Water is a life or death commodity in the desert. I always suggest you bring 3 X's the daily amount in extreme heat typically 1 Gallon US Standard per person per day. (Prevention is planning, followed by action and revision)
Should you find yourself lost, stranded or stuck in a desert survival situation you will need Water, Shelter and Fire to survive.
Water takes main stage in this theater of survival. First you must conquer fear which I have talked about many times in my writings and on radio. The psychology of survival and how to defeat fear is your first challenge. It's critical to remain calm and collect your thoughts or you may die in any survival situation. The feeling of despair, hopelessness is very real but you can overcome it with the right mind set.
Once you calm down you need to meditate on your surroundings. Identify what is available to you. At this critical moment where everything that you see could possibly become a tool for your survival. Allow for your creative imagination to render positive impact on potential tool construction using primitive technology known as bushcraft.
In almost every survival scenario a forked Walking stick is one of the most important tools you should pick up first. It needs to be one or two feet taller than your height. Reason being stick in hand with arms extended this gives you plenty of standoff from poisonous snakes, and coyotes. The forked stick with a v-cut will help pin down a snake at the head. My first recommendation is do not mess with the wildlife. You can live for 2 to 3 weeks without eating food, you can only live for 1.5 to 3 days without water depending on the conditions of your environment.
Your second most valuable tool in a desert environment is a container or capture device to collect water. This will allow you to transport water or travel with water as you try to achieve self rescue.
Your third most viable tool will be a device that you can dig with if needed to procure a water source of its water. Sometimes in dry desert locations your best places to seek water are plants, springs, and the bottom of cliffs with limited sun exposure for soil extraction.
When I was serving in the Army, and we were in Kuwait the temperatures would reach 115°F to 150°F depending a lot on materials that surrounded us, such as blacktop roads, concrete barriers or even vehicles. Typically the US Army encouraged us to drink water and drink a plethora of it. One skill we used to cool our core temperature was to wet our clothing and wet a hanker chief. Tied around our necks to cool blood flow through our jugular veins. This assisted with cooling our core temperature.
BIRDS & WILDLIFE:
Birds, animals and insects offer great indicators based on their behavior where water sources might be found.
(Especially as for insects are concerned look for nats, flies and mosquitoes). Birds will tend to circle in the air above water sources. Boil or treat all water before drinking. Remember when drinking water from a pond, pool, river, creek or stream that animals visit you must treat the water. Reason, due to the fact that animals have poor hygienic practices.
DRY RIVER or CREEK BEDS:
Dry river or creek beds with vegetation are great places to dig for water. You may need to take into consideration the terrain. Find the lowest point of elevation. Even if all you find is damp soil you can use clothing to press droplets out. Suck the moisture, repeat the process as needed. Water sources are a great place to find edible plants for food, but beware that near water grows poisonous plants and you need to know exactly what you are eating.
Flip rocks over in creek beds or riverbeds to locate water. Water tends to get trapped under rocks and evaporation is drastically slowed under the surface of the rocks. Water is protected from exposure to the sun under rocks. Additionally water tends to collect at the base or bottom of cliffs especially in the face of the cliff that gets the least amount of sunlight as mentioned above.
Morning dew collects on plants and rocks, use a T-shirt or sock to soak up water. Suck on or wring out into your container or capture device collected water. In a survival situation every single drop of water is gold. Water is not to be wasted, this is a matter of your life or death. Without water you will most certainly die in an extreme climate situation such as the desert environment.
Cottonwoods, willows, sycamores, huckleberry and cottontails generally are near groundwater. So if you see one, two or three trees off in the distance that might be a great indicator that there is a water source feeding those trees.
(So know how to identify these trees on sight)
Cacti are a good source of water. The Prickley Pear offers an edible food source and moisture and you can eat the fruit or the leaflet to self sustain and collect water moisture.
(BEWARE!!!) Beware of cacti that consists of a white milky colored liquid. Some cactus are highly poisonous do not drink or eat any cactus fluid that contains a white milky substance.
It is always best to travel in the times that the days are the coolest and you still have visible light. Sunrise and sunset are great times to travel in the desert. Most desert critters are nocturnal. Snakes tend to come out at night as well as coyotes, cougars or mountain lions. To avoid injury try to refrain from traveling during daylight peak hours when the sun is at its highest point in the sky. Avoid hiking at night to avoid trips and falls and potential injuries.
Dark crackled mud with a tendency to curl up at the edges, but a look or feel of chocolate might be an indicator of a potential water source.
Remember when traveling in the desert; Terrain features are often 5 to 10 times farther away than they appear. Before making your trek be certain you have enough water on hand to sustain yourself until you get to your destination. Always seek water while traveling on route to your destination.
This article was written by Daniel W. Shrigley otherwise known as America's Survival Son.
In an open area, place a stick 12" inches in length securely in the ground. Standing straight and then grab two rocks. Look for the tip of the casted shadow. Mark the first position with one rock at the tip of the shadow. Wait for 15 minutes then mark the tip of the shadow with your 2nd rock. From the base of the stick draw a line center between the two rocks. You now know which direction north is in the Northern Hemisphere.
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