Desert Survival

Deserts are generally thought as being vast, wind-swept tracts of land covered by nothing other than sand. While such deserts do exist, there are also barren, dry salt and rock deserts along with deserts that have enough grasses and shrubs to sustain small numbers of wildlife such as goats. What is common with all of these deserts is that they are areas of high temperatures during the day, low temperatures during the night, and free of large bodies of water. Desert survival provides unique challenges as compared to other environments.

Conserving Water
As you might expect, water is the most important factor in desert survival. As such, you need to carry all that you can when and if you choose to travel. You can't assume that you will come across additional sources of water like you can in some environments.

Be sure to sip your water and not gulp it. If supplies are critical, moisten your lips only. Breathe through your nose rather than your mouth to reduce water loss.

Although you'll feel cooler without a shirt, you're better off remaining fully clothed. Clothes slow down the evaporation of sweat and will also reduce how much you sweat. Also, to reduce the amount you sweat and therefore the amount of water you need to consume, be sure to select a slow pace. The exception to this is if you have sufficient quantities of water in which case you can move as fast as you are able.

Finding Water

Traveling the Desert
In addition, you should travel in the early morning and evening while remaining in the shade at other times of the day. Use the easiest travel route possible to i.e. avoid loose sand and rough terrain. If surrounded by sand dunes, walk along the ridges or in the valleys between the dunes.

Your best bet is to head for the coast. However, although unintuitive, don't follow a stream hoping to get to the ocean except in coastal desert areas of areas with large rivers. In most deserts, streams lead to an enclosed basin or temporary lake.

Finally, multiple estimated distances to landmarks by 3 because the lack of land features can result in underestimating.

There is no chance of being buried by a sandstorm, but you should seek cover. Mark your direction with a stick or rocks since sandstorms reduce visibility and can result in disorientation.

FM 21-76 Survival, Department of the Army Field Manual

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