Desert Survival: 8 Simple Tips That Could Save Your Life

Desert Survival

When driving through long stretches of road in arid desert areas, it is important to be prepared for the unexpected. If your car breaks down in the desert it puts you at risk of heat stroke, or even death, depending on how long you are stranded.

Surviving in the desert is tricky because it is extremely hot in the day and can be just as extreme in low temperatures at night.

Learning these 8 tips for survival in the desert, and being prepared, can save your life …

  1. Cover Your Head

Some people think that you only need a hat in the cold, but a hat is essential to protect your head from the sun. If you’re trapped with your car, stay inside with the doors open, or make sure to put on a hat or even a wrapped t-shirt on your head. A big hat will protect you more, because it will shade your whole body. In fact, having an umbrella in your trunk will come in handy in this situation if you plan to venture out.

  1. Find Shade

If you can’t sit in your car find some shade. It can be hard in the desert, so you will have to get creative to make your own shade. Start with building a shelter, because you will need it at night. Using branches from shrubs, or cactus plants, you can drape clothing, a towel, or blanket over them to create shade. Rock outcroppings can provide shade at certain times of days, as well, if you can find any. When searching for objects to make your shelter, make sure to only go searching during early morning hours or later in the evening when it’s cooler.

  1. Conserve Water

Make sure to keep drinking, but don’t guzzle it all at once. You want to conserve it so it lasts. To determine if you are drinking enough, pay attention to the color of you urine. If it’s a really dark yellow, you need more water. If it’s light yellow to clear, you are plenty hydrated. A pale yellow is perfect. There may be water sources in the desert, but never drink water directly from any open water without a purification system. Carrying a water purification device in your trunk is a good idea for this reason.

  1. Ration Your Food

Rationing food is important for more than one reason. The most obvious reason is to make sure your food lasts, but when you eat you get thirsty, and it’s even more important to conserve water. Humans can only survive for 3 days without water, but we can go for 3 weeks without food. Also, eating can raise your core temperature, so keep it light enough to ward off hunger pains and keep your energy up.

  1. Stay Calm

Panicking can cause you to make rash decisions. You want to calmly assess your situation and make a plan to survive. Panicking also raises you heart rate and your core temperature, which in the desert,is not a good way to start off.

  1. Leave A Breadcrumb Trail

If you set out to find help, remember to leave a trail back to your car. Hansel and Gretel taught us the importance of that. Even if you have a GPS device, you could lose service and your trail will be the only thing to keep you from being lost. Use twigs, rocks, pebbles, or anything else you can find to mark your path. Take note of landmarks as you walk, such as a particular rock, or tree. If you can mark it with something, do it. Draw arrows in the sand. This will not only help you get back if you need to, but will help rescuers find you if they come across your car.

  1. Shut Your Mouth

Believe it or not, you lose water from your body with every exhale. So keep your mouth shut to prevent dehydration. A bandana, or something similar, tied around your mouth, can keep you from losing water through your breath. Try not to avoid sweating as much you can, because this also dehydrates the body.

  1. Prepare For Night

You might dreaming of a break from the heat during the day, but when night hits, you will be praying for that sun. These extremes in temperature are very hard on the body. While, by day, you need shelter to get out of the sun, by night you need shelter from the cold. If you don’t have your car and blankets, try to find a rock alcove or somewhere to hunker down for the night.


Any time you plan to be driving through a long stretch of desert, keep the following items in your car …

  • Bottles of water, glass or BPA free
  • Energy bars or granola bars
  • Blanket or tarp
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Lighter and matches (for a fire)
  • Some kindling wood
  • Jacket or sweater
  • Sunblock
  • Hat
  • Umbrella
  • GPS device
  • Water purification device



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