How To Survive in the Desert

Enjoying the wild beauty of the desert can be an exhilarating and thrilling experience. However, surviving in the desert is a different matter altogether. Do you know how to survive in the desert in case of an emergency or accident? If you are planning on spending your vacation exploring the wonders of the desert, here are some invaluable tips that will teach you how to survive in the desert if you get stranded.

STOP – the Boy Scouts Mnemonic

If you are lost or stranded in the desert, don’t panic. This is not the time to lose your cool. Instead, make use of the Boy Scouts – STOP. This means Stop, Think, Observe and Plan. Since you do not know whether rescue will come, it is time to plan and ensure you make it out of the scorching desert heat alive. These are the thing you should do immediately:

  • Stockpile drinking water
  • Find shelter to get away from the harsh rays of the sun
  • Wait to see whether rescue comes for you
  • Travel just during the night in one direction to lead you to civilization
  • Find food


Finding Water in the Desert

You can survive with food, but it is impossible to survive without water. So, your priority should be finding drinking water. You will not be able to get out of the desert alive if you don’t keep yourself hydrated. So, here are a few things you can do to ensure you find sources of water in the desert.

  • Morning Dew: Before the sun rises, look at the leaves of the desert plants. They will have morning dew that you should lap up immediately. While this is not sufficient to keep you hydrated, in the desert every single drop matters.
  • Cacti: Locate a growth of cactus and use your knife, if you are carrying one, to cut open the cactus. Suck on the inside pulp of the cactus which is full of moisture and can help you from getting dehydrated.
  • Solar Water Still: Dig a deep and wide hole in the sand. Place a container in the hole and fill the sides with something wet, such as cacti or desert plants. Cover the hole with a plastic sheet and ensure you place large stones on the edges to keep the sheet in place. Place a small rock in the center of the sheet, just above the mouth of the container. When condensation takes place, the water will flow from the edges to the center and fall into the container. You can drink this water without fear.
  • Dried River Beds: Locate a dried river bed and look for damp areas. If you dig these areas, you will be able to access water.

Locating Food in the Desert

Remember, if you eat, you will feel hungry. So only eat if you have enough to quench your thirst and stay hydrated. Otherwise, it is best to stay hungry and focus on finding water. You can live up to 3 weeks without food. In the desert, eat cacti fruits, which can sustain you. They also can be a source of water.

Walking Towards Civilization

desert survivalBefore leaving your original location, mark the stop with stones and sticks. Use these to make an arrow to let rescuers know which direction you are travelling in. Pinpoint a distant object in the direction you intend travelling and use it as a beacon to head in that direction. Furthermore, to avoid sun exposure and dehydration, always travel after sunset until early morning, before the sun gets hot. During the daylight hours, try to find a shelter where you can escape the sun and recoup your energy and prevent you from getting dehydrated excessively. Also remember hypothermia is a possibility in the desert during the nights when the temperature keeps falling. If you are chilled to the bones, try and get cozy for some time to preserve body heat. If possible, light a fire and warm yourself. Otherwise, find a snug place to settle down for a while.

Hunkering Down

Shelter is important when you are trying to survive in the desert. So, look for rock outcrops and overhanging cliffs that can protect you from the rays of the sun. Also, refrain from shedding your clothing. This will ensure you don’t perspire and get dehydrated. It even will protect your skin from getting sunburned.

Keep these tips in mind if you want to know how to survive in a desert. While the conditions can be harsh, it is quite possible to come out alive from a desert.