Ultimate Desert Survival List
Expect a podcast on this in the near future.
Some Desert Wisdom:
So you want to survive in the desert.
- First, unless you are a native to the desert, forget what you think you know about the desert. You must unlearn everything you think you should do. For instance, forget the flip-flops, cutoff shorts, and tank-top shirts. A better choice is loose-fitting, long-sleeved cotton shirts and full-length, loose-fitting trousers. Boots or shoes that cover and protect toes/feet are necessary.
- Second, learn that the sun is a cruel, vicious enemy. It is your primary enemy. Forget the rattle snakes and gila monsters; bites from them are rare. The sun, however, is ever-present. The sun is your primary concern and you better get that straight. The desert sun is dangerous and will kill you. Expose as little of yourself to the sun as possible. Limit the time the fiery tongues of the sun beat down on you. Exposure will kill you here.
- Third, If you do run into rattlers or dangerous snakes and the like give them a wide berth (10 ft) and you’ll be fine. My one word of caution is simply be careful heading into the shade. They hide under rocks, ledges, bushes and wood. Don’t become curious. Most rattle snake bites are the victim’s fault.
- Don’t be active in the mid-day heat unless you want to stroke. Confine your activity to the early am and the evening.
- Take too much water. It may just be enough in a emergency situation.
- The rule of threes. You can survive:
- three minutes without oxygen
- three hours without shelter in extreme weather
- three days without water
- three weeks without food (maybe…not sure I buy this “common” sense)
- Next, find wildlife and you’ve found water.
- Wild burros never travel more than 10 miles from water. In the summer months, that number is reduced to two miles.
- Maximize access access to water in cracks and crevasses–bring some tubing–at least 3-4 feet to suck up that water.
- Never hike in canyons during or shortly after rains. If you hear a freight train coming–get to higher ground immediately or you’re dead.
- Never hike alone. A small injury becomes a large problem without a buddy.
- A girl I was engaged to collapsed in the Grand Canyon. We were in a remote area. As a marathoner, I RAN up to the rim–about six miles. Got a hold of a ranger. They coordinated her rescue. She was carried out on a burro when the helicopter couldn’t get her. She refused to drink water because it wasn’t cold, but refused to turn back. Either choice would have avoided the crisis. She refused to drink my electrolyte drinks. Again and again I told her she was dehydrating herself and her core was going to skyrocket. She childishly refused my aid and said she was in great shape and if she wanted my help she’d ask for it. When she collapsed and her core skyrocketed, she asked for it. I covered her with all of MY water to save her life while I now had to leave her with a couple and run 6 miles uphill without any water myself. She didn’t listen and paid for it. After a 12-mile round-trip run up and down the canyon, I was ready to push her off the canyon wall for her stupidity and stubbornness and the RISK she put me in having to RUN UP and DOWN the canyon to rescue her. THEN there was the six mile return leg going back up the canyon with her on a mule and me keeping up with them: about 18 miles in one day. I called it my Grand Canyon Marathon…although not exactly 26.2 and I didn’t really run the last six…
- Don’t cut open a cactus for water unless you know what you’re doing, BECAUSE:
- It will dehydrate you
- It will give you the runs
- You will begin to hallucinate
- You will die.
- If you start to feel dehydrated–you already are. Take it seriously.
- Fashion is irrelevant in the desert. Wear a wide-brimmed hat and cover-up. Soak your head with some water.
- A marathon runner study showed that dousing yourself with water really didn’t cool you significantly. BULL! Water in my hat and on my shirt brings MY core down noticeably. If it works for you do it.
- Yes, you can die from water poisoning (water toxicity)…marathoners die from it. You can’t JUST drink water. You need to replace the electrolytes/salts. On an 18 mile training run in Alexandria, VA, I decided to go ultralight and relied on the water fountains along the way. When I got home, I got a slamming headache. I realized right away the stupidity of no electrolyes in my fluids for 3 hours and slammed some down. It really happens, folks. Keep powdered Gatorade, EmergenC, Powerade, Lemonade, Tang or other drinks in your bag. Gu or Powergel will help as well, but they’re usually high in carbs and not as much in electrolytes.
- Sunscreen is essential, but wears off. Wide-brimmed hats, long-sleeved shirts and trousers offer better protection.