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Looking for Advice on Desert Survival

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posted on Jul, 26 2007 @ 08:11 PM
Recently I moved from my life long home in the Southeastern US to the Arizona, specifically the area around Prescott, Skull Valley, Hillside and Bagdad. This enviroment is entirely new to me and I am seeking guidance and advice on how to survive in this enviroment. I will be doing internet searches, as well as picking up some books on the topic but thought the community here at ATS could give me a good head-start. Anyone who has information related to my inquiry please post it here. If there are currently threads going in this topic I ask the Moderators forgive my repetition and direct me to the proper avenues. Thank you.

posted on Jul, 26 2007 @ 08:13 PM

posted on Jul, 26 2007 @ 08:16 PM
This may sound silly, but you ever watched Dune?

The sun and heat is your worst enemy during the day, at night if you got to hot during the day your going to get really cold.

Desert Survial all falls on if you have enough water to get threw. And keeping yourself from being sunburned badly.
And truth is wrapping yourself up in clothes around your head will keep you cooler. Some people wonder why arabs are all wrapped up, they say, damn he must hot.. But its really much cooler than having the sun beaming on your skin, and taking away your vital energy.

So plenty of water to keep you going. Keeping all your skin from exposure to the sunlight, and to keep warm at nighttime.
Plus I would suggest finding a place to keep cool during the days, and travle at night, and follow the North star to get home.
Always travle in one direction! Dont try to mix it up or you get turned around. Compass would be pretty handy tool aswell.
You can find water umoung some catus, and animals too if you run out.

posted on Jul, 26 2007 @ 08:24 PM
Don't forget to find a good way to keep warm at nite.

posted on Jul, 28 2007 @ 04:16 PM
The area that you're moving into is mixed terrain. It has sky islands of scrub forest above 38-3900 ft and high desert valleys. Prescott is alpine forest. I suggest you go to . They show numerous springs in the area. You'll want to find those springs . You'll also need to be aware of the flash flood line whenever your hiking in the arroyo canyons areas. A quarter inch of rain at the top of the mountain can equal water over your head at the mouth of these mini canyons. There's one bonus to living in these areas: much less biting bugs. Actually it's a stunning area to be in the early morning hours,late evenings and at night. You'll see the skies as early man did and it is an incredible sight.

posted on Jul, 28 2007 @ 05:47 PM
This should prove useful:

Asa stated above, move during the night and try to stay cool during the day. Multiple layers with an airspace of about a foot in between makes a more effective desert shade. If you have a tarp fold it in half and pitch it so that you have the tarp roof shading the ceiling and a little "attic space". You want to shade the tarp itself from sun and it'll be a lot more effective.

If you're tent camping, fly your tarp over your tent with sufficient airspace and you'll stay cool for a fair part of the morning.

If you can find springs, you're in good shape. If not, dig for water. Find a wash, look for low, soft sandy or gravelly areas that are in shadows during the later parts of the day, and dig some holes. Feel for moisture. If you scrape the surface and it's damp an inch or two down, it's probably worth digging. Sometimes wet ground means nothing though if you hit a big rock with water just underneath, or sometimes ground is just wet. In gravelly areas, dig a trench parallel to the flow of the water, and if you get water, the "uphill side will usually bleed a bit of silt, then clear up, and force the silt slowly down to the downhill side.In a few minutes you'll end up with a good volume of clear and possibly clean water. You're digging into an underground river that is flowing, so you can use the shape of your hole to utilize that flow to help clear the water I drink water straight out of the ground if i'm in higher altitudes and there's little chance of contamination but if i'm at mid elevations and below i boil it unless i'm gonna die from dehydration.

If you find standing water in a wash, find a spot about 10' away and dig down to below the surface water level. You'll get good water out of the hole if it's just natural rain and not mine runoff, wastewater, or residential runoff from anywhere.

Just dig holes in all kinds of low places where it's obvious water has flowed in good quantity when you're out and you'll figure out within a short time how to find desert (or sky island/alpine meadow) water.

Manzanita berries are tasty, i usually munch on these when i'm out, there's tons of 'em. The berries are small and seedy, but tasty. They're sweet, kinda dry, and pithy with several black hard seeds. I find 'em everywhere around here, and just pick a handful every time i see a nice ripe bush that the animals didn't disturb. Yellow-red ones are the tastiest, red ones are good, but if they're red and shriveled then don't bother. Crush a bunch of berries and let them sit in cold water, it makes a nice mildly sweet cold "tea" that tastes a bit like tamarind juice.

If you're seriously out of water, and pulling an overnighter, catch dew in the morning. Lick rocks, grasses, and try to sponge up as much dew from non contaminated surfaces as possible. If you work efficiently for a few hours you can gather a day's supply with a sponge, a container, and a plastic bag. Put the plastic bag over a dew laden manzanita limb, shake well, and collect the water and berries. Start just before sunrise and work quickly, before it evaporates.

Prickly pears are good, and i find 'em in higher, well drained desert scrub areas near washes. The fruits have some gnarly little fibrous hairs on the little brown spots, they'll stick in you and iktch worse than fiberglass insulation. Passing the fruit over an open flame briefly singes these hairs of and the fruit can then be peeled and eaten. If you don't have flame, try and use your knife to peel the fruit while it's on the cactus, careful not to touch any spines, and then once the skin is off, pick the fruit.

The buds from Schott's Agave can be eaten raw or cooked, and when sauteed taste like green beans. Lots of other parts of agaves are useful also. The spikes a the end of the leaves makes an excellent needle, and if you peel the fibers with the needle from the back og the leaf and use the backside of your kinife like a brake, strip all the pulp and pith out so you're left with the needle and the fibers for thread. This stuff is super strong and without twisting this'll allow you to fix a broken zipper on the fly or lace up a boot. Twist these fibers into proper cordage and they're tuff.

Yucca also has many uses, the roots contain saponin, which is natural soap, and the leaves also make an excellent fiber for cordage.

Learn to start a fire with Sotol. The stalks are very good for this, use the hand drill method. If you're in an area with lots of Sotol and Agave and you need shelter, find a bunch of fallen stalks, make a teepee out of them by first tying three together at the top with yucca fiber rope or agave, and then securing the three main legs,prop up as many stalks as you can find. Next, grab handfuls of grass and shove it in any gaps that the sun is coming through. In the desert you won't mind a bit of rain, but the sun can be a killer. If you need rain protection, thatch some grass around it. if the grass is hanging upside down it'll channel the water down the grass and keep you pretty dry, but in the desert outside of monsoon season, you'd really only need shade and a dozen good agave stalks and a few armloads of gathered grass can get you out of the sun.

If you need to cool down quickly, find a wash that has wet stuff a few inches down, dig a shallow "grave" of a few inches, and lay in it. You'll feel the sediment a few inches down is cooler, and if you dig and lay down immediately you can transfer some body heat into the cool zone and lose a bit of body temp. Double bonus if you can dig a "grave" in a shaded spot, that'll provide a good amount of cooling.

Also remember, in the desert, you're sweating even if you're completely dry, especially if you're dry, your sweat is evaporating directly as it seeps out of the pores, and your skin will remain dry. Don't be fooled into thinking you're not losing water because you're not drenched in sweat.

Oh yeah, and watch for rattlesnakes, I almost sat on a rock rattler one day, while out LOOKING FOR SNAKES! They REALLY blend in, i inspected my rock closely to make sure i wasn't sitting on a scorpion, went to brush it off, and noticed as i looked closely that the crack in the rock was a rattlesnake. They're masters of camo, so watch carefully and pay attention.

Have fun!

posted on Jul, 28 2007 @ 06:00 PM
Also, get a nice Sotol stalk for a walking stick, it's lightweight, doesn't transmit a lot of shock/vibes, and is necessary to fend off Catclaw and other Acacia species. Just use your stick to hold whole masses of branches to the side while you pass by.

What kind of terrain are you primarily operating in? I know the area around prescott a bit, and it varies from pine forests and alpine meadow to quasi-sonoran desert. I'm usually at a mile high but with no pine stands on my sky island, even though i have peaks to nearly 8k' it's all agave, acacia, juniper, manzanita, mesquite, and some oak/walnut stands near washes.

posted on Jul, 28 2007 @ 06:34 PM
Some good stuff here.

Your entire focus in a desert survival situation in order is:


Lack of water will kill you fast. Conservation of energy and staying out of the heat is just as important.

I had the luck of taking a desert survival class taught by a Navajo indian. Most of our morning and evening (twilight time) was spent farming our water.

One fo the easiest is to find a dry wash, and dig a hole untill the soil is moist. place a can in the center. cover the edges with sand or dirt and place a rock in the center to weight it down forming a cone shape. The sun will evaporate the water in the soil and the plastic will catch it. the cone shape will cause it to flow to the center and drip into the can. Its not going to be Evian, but you put enough of these together and you can generate enough water to survive on.

posted on Jul, 28 2007 @ 06:52 PM

Originally posted by FredT
Some good stuff here.

Your entire focus in a desert survival situation in order is:


Lack of water will kill you fast. Conservation of energy and staying out of the heat is just as important.

I had the luck of taking a desert survival class taught by a Navajo indian. Most of our morning and evening (twilight time) was spent farming our water.

One fo the easiest is to find a dry wash, and dig a hole untill the soil is moist. place a can in the center. cover the edges with sand or dirt and place a rock in the center to weight it down forming a cone shape. The sun will evaporate the water in the soil and the plastic will catch it. the cone shape will cause it to flow to the center and drip into the can. Its not going to be Evian, but you put enough of these together and you can generate enough water to survive on.

Hey Fred, You forgot to mention the part about spreading the plastic over the hole. I've always thought the solar still was more of a novelty science project, i mean, who really carries enough sheets of plastic and cans to make all the stills needed?

A variation of the solar still, dig a dry hole and toss cut up cactus pads and other wet vegetation you can find in the hole, then set up the still as you normally would.

If you carry enough plastic to make a few, it's all well and good, but i just don't carry plastic around with me.

posted on Jul, 30 2007 @ 09:25 AM
Lots of good info here so far.

I'll hit the basics without going into more depth on things you may or may not need, and you can work from there.

First, you research. Find out how deep the water table is in the vicinity of your potential bug-out sites.

Faultlines often have shallow spots in the water table because the grinding action of the fault creates clay seals underneath the sediment, which traps water runoff at the base of hills which form along the fault.
Any area with persistent vegitation and signs of water runoff is a good bet, but realize that some desert plants can survive a long drought and the water may not necessarily be nearly as abundant as usual. If the vegitation is in a dormant state- with few leaves and many dead plants, odds are that there hasn't been enough runoff in recent years for you to expect much in the ground still.

These are the places where you will use FredT's trick, or find vegitation with which to practice DezertSkies' method.

You can't live right at your water source, because that water got there somehow, and depending on flood risk, it will probably be a bad idea to be present when the water is being deposited. Choose the North side of a hill, where the hill will shade you for part of the day, and use two layers of shade with an air gap between them.

Wetting the ground is helpful if you have abundant water. You'll lose less water on this method if you can invest effort in laying down a water-proof tarp and covering it with enough dirt to hold the water (so that your water lasts until its all evaporated, and isn't also being pulled into the ground).

If you're in it long enough to build a permanent shelter (if it's a long term thing, mudbrick aint a bad way to go- all you'll need is clay-bearing soil, vegetation, and fire) be mindful of wind paterns and orient the openings in you shelter to take advantage of cross ventilation.

At night in the desert you will get cold. You have to stay off of the ground- the ground will suck the heat out of you even more than the cold air will. It would be wise to invest in a cheap, fold-out cot (you know the lawn-chair style canvas between hollow frame type) because this not only gets your sleeping bag off of the ground, but takes you out of the domain of the various bugs and reptiles that you don't want to cozy up with.

Your clothing is important. Shorts and a tank top are what you wear when you are out for short times, not when you live outdoors. Take a hint from the bedouins. They wear a ton of clothing- they rely on the air space between light-colored, loose-fitting, light-weight fabrics to keep the sun off of them and retain sweat to cool them.

I recommend fatigue trousers (be sure you get the warm weather variety, distinguishable by the somewhat visible lines in the thread), an oversized undershirt, and a very lightweight button up shirt. You'll want a wide-brimmed, lightweight hat (straw is nice- you'll notice that every highschool gym teacher in your area looks like a jackass, and there's a very good reason for it) and also a bandana to cover your neck (keep it wet if you have the water). Sun glasses not only look cool and keep your eyes from getting tired during a long day outside, but I find that the corners of your eyelids are one of the greatest sources of pain fron a sunburnt face, so you definately want those. In addition to the boots you'll need to move around in remote terrain, you may want to take a pair of sandals that you can wear socks with- if you reflect on your experience with blankets in bed, you may notice that the warmth or coolness of your feet is a disproportionate factor in your overall comfort.

Game can be tricky in the desert. Almost everything that lives in the desert is small, fast, and nocturnal. Hunting is virtually out of the question for stuff like that, but trapping is doable.

You'll want to learn to build bird snares. The basic principle is to loosely tie a broken stick to a post, where it will be the only place a bird can light to get at whatever bait you are using. tied to the post is a fishing-line with a slip knot in it, and the loop fixed around the perch. When a bird lands the perch falls, and the bird's brief fall tightens the slipknot around his feet.

Deadfalls are fairly simple as well. Take a rock big enough to kill your prey over a ledge and support it with a flimsy stick (think small scale, we're talking about a 20 poundish rock falling about a foot, not a giant boulder rolling down a canyon). Wall off the two sides so that the prey has to go in from the front and hit the stick to get the bait. Don't make the stick so big that it will be stable- we're thinking desert hare here- and place the stick far enough back that the animal has his whole head under the rock before he contacts the stick.

I've never been anywhere that didn't have ants and you can catch them with a little sugar water in the bottom of a small bottle, but that's more of a protein supplement than a meal.

Preparation is also important.
If your life allows for it, take a 20 minute walk during some warm part of the day whenever practical- at the very least do so once a week during your weekend. It is amazing how many people are not even remotely acclimated to the area they live in, because they are always indoors. Not only will you become accustomed to the temperature outdoors, but you will develop at least a slight tan which will save you some pain during your initial period of survival if that ever becomes necessary.

Make it a habbit to drink enough water each day. People in general are chronically dehyrdated, perhaps by a days worth. There are people out there who get desperately thirsty at some point every single day, and those people have AT LEAST 24 hours less to live at the outset of a survival situation than they would have if they were taking care of their bodies.

One last thing is to think creatively about how to replicate conveniences you will benefit from in a low-tech way. Realize that 2000 years ago the Chinese were drilling for natural gas and operating large scale metal refineries and powered factories. These things don't absolutely require electricity. Any natural source of movement that can be in some way harnessed can be transmitted mechanically to do your work for you with crude but well-planned out machines.

Where is it written that a fan MUST BE electric?
Picture this- you rig a wind-wheel using branches and scrap cloth, and you use a belt (which can be anything from rope to strips of grocery bags tied end to end) to tie the hub of that wind wheel to a smaller wheel, on which you have mounted a second, smaller fan. This will use the principle of gear reduction to amplify windspeed.
Place a mat of wet brush in front of it and place it in an enclosed space and you've got a swamp cooler- you'll just have to manually dip the brush every once in a while.

Any sealable container isolated from air and full of organic matter and a source of anaerobic bacteria (read, any jar of crap fitted with a stopper, a tube, and a valve) will generate and store natural gas and can provide you with efficient lighting and an even cooking temperature.

You can generate a very low power electric current with little more than coins and fruit- actually you don't necessarily need the fruit- telegraph lines drew their power directly from the Earth- all you need is connected metal posts set in different types of soil- radio recievers can be powered indefinately this way, not to mention the chemistry that this opens up if you're familiar with electrolysis and electroplating.

What I'd do, unless you have the benefit of a near photographic memory, which I do, is first of all, plot out the situation in your head at length- the challenges you'd face if you were to drive to the sporting goods store right now, spend 200 bucks, and then had to walk out into the wild for an indeterminate period. Write down all the things you're not sure you have a way around, then try to visualize the things you dont have or couldn't have that you'd need to overcome those problems. Then hit the library and find your sollutions.
Condense that into a pocket notebook full of "to do in case of emergency" stuff with any notes you will need to do it, and keep on hand an inexpensive and portable amount of gear that fits into that plan.

You'll be surprised how doable it all comes out to be. The way I figure it, enough gear to keep a person alive (albiet extremely unhappy) for a week or two would fit in his pockets and on his belt, and could all be obtained within about 10 minutes at any K-mart for around 30 bucks, with very little chance of any of the items being sold out even in an emergency situation.

posted on Jul, 30 2007 @ 11:26 AM
For good references and survival skill in the desert, you can always look to the Field Manuals of the US Armed Forces. Or even those of other militaries, Perhaps like Uganda or other climates, like Middle East for example.

The below linked article reminds me of the temps here in Iraq. It was 128 degrees yesterday, at 2 in the after noon. Above I mentioned Uganda, even they (the Ugandan`s here), say it is hot here in Iraq, and my location is North Eastern Iraq, more palm groves and humidity, than the Southern area.

US Marines & French Marines in Desert

78.46 mb
Survival pdf

Also of use for desert survival
Desert ops

[edit on 30-7-2007 by ADVISOR]

posted on Jul, 30 2007 @ 11:37 AM
I spent quite a long time in the deserts of Jordan and Iraq and i would say the most precious items you can have is a good floppy hat, water, sunblock and a decent pair of sunglasses. Obviously anything outdoors and strenuous should be done in the cooler night. Infact be prepared for the shock of how cold a desert can be at night. I never thought i would lay on a desert floor shivering at night but believe me i did. A lot of good points have been mentioned above but the biggest point i would take is to keep cool and obviously you cant stay out of the sun but at least try and keep the sun off you. The sunglasses part may seem a bit odd however the glare from the sun and desert floor can be damaging and can also kick off the odd migraine now and then so be aware.

posted on Jul, 30 2007 @ 12:24 PM
Being an AZ native, I read tons of material on how to survive in the desert. Prescott is a little cooler than the deserts south of the metro Phx area and also has a larger variety of flora and fauna. Go to the library or a good bookstore and I'm sure you can find some great books on survival for your area.

One thing that wasn't mentioned above about snakes is that they are cold-blooded. You will not see them during the hottest parts of the day. They come out in the evenings to warm themselves on the rocks and do their hunting at night/early morning. Just be careful when digging during the day and when traveling at night.

posted on Jul, 30 2007 @ 01:22 PM
I actually don't have anything to add to this thread as i have absolutely no skills in desert survival, but after reading these posts i think i picked up a few good leads

I allso tought this would be a good place to put up my idea:Regional survival database
If someone would like to contribute...

posted on Jul, 30 2007 @ 01:33 PM
if you run out of water, look for green plant, even the smallest weed might have a source somewhere near it.. cactus store water.

watch out for desert biters. snakes, scorpions. rodents.

cover yourself well with light sun reflecting cloths.

bring lots of water. gps tracking for rescue.

posted on Jul, 30 2007 @ 07:44 PM
I can't stress enough this particular region of AZ is very prone to flash flooding especially from late June to mid- Sept. You may not actually get any rain on the hot desert valley but the tops of the mountains will usually get just enough rain to create a flash flood that will last for maybe 5-20 minutes. About 5 years ago I was in the desert just west of the White Tank Mountain County Park. The area I was in didn't get a drop but some rain was falling at the top of the mountain 3-4 miles away. I heard a train like noise about 10 minutes after the clouds passed over and 3'-4' wall of water that was pushing large rocks and broken branches filled the area that I had been plinking in less than 5 minutes earlier. I bet the shower at the top of the mountain didn't last 15 minutes but it was enough to flood the area a few miles down slope for about 10 minutes.

If it hasn't rained recently in the area, you can try to find where the birds like quail and dove fly to in the mornings and in the evenings. They know where to find the little pools and seeps that are in the shaded areas of the little canyons.

The Sonorran Desert is very pleasant place to be in from late Sept to early May. From mid-May to mid-Sept. , the daytime heat can kill even the hardiest desert dwellers. Finding water is the key to sur-thriving in this area. Small pools can last for weeks in shady canyon areas. Make sure you carry a filter straw with you when ever you go hiking or you may pay the consequences for drinking some bad water later on. Good luck and have fun.

posted on Jul, 31 2007 @ 05:21 AM
Search for the Army FM (field manual) for survival, it's freely available online.

FM 3-05.70

Chapter 13 is Desert Survival

posted on Jul, 31 2007 @ 12:17 PM
More water the better, it is worth its weight in gold and then some. Today in Diyala Iraq, the temp reached a high of 130 degrees at 2 in the after noon.

I am still dehydrated, and drank enough water to pee clear for a week. We had one heat casualty, he was minutes from death. The medics saved his life because the squad reacted how they were taught. He required a field I V to even make it back to the aid station.

Salt replacement, is very important, electrolites and other minerals need to be replaced when sweating. Gatoraid and water are the two most drank fluids around here. Plenty of both, and not too much water, as that can be just as dangerous.

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