A is for adventure. It’s so easy to get stuck into the same old Dubai routine, but forget mall trawling or another day at the pool. With the cooler weather on its way, there’s so much right here on our doorstep that’s just waiting to be explored. From miles of untouched coastline, with pristine beaches or rockpools for paddling, to wadis teaming with local wildlife, or endless dunes undulating towards the horizon – sounds like a plan to us!
B is for BBQ. For a fuss-free barbie (and no messy clean ups after dinner) try the Weber Q100, a portable and oh-so-simple gas-powered grill. Get those sausages sizzling! Available from the Dubai Garden Centre, Dhs989.
C is for cot. If you’re travelling with littlies, consider investing in a pop up travel bassinet. Kushies’ Collapsible UV Bed folds down to the size of a small suitcase, and can be used up to the age of one. Plus the UV-protected fabric means it’s safe for naps on the beach or in the garden too. Dhs360 from Just Kidding.
D is for Dreamland Aqua Park at Umm al-Quwain, where they’ve taken all the hard work out of organising a camping trip. For Dhs385 per adult (for one night/two days), and Dhs300 per child (aged two to nine), they’ve sorted everything you’ll need, including your tent and top quality camping gear, not to mention breakfast, lunch, a bbq dinner, plus two days and one night’s access to all the rides at the water park. And if sleeping under canvas really isn’t your thing, you can always upgrade to a comfy chalet, priced at Dhs450 for adults and Dhs350 for kids. Chalets available all year round, tents available from November 1.
E is for essential equipment. If you are camping for the first time as a family, you’ll need to stock up on kit. All the major hypermarkets, such as Carrefour, stock a range of affordable basics. Try Intersport for a great selection of kids’ gear (like this shade tent, Dhs149, right), while Adventure HQ has a definitive range of top quality kit for all ages (like sleeping bags and tents, left and above), plus outdoors experts on hand to answer all your questions, no matter how daft.
F is for first aid. Check out our expert tips for the perfect at-home first aid kit on page 56. You’ll also need to add some kid friendly insect repellent and calamine lotion for soothing any bites, stings and sunburn.
G is for GPS. For all of us who aren’t blessed with Bear Grylls’ map-reading skills, thank goodness for GPS (try Radioshack, Sharaf DG or PlugIns for the best selection). If you’re in need of some inspiration, on where to go, visit www.outdooruae.com or www.offroaduae.com, which both list coordinates for great camping spots. And, if you’re unfortunate enough to lose your way or break down, it’s the first thing the rescue service will ask so they can make a speedy recovery.
H is for hydration, always essential in the sunshine, especially if they’re running around exploring. A hardwearing aluminium flask (they stock them in M&S and most larger supermarkets), should last them for years. Or invest in a bottle with a special frozen core to keep drinks cool and refreshing. Try Cool Gear bottles, Dhs60, which are stocked in Baby Shop.
I is for infants. It IS possible to go camping with a baby in tow – thanks to some of the time-saving gadgets now available here in Dubai. If you’re bottle feeding, a cold water sterilizer will keep bottles clean and safe to use – try the Suavinex container, Dhs160 from Just Kidding. Avent’s Via range, left, includes pre-sterilized cups that can be adapted for bottle feeding, or used for food storage. And to ensure feeds are at the perfect temperature, try iiamo’s ingenious self warming bottles, from Dhs425 at Baby Bling, which use a special cartridge to heat to the recommended 37-degrees in less than four minutes.
J is for jump leads and a car checklist. Always check your engine oil, brake fluid, water level and radiator before you set off. There’s nothing like breaking down in the middle of nowhere to put a dampener on a family camping expedition!
K is for kit for kids. Intersport has some fun but practical kids’ kit, such as this policeman folding chair, Dhs65. Or for the full shebang, Carrefour do sets that include a sleeping bag, foam mat, wheeled bag, folding chair, telescope and torch, all for a bargainous Dhs59.
L is for ‘Leave no Trace’, the ethic behind responsible travel. With the motto ‘Take nothing but pictures. Leave nothing but footprints’, in practice it’s very simple to follow: make sure you leave the site the same as you found it, that means reducing the impact on the surrounding environment and, of course, leaving behind no litter.
M is for mosquitoes, because itchy bug bites can ruin their fun! Keep the beasties at bay with citronella candles, and child-friendly insect repellents. For an all-natural option, try Anes’s Anti-Midge insect repellent, with lemon eucalyptus, Dhs32.25 at the Organic Foods & Cafe supermarket.
N is for night-lights. Sleeping under the stars can be a lot of fun, but for those that are scared of the dark, try a rechargeable night-light. This one from Ikea charges from the mains at home like a mobile phone, and will softly glow for up to five hours. Dhs65, Ikea (and don’t forget a torch too for night-time toilet trips).
O is for online. For first time campers, take the stress out of shopping for supplies by going online. Try www.gulfcamping.com for everything from camping stoves to tents, or go to www.blingmytruck.com, which has a comprehensive range of SERIOUS equipment, including some pricey but practical tents and awnings that attach direct to a 4x4.
P is for pack a picnic. If it’s camping season, that also means it’s picnic season, even if you’re sitting in a makeshift tepee in your back garden. Keep food at a safe temperature in an Esky cool box, while disposable plates and cups (such as the colourful Fun range, above right, available from supermarkets across the UAE), will save on the washing up. Just make sure you take all of your rubbish with you. Little ones can have fun with this mini picnic set from Zazeezou.
Q is for questions. If you’re a first time camper with kids, you can never ask too many questions! Luckily, you can now pose them to the experts at Adventure HQ by dropping them an email to firstname.lastname@example.org for all their hints and tips for the great outdoors.
R is for roof box. Even if you’re not taking everything but the kitchen sink, the car will fill up quickly once all the tents, sleeping bags, toys, food and essential supplies are packed in. Ease the squeeze with a roofbox, such as the Thule Atlantis 780, Dhs3,125 from NIK Trading, which carries a whopping 480 litres.
S is for safety first. Use your common sense when choosing a family-friendly spot to pitch your tent. If you’re camping on the coast, scout around to make sure there’s no steep drops nearby. If you’re inland, avoid camping in wadis or creek beds – while they’re dry most of the year, they can be prone to flash flooding. And if you’re heading offroad, remember it’s safety in numbers – never venture out in just one car.
T is for toys and games. Stock up on outdoor games to keep them amused. We’re loving the OgoDisk, available in a range of sizes from Sandypants.com, Sun & Sand Sports and the Toy Store. This award-winning toy can be used for Frisbee, volleyball, tennis and even floats on water. Or for even simpler fun, pack a set of cards for games of snap or rummy around the campfire.
U is for UV protection. As with any outdoor activity in the UAE, don’t forget to slather on the suncream. Nivea Sun Kids Swim & Play lotion has an SPF50 and is sensitive enough to be used on the face or body. Or try Banana Boat Kids, SPF50, which comes with an ultra mist spray to reach those tricky areas.
V is for very cool. It can get surprisingly chilly at night in the desert, even at this time of year! So be prepared to wrap up warmly in socks, a jumper and a sleeping bag. Have them snuggle down in this Augie Alligator sleeping bag, Dhs145 from Toys R Us.
W is for wildlife, which the UAE’s desert is teeming with. From rare Oryx and sand gazelle, to desert eagle owls and all manner of sand-loving lizards, the region is home to a exciting array of native animals, which you may just get a glimpse of if you’re lucky. Otherwise, you can still get up close with all manner of furry friends at the Animal Sanctuary and Petting Farm, left. Located on the edge of the desert and home to a menagerie that includes everything from parrots to porcupines, if you set up camp nearby, kids are welcome to help out in the early morning with cleaning, feeding and exercising the animals (while mum and dad relax with a coffee on the veranda). Visit www.poshpawsdubai.com or the Sanctuary’s Facebook page to find out more.
X is for ‘x marks the spot’. Kids love the wide open spaces and sense of freedom camping gives them. But it’s easy to wander off and get lost. Make sure they don’t stray too far and understand their surroundings – what better way to familiarize the family than with a treasure hunt when you arrive?
Y is for YES! Camping with kids is a great adventure for the entire family. Whether you’re trying it out for the first time, or dad’s an old pro at bashing those dunes, just say yes and go for it.
Z is for zip it up. It may seem obvious, but curious kids are no match for an easily-opened tent flap. Make sure all zips are full closed at bedtime, and position adults closest to the entrance to prevent any unplanned nocturnal wanderings.