Recent desert travel in the UAE

Needless to say I’ve been out in the desert a lot lately in Bumblebee, my ’96 v8 “Camel Edition” Discovery. The old roof tent died a death, the fibreglass top deteriorated after too much exposure to intense desert sun and the fabric sides were becoming brittle for the same reason, so I replaced it with a second hand soft-shell tent bought from a German acquaintance. Discovering that half the poles were missing and that one side of the tent was badly mildewed was a bit of a pity, but “buyer beware” and all that. It’s still functional.

Mleiha, UAE

This gives me welcome space over the cab for storage as well as handy shade over the back door. I still feel soft shell roof tents are the only serious choice for arduous and long term travel. I also removed the steel and aluminium rear-drawer system in the back of the Discovery. It’s cool to look at and handy for kit access, but at over 100kg empty it adds massively to the vehicle weight.

Rear drawers visible

Recent trips have included exploration of the northern deserts up in Ras Al Khaimah with my South African friend Pieter and his well-sorted Defender 110, as well as quick trips out to Sharjah just to get under open skies for a bit.

It’s been a dusty, windy spring here in the UAE, and so as an experiment I bought an #Oztrail “Mitchell Expedition” #swag (basically a large canvas hooped bivvi bag) as a more streamlined (and incidentally quicker pitching) alternative to the roof tent. It has proved excellent for desert use – quick and easy, with a neat mesh roof for stargazing and ventilation. The mattress is too thin for use on uneven or rocky ground however, and the centre pole attachment is a bit faffy and Mickey Mouse. But nevertheless it’s successful within the limits I set for it.

The Swag in use
Another pic. Note rocks instead of pegs for desert use and large areas of mesh ventilation

As I write this at the end of May, the humidity is really increasing and desert trips are starting to be more of exercises in endurance rather than anything relaxing so I may hold off now on further desert trips until September (I’m heading out of the UAE for a while at the end of June anyway). it will be a wrench though as waking up on a desert morning is beautiful. I do miss the Egyptian desert however – the chillier early mornings and lack of humidity were wonderful. Still, it’s hard to beat dawns like this…..

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