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Camping - Home Page

 

What to Expect Camp sites Gear

What to bring, what to expect, region-specific climate and geography considerations.  



Climate

Trans-Pecos, or "Far West Texas," lies entirely within the borders of the Chihuahuan Desert, though with a multitude of microclimates due to the varying altitudes. Temperatures can and do vary drastically between day and night, and between neighboring towns. Expect the diurnal swing of hot and cold, especially at the higher plateaus and mountain ranges of the region, where you can estimate a change of five degrees Fahrenheit for every 1,000 feet of elevation change. Summer visitors should plan for desert floor temperatures of 100 degrees, and still be prepared for chilly nights. Winters are considered "mild,"which here means wildly unpredictable. Basically, come prepared for anything. Year-round sun and dryness should be anticipated, even during the monsoon seasons of late summer and early fall your SPF lip balm is your best friend here. Wear a wide brimmed hat, and leave the technical fast-dry sports clothing at home- moisture evaporates fast enough as is. Bring layered clothing to adjust to fluctuating temperatures, windbreakers, and a rain shell. Boots with good ankle support are recommended for cactus-y and rocky trails.

 

Water (or lack thereof)

Heat exhaustion is an avoidable but common issue here, and if it progresses to heat stroke, rapidly becomes a life-threatening situation requiring immediate medical attention. Bring water and drink it constantly. The dry air wicks moisture so rapidly, near instantaneously, that people are deceived in to thinking they aren't sweating much at all. Even respiration in this dry air, especially in the high altitudes, is incredibly dehydrating. Water is scarce, and there are few places in the parks to resupply, so bringing your own in secure containers is a must. Heavy duty plastic containers like the Desert Patrol 6-gallon keg are the best option for keeping a supply in your vehicle, and Nalgene or stainless steel for personal containers are recommended over flimsy plastic disposables. Ultralighters, we know you love reusing that particular brand's tall thin disposable water bottle, but trust us, dropping that once on the ground out here and losing the ability to carry water is not a risk worth taking. The Rio Grande is not a particularly polluted river- the main sources of contamination are organic runoff from agriculture, but is not suitable for drinking. Backpackers need to be able to carry at least 3 gallons and only rely on water they have cached themselves ahead of time. Electrolyte solutions are important to keep potassium and sodium levels in check, we recommend low-sugar options like Nuun to replenish vital salts lost in perspiration that even mild exertion could exacerbate here.

 

Fire

 A major weather factor affecting camping is the wind. Along with the dry desert climate and abundant grassland, wildfires are a threat much of the year, and burn bans are frequent, can be long-lasting, and are taken very seriously. Fire weather conditions prohibit ground fires, such as campfires, but charcoal stoves that are raised off the ground may be allowed. At times the risk of wildfire is so high that a burn ban is enacted, and only self-contained stoves are allowed for cooking. The Char-Broil portable gas grill is a great option for grilling with propane. The Coleman Triton is a classic camping style propane fuel stove with two burners. We carry backpacking style butane fuel canister stoves, such as the Jetboil Java kit, that also comply with burn bans when used safely. The National and State park websites keep fire weather and burn ban information current for planning your visit, but be prepared for changing conditions. 

 

Wildlife

Visitors may be surprised to learn that bears are common in the mountain ranges of the Big Bend, and seen by the river as well. Hopefully they aren't also surprised by the fees penalizing unsafe food storage in campgrounds- bear-proof trash cans and boxes for storing food are provided and required to use. We carry the Pelican Elite line of coolers that are certified by the Interagency Grizzy Bear committee to be bear-proof. Javelinas, our wild pigs, have an over-exaggerated reputation for aggression, but are crafty opportunists with insecure food sources.