The desert is the second hardest place on the planet to survive. The harsh temperatures cause the body to lose water at an accelerated rate during the day, and at night the extreme cold, compared to the day temperatures, causes shock to the body. The lack of water not only in the water but in your body causes the brain to begin to shutdown functions. Your clarity and decision making skills suffer greatly after 18 hours without water or rest.
Most people in survival situations in the desert who are not prepared are dead within 36 hours. A short amount of time but the most realistic time frame when in one of the harshest environments on the planet. There are several types of deserts in the world but the general ideas remain the same.
Premise #1Find Water
The first premise of desert survival is always water. Finding water in a waterless environment is not impossible. As a matter of fact it is relatively easy if you know where to look. There are a few things to look for when searching for water, (1) greenery (2) sound (3) animals (4) Terrain. These few things are key factors that water is near by.
(1) Greenery – Greenery is not a definite that water is present, but it does indicate that water is close by. Greenery can be both a source of water and a sign of water. Water from plants can be both a good thing and a bad thing. Water from certain desert plants can be highly toxic and should be avoided is at all possible. A good rule of thumb is that if the sap of the plant is milky then it is probably poisonous. IF at all possible avoid plants for water.
(2) Water is loud. Listen for it. It does not have to be a rushing mighty river in order to be loud. Flowing brooks and streams tend to give off lots of sound. The water hitting the rocks and other debris makes a lot of noise. Listen for it. If the area is silent then chances are you are not around water.
(3) Animals need water. Look for signs of animals in your area. If you find tracks, dung, or even see birds in the air, you can sometimes (not always) track the animals to a source of water. The best animal signs to look for are any type of mammal.
(4) Terrain is going to be your best bet. If you are in an area where there is little terrain difference, (that is where there are no plateaus, canyons, hills, or mountains) then you are in a bad area. Geology has taught us that most canyons are made over millions of years by water. Now of course just because a river carved a canyon doesn’t mean that you are guaranteed to have water in a canyon, but it does mean you are going to have a greater chance to find water.
Another point of terrain that you should look for is river beds. Dried river beds are not always dry. Though on the surface it looks dry, several inches beneath the surface there is typically water. In order to get this water you simply need to dig into the dirt and allow the wet soil drip into the hole. The dug out hole will fill with water.Premise #2 Move at Twilight HoursThe second premise is to not move during the day. Daylight hours are a terrible time to move in the desert. Between noon and 3 in the afternoon, the temperature can rise in to the 110s even as high as the 120s. Even if the temperature does not reach 100 degrees, moving during the day burns through water. You move and the worst part is that you don’t even know that you are sweating and using all of the water in your body. That is the worst part about the desert you can move and not feel like you are really working because you are not sweating. In order to prevent this from happening you simply do what the Aborigine People in Australia do, sit down and nap in the shade. When the day is at its hottest you simply relax and try not to do anything. This prevents your body from using its precious water. However in the twilight hours of dusk and dawn is when you should do the most of your work and moving. Premise #3 Build a Cold ShelterBuilding shelter in the desert is very easy because the sand and the dirt is easy to move. Digging down into the sand and dirt is a great way to avoid the sun and stay cool. Now this does come with an inherit danger to it. If you are in an area where there are frequent sand storms then I do not recommend digging a sand cave. The reason is of course because you can become trapped and immobile, it is slightly dangerous. Another way to build a shelter is with cloth. The Bedouin peoples of the middle east have done this for thousands of years and still do it today. This is where the shemagh stands out from other forms of head wear.If you have nothing else, a shemagh is typically large enough to be stretched out with all four corners to create a small sun block. It can also be used to shield you during sand storms, a blanket works best but a shemagh will do in emergencies. A note about sand storms. They are extremely dangerous. In most cases they simply cause respiratory problems. However I have been told of sand storms in the most remote parts of the world so powerful and fierce that they can rip your flesh off like a sand blaster. I have also been told the best way to survive these storms is by digging down and covering your body with whatever cloth you have. Just a friendly warning. Remember folks the desert is an inhospitable place to be. It is possible to live there but it is the second worse place to be if you have to survive. It is tough on the mind, body, and soul but can be done. Finding water, shelter, and not moving in the heat are the 3 basic rules of desert survival. There are other things you can do to increase your chances but for this post we will limit our exposure. As Always Folks, Prepare and Survive. Todd Out