When planning for an excursion in the desert, even the most professional hiker must take caution and properly prepare themselves. The desert is an undoubtedly beautiful and mysterious place, making it all the more dangerous. Even those who come prepared often run into trouble. Thinking of heading out into the heat to explore? Here are some desert survival basics.
1. Come prepared
This may just be the number one survival tip. As you face various trying situations while exploring the desert, you will very quickly understand the importance placed on preparation. Do research. Read what advice other hikers have to offer. Make a list of objects to bring and make sure that you bring everything on that list. Odds are, you will thank yourself later. As in any situation, it is always better to have and not need, than to need and not have.
The human body can survive about 3 weeks without food, but will perish after just 3 days without water. Seeing that you are choosing to spend your time in an environment that will cause you to sweat, ensure you bring more than enough water. A refillable canister is ideal. Some hikers use water bottles that have built-in purifiers, which are extremely useful when natural water is available, but the drinking quality is questionable.
To find water, search for damp ground. Often times, simply digging a foot or so into the earth’s surface will produce water. If you come across a cactus plant, you can cut it open and suck out the pulp on the inside for a source of hydration.
3. No disappearing acts
Some people fantasize about the day they will be able to escape to the wilderness with no phone and no worries, away from the real world. Many make the mistake of not telling their friends or family where they will be in the case of an emergency. While it’s always good to step away from technology and the stresses of everyday life, it’s very important to make sure that someone will know where to find you if you fail to return from your trip. Designate a person who you will share the details of your trip, and will be the first notified when you arrive safely home. In the meantime, keep some sort of communication device on you, even a flip phone. You will be extremely thankful for it in the event of an emergency.
Try to limit your travel during the day. It is best to travel at night, but if this is not an option, make sure you give yourself breaks periodically to stay hydrated and to prevent exhausting yourself. The sun can be very draining, and the desert doesn’t offer many places to take cover in the shade. The more you sweat, the more fluid you lose from your body, increasing your risk for dehydration. If you find that you are unable to keep moving, seek shelter. Large boulders and caves can provide an oasis from the heat.
It can be hard to believe that such a harsh climate can support wildlife of all types. In some cases, the wildlife you encounter may not be very friendly. Come equipped with a weapon of some sort in the case that you come across a large animal such as a mountain lion or a coyote. Snakes tend to warm themselves on rocks or hot patches of sand during the day, so be aware of your surroundings at all times. To prevent attacks from insects or spiders, tuck your shirt in and try to ensure that you do not spend too much time on the ground.
Now that you know 5 desert survival basics, you can begin planning your desert excursion. With this information in mind, you are likely to return home safe and sound.