8 Desert Survival Tips From A Prepper

Planning to camp in or pass by a desert anytime soon? You may want to start learning some desert survival skills before you go. The desert is a challenging and dangerous environment to navigate. Danger lurks everywhere, days are extremely hot, and the nights are unforgivingly cold.

People who take on a desert adventure without taking time to learn the necessary working knowledge will find it difficult to deal with desert conditions. In this article, we talk about eight desert survival tips you should know.


1. Planning is key.

Failing to plan is planning to fail. Preparation is crucial in almost everything we do in life , most especially when we talk about survival. Months or weeks before your trip, make sure that you study and familiarize yourself with the route and destination.

One of the best things to do is to read up and watch videos of other travelers who have been to the desert you are planning to visit. Looking into their experience will help you get a glimpse of what you are likely to experience there.

Also, don’t forget to share your itinerary with at least one person. This practice should be a standard for anyone who plans to go out into the wild. Take time to tell them what route you’re taking, how long do you expect to be gone, and when you are scheduled to get back.

If something happens and you don’t make it back in time, this person can alert the authorities to start a search and rescue operation for you.

2. Ensure that your vehicle is in tip-top shape.

One golden rule in desert survival is to never, ever leave your vehicle. The only exception to this rule is if you are 100% sure that a civilization is nearby.

Your vehicle is an instant survival camp. It holds all of the survival equipment available within your reach: roof for shelter, fuel to make fire, battery to charge your other survival equipment, horn to call for help, and so much more.

If it comes down to a search and rescue operation, a vehicle is also more visible under a helicopter search.

So before you leave, take your vehicle to a local auto shop and have it inspected top to bottom, inside out. Make sure everything is in perfect condition - the last thing you want is for your car to break down in the middle of nowhere.

3. Bring your desert survival kit.

It is almost second nature among preppers to bring an everyday carry kit at all times. This practice is even more crucial when you plan to head on to the desert. Here are some of the most important things to include in your desert survival kit:

● Water

Remember the rule of three, you can only survive for three days without water. Ideally, each person should bring two gallons of potable water.

● First aid kit

In case of wounds and other injuries, a first aid kit should always be present in any survival bag.

● Protection

Protection can be anything from the clothes you wear, blanket to keep you from cold at night, sunglasses to protect your eyes, to a knife or gun in case of anything that may pose physical threat. You can also bring tools you can use to build a survival tent if needed.

● Signaling devices

Make sure that you have your smartphone and other devices such as a powerful flashlight, signal flare, signal mirror, glowstick, or anything that can help rescuers spot you easily.

4. Know how to obtain and ration water.

Dehydration is one of the leading causes of deaths in deserts. The day time is extremely hot and there’s barely a source of water available to help you get by. You can easily run out of water without proper rationing.

To help combat dehydration, don’t do activities that will cause you to sweat a lot. Always stay under the shade during the day and only do strenuous activities during late afternoon or at night time.

When push comes to shove and you need to obtain water from the desert, do an ocular inspection first. Look for obvious signs of water by going to a higher ground - water will shine like diamonds under the sun.

When you find a water source, having a hiking water filter with you is beneficial in ensuring that you won’t drink unclean water.

5. Stay warm at night.

Days in the desert are extremely hot, but the nights can also be very cold. One of the most surprising things about deserts is that you can get hypothermia there too! The temperature drops to almost zero, so make sure that you have clothes and blankets to keep you warm.

Fire is essential to help combat the cold. You can use the oil in your car to start a fire or if you have fire creation tools, use them to make your life easier. Fire creation tools can include tinder, kindling, wood logs, electrical lighters, waterproof matches, and more.

Aside from having the right tools, you must also have the skills on the different fire building techniques. Constant practice is key and there are tons of resources available online to help you get started.

Aside from keeping you warm, having fire at night can also drive away predatory animals like coyotes, bobcats, and mountain lions.

6. Know how to deal with wildlife threats.

Aside from predatory animals, the desert is also a home to various wildlife threats. These threats can range from dust storms, flash floods, and other poisonous things.

One thing you can do to ensure your safety is to be smart in choosing your resting spots. Scout the location and be diligent in looking for signs that animals may be living nearby. It’s good to rest near a source of water but that area can also be potentially home to rattlesnakes.

7. Stay calm and composed.

Mental and spiritual toughness are just as important as physical strength when navigating through a desert. Planning can greatly help you know what to expect, but also keep in mind that several events may still surprise you while you’re there.

When faced with a threat or when you get stuck, don’t panic - it will most likely only lead you to make mistakes and further endanger yourself.

The first thing you need to do is breathe, and then think. There’s almost always a way to get out of a survival scenario so you should focus your thoughts there. Recall everything you learned from your survival classes and the different resources you’ve encountered before.

Start with the basic elements like fire - our ancestors have used it for ages, way before the technology we have today was invented. So survival is more than possible. Fire can keep you warm, can be used as a signal to call for help, and can drive off predatory animals.

8. Know the signaling tools to get rescued.

Unpack your signaling tools and get ready when you see signs of vehicles and rescue parties. You must learn the cues that rescuers can easily tell apart from the usual sounds in nature.

During the day, it’s smart to use the signaling mirror or a metal knife is an alternative. These tools are effective as flashlights when the sun is out. Their reflection can be seen for miles and can call the attention of helicopters and airplanes.

At night, fire, flares, and a powerful flashlight are your best options. You can also use the honk of your car or a whistle (if you have any) as audible signal tools. But remember to make noise in 3s - three honks, three whistle blows. One long blast can be mistaken for a wail of a hawk or another animal.


Surviving in a desert can be tough, but not impossible. Again, research and preparation are key. There are already tons of people who were stuck and made it out of the desert. Use their experiences like manuals on what to do and what not to do. We hope the tips we listed above helped you as you prepare for your upcoming desert adventure.

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