Driving in the desert: tips, pitfalls and destinations for a road trip

Discovering the desert on a road trip is fascinating, but you have to be prepared to tackle it properly.

Home Road Cars Tips Driving in the desert: tips, pitfalls and destinations for a road trip

Human beings have always been bewitched by deserts. The vast expanses of sand, or rocks, or snow, generate mixed feelings and reactions: fear, attraction, turmoil, excitement. People are certainly not indifferent to the "magnificent desolation", an expression used by Buzz Aldrin when he set foot on the Moon, but perfectly apt to describe the earth's deserts as well. Before embarking on a fascinating desert adventure on the road, however, you have to be prepared, carefully choose your itinerary, your car, the equipment you'll need, otherwise a dream trip could soon turn into a proper nightmare.

Preparing your car and luggage

The first precautions are the same taken to avoid running into trouble on any long journey, but they become vital if you're setting off for the desert: make sure your car is in good condition, checking its tyres in particular, as well as the engine and air conditioning system. You need to have a full tank, a charged phone (with a charger within easy reach) and above all, water, lots of water. Also remember that while it gets very hot in the desert during the day (sunscreen, sunglasses and a sun hat are a good idea), the temperatures are very low at night, so bringing jackets and blankets is essential. You must pack a first aid kit, a torch, a radio or transceiver (if there is no reception) and a map. Before you set off, it is best to study the route carefully.

Choosing your car and tyres

The best cars to drive in the desert have all-wheel drive, sturdy suspension and the ability to tackle the toughest terrains. Models such as the Jeep Wrangler, Nissan Patrol, Toyota Land Cruiser or Land Rover Defender are perfect for tackling the most challenging driving conditions, but above all it is important that the car is in perfect working order. When it comes to tyres, the priority is grip and reliability on the most uneven surfaces. Off-road tyres such as the SCORPION ALL TERRAIN PLUS perform in even the most severe conditions: rocks, snow, mud, grass and sand. With their aggressive tread and robust carcass, they are the ideal choice for long distance travel in safety and comfort, thanks also to their ability to expel water, mud and stones picked up from the road surface. Before setting off, it is best to check that the tyre pressure is adequate (it shouldn't be too high, to ensure a greater contact surface with the ground).

How to drive in the desert

Caution is a must. Driving too fast is dangerous, especially on dunes or slippery slopes (it would be best to avoid the latter at all costs, regardless of the car you are driving). It is best not to travel at night, always beware of the ground conditions, use four-wheel drive, and avoid locking the wheels when braking or manoeuvring. In the desert, in particular, it is essential to obey the rules and respect the environment, following the marked paths and avoiding damaging the dunes and the vegetation. Knowing how to change a tyre and carrying out the first emergency interventions on the car is something that might come in handy: in this regard, be highly aware of the heat that heats up the cars, and avoid touching hot parts to avoid being scalded. If your car breaks down, it is always best, when possible, not to leave your car and walk for help, because you risk losing your bearings and quickly becoming dehydrated: it is easier to wait for someone to come to the rescue.

Which deserts to discover

We are truly spoiled for choice by the wonderful planet Earth when it comes to road trips to the desert. From the red rock expanses of Arizona's Sonora desert to the bewitching charm of the Namibian desert, the Namib, reputed to be the oldest on the planet at 55 million years old. There is obviously the Sahara Desert, the largest of all, stage to one of the most important rallies in the world until 2007, what was once called the Paris-Dakar, and then there's the Gobi Desert, in Mongolia, crossed by the historic Beijing-Paris, the Mojave Desert in California, as well as the lunar expanses of Iceland and the Atacama Desert in South America.