The only trouble with Rick's comment about the Canon Powershots, according to the repairman who fixed my daughter's, is that the lens assembly is made by a third-party manufacturer and is found in many point-and-shoot models by various manufacturers. I know there's a whole web page of angry Powershot owners, but at least my repair guy thinks the problem isn't at all unique to Powershots.
We've had three Powershots. I had one that worked for about five years and then the LCD display died. I consider that an acceptable lifetime for a camera used outdoors and subject to some abuse. My daughter's developed the dreaded "lens error" condition, but the repair guy found broken parts inside, suggesting that someone (who could that be?) tried to force the lens into position. The third Powershot is still functioning after two years.
Repair guy emphasized that those mechanisms are fairly delicate. Dropping the camera, even in a padded case, could screw them up. A grain of sand will too. When he gave me back the camera, he air-blasted out the little case I had to make sure there was nothing in there that could get into the lens mechanism.
The "rugged" cameras are better in this regard because they don't have a lens that retracts and extends. In addition to providing some resistance to water, they might also be a good call for the desert. But the image quality isn't quite as good as other point and shoots, according to the reviews.
I keep my Powershot in one of these
Cost about the same as cleaning out a jammed lens mechanism if there are no broken parts and it doesn't have to be replaced. Seems expensive, but worth it (I hope) if you end up using it for more than one camera. I have mine with the "rail attach" option that lets you thread a webbing belt through it and wear it, rather like a chalk bag, so the camera can be spun behind or to either side to keep it out of the way of climbing moves. You can open the case and remove the camera one-handed with ease.
I carried my point and shoot on climbs quite successfully in an ordinary soft case. The thing I like the best about this hard case is that you can toss it in your pack and not worry at all about it getting squashed or banged against something.Added in edit
: My current Powershot is the SD 880 IS.