Desert Survival Basics

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If your out doing any exploring there are some basic guidelines for coming home safe. Here is a very brief primer, but if you are a serious outdoorsman do some more reading, take some classes, test your knowledge and practice using your survival skills

Coming Prepared
The best thing you can do to ensure you get back home without incident is to avoid getting in a survival scenario to begin with. The vast majority of survival scenarios happen because people are not prepared for the trip. They lack supplies, area knowledge, navigation skills, make a wrong decision and find themselves in a bad position. Sometimes bad things happen, but being proactive will reduce your risk considerably. Here are some tips:

Tell someone where and when you are going and when you will be back. If you get in trouble out in the middle of nowhere and no one knows where you are getting help is going to be much more difficult. This is rule #1!

Have a repair kit in your vehicle with extra belts, hoses, cable ties, hose clamps, tools and learn how to do minor repairs yourself.

Carry a GPS or Satellite Messenger and mark your vehicles location and the way back out. Also bring an extra set of batteries. ONLY use this set in an emergency!

In addition to a GPS carry a map and compass in unfamilar territory. Of course you also need to learn how to use it. There are lots of classes, books and online articles available.

Before you go familarize yourself with the route, terrain, local features like buildings, lakes and washes, and alternate routes.

Check the weather before you go to make sure you won’t get caught off guard. In the mountains weather can change quickly so be prepared.

Rattlesnakes are your biggest wildlife threat when your hiking in the desert, but if you pay attention and give them space they will leave you alone. Pay very close attention when hiking through rocky areas, or during the early morning or evening. At night it is common to see them out in the flats searching for food, especially in sandy washes where there is more heat.

Cover up even when it’s hot. Unless your on a well-defined trail pants are a very good idea. Also wear a good pair of hiking boots, a hat and sunscreen. A light jacket is never a bad idea either. It may be blazing hot during the day but in the desert the temperature drops substantially at night. Be prepared in case you get stuck overnight.

Survival gear
Here is some basic items to have with you when you venture out:
Water purification tablets
Solar Blanket
Clear Poncho (doubles as a solar still)
Energy Bar
Butane Lighter
Flint striker (more dependable than a lighter or matches)
100% Cotton Rounds (made for removing make-up they also light with a single spark)
Triangular Bandage
Quick Clot
Wound closure strips
Pain killers and prescription meds
550 Paracord
10 feet of duct tape
Cup (stainless preffered, but you can purchase folding cups to save room)
Signal Mirror (get an unbreakable one with a sighting window)
Headlamp (buy one that has a rechargeable battery but can also use standard batteries as a backup, and make sure you pack spare batteries)
Ziplock or condoms (perfect for water storage and treatment)
Multitool or Survival Knife (I usually carry both but at least bring some sort of blade, and don’t cheap out)

This may seem like a lot but with some repackaging it can fit in a very small space and will give you the tools you need to survive in the wild. The key word in that sentence is tools, they are useless unless you know how to use them. Take classes, read survival books and go out and practice starting fires, making shelter, finding and purifying water. Think of survival skills as an insurance policy. Responsible people buy insurance for their cars, health and life: Be a responsible human and invest some time and money in survival.

As always, get out and explore!

Here is a link to the US Army Survival Manual – a great resource and best of all you can read it for free, but it never hurts to have a copy!

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1 Response to Desert Survival Basics

  1. BazzaH says:

    Great post! I live in the desert and hike often. In fact I’m going on a hike later today, I’ll have to review this list before I head out. I cover desert hikes and conservations in my blog if you’re interested.

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