’re looking for comfort, they’re more like 1 and 2-person tents.
An aluminum coated rain-fly reflects sunlight – reducing heat and light inside the tent
The Ohnana Rayve 2 is primarily targeted at festival go-ers. But despite its acid-rave aesthetics, its qualities are perfect for desert camping. Made to remain dark and cool inside, it uses an aluminum-coated rain fly to reflect sunlight, keeping the tent significantly darker and up to 14 degrees celsius cooler in direct sunlight.
While it is great for keeping heat and light out, it doesn’t offer up anything significant in terms of sand prevention. Though it does only have 2 ventilation slots that can be fully closed and taped if you want to prevent as much sand as possible from entering during sandstorms.
The Ravye 2 can be purchased by itself on Amazon or with battery-powered fans directly from Ohnana’s website. The fans can be hung from a loop in the ceiling of the tent, and also double as night lights. The fans can be powered by 3 x AAA batteries or using a battery pack. The fan tends to run out during the night when powered by the batteries, so a power pack would be a better option for an all-night breeze.
The tent is currently only supplied in a 2-person version, though can be used as a 3-person tent at a push and a 1-person tent for lots of space. It’s also super fast and easy to set up, taking around 5 minutes after a couple of times of doing it.
Weighing around 7.9lbs and measuring 23.5” x 8” when packed into its carry bag, it’s lightweight and compact enough to hike to your destination with, though it’s probably still too heavy to consider using if you are backpacking.
More glamping than camping, this thing was built for the desert.
The Shiftpod 2 is pretty much the be-all and end-all of desert camping. More of a hotel room than a tent, more glamping than camping, the Shiftpod is the king of comfort. If you’re looking for the best, or plan to spend extended periods of time in the desert, the Shiftpod can’t be beaten.
The Shiftpod 2 uses seven layers of dark-out composite fabric with synthetic insulation and UV reflective layers. This fabric not only helps keep the inside cool, but blocks any harsh sunlight, allowing you to sleep better and longer.
A fantastic feature of the Shiftpod 2 is its two air conditioner ports, allowing you to hook up air conditioners to make the inside of your tent even cooler.
Due to its rigid, thick material, it is the perfect shelter against sand. When fully zipped up, the Shiftpod won’t allow any sand in, even in a severe sandstorm.
Another plus of its thick material is that it reduces outside noise and can withstand extreme winds. In fact, it’s so good in the wind that you will barely notice a strong wind. The sound reduction means you won’t hear it, and its heavy weight and thick walls means there’s no “flapping” around or feeling like you might take off.
The Shiftpod can accommodate 1-8 people and can easily fit a full sized bed and furniture such as chairs and tables.
Despite its large appearance, the Shiftpod 2 sets up in roughly 30 seconds and can fit into a small car when packed down. Though it’s small and easy to set up, it is heavy. Weighing 67lbs, it’s fairly heavy and will require a second person to help set up if you’re not very strong.
How to pitch a tent in sand
Pitching a tent in sand is no different to pitching a tent in other terrain. What is different is the stakes you need to hold the tent down.
To adequately hold a tent down in sand, you need long, wide stakes. Stakes that are about 2 feet in length are recommended to ensure your tent will stay secure in strong winds.