Nature survival basics

Areas called deserts range from salty to sandy. Wherever you find yourself, know that deserts are places of extremes: intense heat during the day, intense cold at night, very few plants, trees, lakes and rivers.

Deserts can be found all over the world, covering about one fifth of the Earth's surface. Among the most famous are the Sahara, the Gobi, the Arabian Desert, and the flat plains of the south-western United States.


Water is the main factor for survival in the desert.

Carry it with you as much as you can, even if you have to leave something else. If you decide to move:

- move only in the evening, at night or in the early morning;

- walk along the coast, to a known route, to a water source or to a village. Sweating can be reduced by wetting your clothes;

- take the easiest route possible, avoiding loose sands, difficult terrain, paths along road tracks. In sand dunes, walk on hard sand in a valley between dunes or along dune ridges;

- Avoid following streams in order to reach the sea, except in coastal deserts or areas where large rivers cross them. In most deserts, valleys lead to an enclosed body of water or a temporary lake;

- Dress appropriately to be protected from direct sunlight and excessive perspiration. If you don't have sunglasses, make yourself slotted glasses. Clothing is essential in the desert to keep warm, as cold nights are very common there;

- watch your feet. Boots are the best footwear for getting around the desert. Cross the dunes barefoot only in cool weather, otherwise the sand will burn your feet. Follow the trail of caravans in order to avoid loose sands or rocky areas;

- check the map if possible. Desert maps are usually inaccurate;

- Take refuge during sandstorms. Do not try to walk in poor visibility. Mark the direction by tracing deep arrows on the ground, laying them out with stones or whatever is close at hand. Lie on your side with your back to the wind and lie down until the end of the storm. Cover your face with cloth. Don't be afraid to be buried under the sand. Even in dune areas, it takes years for a dead camel to fall asleep. If possible, seek shelter on the leeward side of the hill;

- multiply the distance calculations by 3, since the lack of landmarks often leads to incorrect calculations;

- In summer, mirages can often appear when you are facing the sun, although it is difficult to generalize under what conditions they appear and what forms they take.


Shelter from the sun, heat and possible sandstorms is essential to survive in the desert. Since there is generally no material to build a shelter, use the following methods.

1. Provide yourself some kind of sun protection by covering your body with sand. Burying in sand also reduces moisture loss.

2. If you have a parachute or other suitable material, dig a recess and cover the edges. In rocky deserts or deserts where there are bushes, thorns, or mounds overgrown with tall grass, throw a parachute or blanket over rocks or bushes.

3. Use both natural and man-made features such as a tree, rock, pile of rocks, or a cave to create shade or cover. The wall of a dry riverbed can serve as a shelter, but if clouds roll in, your shelter can be unexpectedly flooded with water. The banks along dry riverbeds, valleys and ravines are especially good places to find caves.


The importance of water cannot be overstated. It is essential, no matter how well your food stocks are matched. In hot deserts, you need at least one gallon per day. If you sweat in moderation and travel in the desert on a cold night, this reserve will last for 20 miles. In the heat of the day, you can only walk 10 miles. Conserve water.

1) Remain always dressed. Clothing helps to control perspiration, does not allow sweat to evaporate so quickly, which is why it loses its ability to cool. You will feel cooler without a shirt, but you will sweat more and may also get burned.

2) Take your time. With less water and less sweating, you will last longer.

3) Do not use water for washing until you have a reliable source of water.

4) Do not swallow water in one gulp. Drink it in small sips. If you're running out of water, only use it to moisten your lips.

5) As a heat reliever, keep small stones in your mouth or chew grass. You can reduce water loss by breathing through your nose. Do not speak.

6) Use salt only with water and only if there is enough water. Salt increases thirst.

7) Limiting water consumption to 1–2 quarts per day leads to disaster (at high temperatures), as this amount of water does not prevent dehydration. In such cases, limit sweating, not water.

Local wells.

A minimum of four quarts of water a day may be difficult to find unless there is a well or an oasis nearby. Since wells are the main source of water in the desert, the best way to find them is to move along the local road. There are other ways to find water in the desert. Be guided by the following:

1) Along sandy shores or desert lakes, dig a hole in the first depression behind the first sand dune. This place will collect the water of local rains. As soon as you find wet sand, stop digging, let the water seep. Further digging may result in salt water;

2) wherever you find raw sand, dig a well;

3) dry streams have water just below the surface. If the stream dries up, the water descends to the lowest point on the surface where the channel turns. Dig along these bends to find water;

4) dew can be a source of water, especially in some areas. Chilled rocks or any metal surface will work as a dew condenser. Remove the dew with a cloth and squeeze it out. Dew evaporates immediately after sunrise and must be collected before that;

5) look for natural sites that can be rooted in ravines and side canyons, under cliff tops. Often there is a strong stone or compaction of the earth near them. If no such reference is available, look for sources for animal droppings;

6) watch the flight of birds, especially at dusk and dawn. In areas of real deserts, birds fly over wells. The wild sandy gourd can be considered a source of water in the Sahara. A large cactus, similar to the barrel of a gun, in the American desert contains a large amount of moisture that can be squeezed out of its pulp. Sometimes this can be difficult to do. An alternative to this could be a well or other source;

7) ignore romantic stories about poisoned wells. These stories are based primarily on the fact that water contains salt, alkali, and tastes bad;

8) disinfect any water. This is especially important in indigenous villages and where there is civilization.


It is difficult to find food in the desert. But it still ranks second in importance compared to water. And you can do without it for several days without any health consequences. Distribute food from the beginning. Do not eat anything for the first 24 hours, and do not eat until you have water. Natural sources.

1) Animals are rare in the desert. Rats and lizards can be found near water sources and can be your only food. Artiodactyls can be found in the desert, but they are difficult to approach. The most common animals are rodents (rats), rabbits, jackals, snakes and lizards, which can usually be found near bushes or water. Look for sand snails on rocks and bushes.

2) Some birds can also be found in the desert. Try kissing the back of your hand while making a suction sound to attract them. On some lakes in the desert, sand grouses, bustards, pelicans and even seagulls have been seen. Use traps or a hook and try to catch them well.

3) Usually, where there is water, there are plants. Many desert plants look dry and unappetizing. Look for the soft part that is edible on them. Try all the soft parts that grow on the surface of the earth - flowers, fruits, seeds, young shoots and bark. Grass seeds or pods can be found at some times of the year. These pods grow on acacia trees, which are often thorny and similar to the mosquito tree or cat claw found in the southwestern United States. There is a prickly pear (a type of cactus), which is native to North and South America, it is often found in North Africa, the Middle East and the Australian deserts.

4) All grass is edible, but some of its species growing in the Sahara or Gobi are tasteless and non-nutritious. Try any plant you find, it is not fatal. Dates can be found in northern Africa, Southwest Asia and parts of India and China. The food of the natives.

  • The food of the natives in the Sahara is both tasty and nutritious. In the Gobi, the Mongols are not very clean, so the food is unhygienic. Use the natural hospitality of the natives, do not steal food.
  • The daily food of the natives is extremely dangerous, as are the fruits and other cooked food offered by the locals. If possible, exchange or buy raw food and cook it yourself.

Lighting fire

Palm leaves and similar fuels are found everywhere near the oases. In the depths of the desert, however, use whatever piece of dry plant you find. Dry camel manure can be used when there is no tree at hand. Probably the most effective way to start a fire without matches is to direct the sun's rays through a magnifying glass. Other simple methods of starting a fire may not be possible.


Protect yourself from direct sunlight, excessive sweating and numerous annoying desert insects.

1) Cover your body and head well during the day. Wear long pants and a long sleeve shirt.

2) Wear a cloth around your neck to protect it from the back of the sun.

3) If a piece of clothing needs to be left in order to lighten the load, save that piece of clothing that is necessary to protect against the cold night in the desert.

4) Wear loose clothing.

5) Unbutton clothing only in thick shade. Reflected sunlight can cause sunburn. Protecting your feet can be a matter of life and death.

The following is useful to know.

1) Avoid getting sand and insects into shoes and socks, even if frequent stops are required to clean the shoes.

2) If you don't have boots, make some windings out of whatever fabric you have on hand. To do this, cut out two strips, each 3-4 inches wide and 4 feet long. Wrap them around the legs in a spiral, starting from the foot, from bottom to top to the lower leg. This will keep you out of the sand.

3) Craft a pair of sandals from the wall of an old car tire if there are any cars nearby. However, it is better to reinforce the sole of the boots with durable fabric if worn soles are causing problems.

4) When relaxing in the shade, take off your shoes and socks. Do this with care as your feet can swell and it can be very difficult to put on your socks again.

5) Don't try to walk barefoot. The sand can burn your feet. In addition, walking barefoot on a hard, salty or marshy surface can cause alkaline burns.

6) Make shoes with wooden soles to protect your feet while walking. Nail the strap to the pieces of wood and tie to your leg. Protect the top of your legs from the sun.


1) In the heat of the desert, thirst alone is an inaccurate indicator of the amount of water you need. If you only consume the amount of water you need to quench your thirst, then dehydration can still slowly continue. Drink plenty of water whenever possible, especially with meals. If you only drink water with meals, you will tend to become dehydrated between meals, but will recover from food and water; however, you will often feel tired from the loss of energy along with the loss of water.

2) The strength lost due to dehydration is quickly restored if you drink water.

3) Loss of water does not entail any irreversible complications, even if you lose up to 10 percent of your weight. At 150 pounds, 15 pounds can be lost through sweating, provided you drink enough water afterwards to restore it. Cold water causes stomach pain if swallowed quickly.

4) At 25 percent fluid loss, you can survive if the air temperature is 85 degrees Fahrenheit or cooler. At temperatures of ninety degrees and above, a 15 percent loss of fluid is dangerous. Signs of fluid loss. First, there is thirst and general malaise, followed by a desire to slow down any movement and loss of appetite. As you continue to lose water, you become drowsy. Your temperature rises and by the time you lose 5 percent of your weight, you start to feel nauseous. As you lose 6-10 percent of your body weight, your symptoms will worsen in the following order: dizziness, headache, shortness of breath, trembling legs and arms, dry mouth, bluish body coloration, speech impairment, and loss of ability to walk. How to prevent water loss. There is no substitute for water. Alcohol, salt water, and gasoline only increase dehydration. In emergencies, it is possible to drink salt water (containing half the amount of salt present in seawater) and get a net increase in body fluids. Any liquid containing a higher percentage of unusable elements can only disrupt the body's cooling system. Chewing gum or stones in the mouth can be a pleasant form of delaying the pangs of thirst, but they cannot replace water and do not help maintain a normal body temperature.

(based on materials of Энциклопедии безопасности– Громова В.И. и Васильева Г.А., Москва. 1998)

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