How To Survive In The Desert

How To Survive In The Desert

Daytime desert temperatures reaches over 120 degrees Fahrenheit, while nighttime temperature can plummet to 40 degrees. That’s just above freezing. The 80 degree difference in temperature in one day wreaks havoc on your body, taking you to extremes that can cause dehydration, heat stroke, and hyperthermia all in one day.

Desert Indians in the American Southwest learned to survive the desert on a daily basis, and they taught us what it takes to find water, food, and shelte. Most people do not plan to be in the desert, but unexpected situations, like a plane crash in the desert, fleeing a natural disaster, or getting lost, can put you smack dab in the sandy oasis under, what feels like, a big red fire ball in the sky.

People living in the southwest states of America, such as Arizona, California, and Nevada, and Texas, live on the outskirts of deserts, vast, long stretches of nothing but heat.

Finding Water

Water is the number one necessity when stranded in the desert. Our bodies lose water through sweat in the scorching heat, and without replenishment dehydration sets in. In the desert, we need to drink about a gallon a day to avoid heat stroke.

  • Streams and Lakes

The hard part is finding water in the desert. Streams are often spread out so far apart that if you set out in the heat of day you might never make it before becoming parched and dying of thirst. If you do find a source of water, test it out first by licking some off your finger. Some desert lakes are salt water bodies water. Drinking salt water can dehydrate you faster than if you didn’t drink any of it.

  • Dry Stream Beds

Keep an eye on the terrain, looking for signs of dark leafy green vegetables. A dry stream bed might be close by and if you follow it to its bend, you might find water outside the bend in the ground. This is because there was once a stream there and gravity pulls the most water at the bends, so when it dries up, some water may still exist below ground.

  • Dew

Collect dew in the early morning by turning over rocks that are half buried in sand or mud. Be careful of scorpions, snakes, and tarantulas, hiding under the rocks. You can also collect dew from grass in the dessert by running a piece of clothing over the blades and as the cloth absorbs the liquid, you can squeeze it out into a bottle or receptacle.

  • Cactus Water

Some cactus species’ contain lots of water located in their stems, but some have high oxalic acid levels which can cause diarrhea on an empty stomach. Diarrhea in the desert hastens dehydration. Unless you cannot find any other source of water, avoid getting water from a cactus. Leave that to those who know cactus plants.

Finding Food

While we can survive for up to 3 weeks without food, not eating will deplete you of energy. Food is sparse in the desert though, especially the more barren deserts like the Sahara. Where there is dark green vegetation there is wildlife, and while eating a rabbit or snake might not sound appealing now, spend a few days in the desert without food, and that little rabbit will look pretty appetizing. You might find birds, or even dine on a dish of insects, such as centipedes or ants. Do not eat if you are short on water, because digestion uses up water storage in your body, speeding up dehydration.

  • Insects You Can Eat In The Desert
    • Scorpions
    • Ants
    • Grasshoppers
    • Tarantulas
    • Centipedes
    • Ants
    • Snakes
  • How To Kill A Snake

To safely kill a snake find a branch that has branches with leaves on it. Remove all the other branches except two at the top, creating a ‘V’ on the end. Trap the snake in the ‘V’ and then cut of it’s head. Make sure to bury the head deeply, to avoid stepping on its fangs.

  • Eating Reptiles And Snakes In The Desert

If you do not thoroughly cook reptiles and snakes before eating you can end up with Salmonella poisoning. This can be found in the skin or in the flesh itself. In the desert, a case of Salmonella can kill you by dehydrating you through diarrhea.

  • Eating Plants In The Desert

You are better off not eating vegetation in the desert because it is hard to tell which plants are safe versus those that can make you ill or be poisonous.

Preparing Food

Dig a pit in the sand and fill with water, then heat up some rocks in a fire. Safely drop the hot rocks into the water to make it boil.

To create an oven, place a large flat rock on the ground and then pile small rocks around it, before placing an even large flat rock over the top. Leave a small opening on one side and build a fire on the other side of it.

  • Recipes   

            Desert Soup:

Add snakes, lizards, and/ or insects to the boiling water and cook thoroughly.        This will kill off any bacteria and Salmonella

            Oven Baked Snakes, Lizards, Or Insects

Place your catch on the flat rock inside your rock oven. Check on it regularly         through the opening, until it is blackened, not burnt.

Surviving The Night

Make sure you’ve spent your day preparing a shelter, using whatever you can find, from draping clothes across palm trees and bushes, to using rocks. When night falls it is going to be a few degrees north of freezing. You’ll want to block the wind and insulate yourself until morning.


Make finding water your first priority, followed by preparing a shelter for night. When setting out to hunt food, do it in the early morning hours or early evening, when it’s cooler. Keep calm, seek or create shade, and do not over exert yourself.


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