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15 Desert Survival Tips That Could Save Your Life

15 Desert Survival Tips That Could Save Your Life

15 Desert Survival Tips That Could Save Your Life

As someone who grew up in Arizona, I can assure you that survival in the desert is a very different beast. The dry air sucks the moisture out of you so quickly, it can be difficult to stay hydrated even while working in your own backyard. Without water, you won’t survive in the desert for nearly as long as you would in a humid climate.

In a place where water is scarce and even the plants and animals struggle to stay alive, getting by without modern conveniences can be a real challenge. Whether you find yourself lost in a desert or living in a desert when disaster strikes, survival is going to require some hard work and a lot of ingenuity.

To help, here are 15 desert survival tips that could save your life.

1. Don’t Eat Too Much

The more food you eat, the more water you will require to survive. If water is scarce (as it most likely will be), you’ll want to only eat as much as you need to keep your energy up. Any more than that and you risk using too much of your precious water supply. In fact, if you have little to no water available and are just holding out for rescue then it is better if you do not eat at all.

2. Prepare for the Cold

If you’ve spend any time in the desert, you know the nights are every bit as cold as the days are hot. At first, this can be a welcome relief, but as the night wears on you may find yourself freezing cold. It’s important, therefore, to prepare for both the cold and the heat by having clothes that work for both extremes as well as a good shelter and the ability to build a fire. Another option is to…

3. Move at Night

It’s better to rest during the day and move at night. Not only does moving during the heat of the day increase your chances of becoming overheated, it also causes you to sweat, hastening dehydration. Try to find a shady area and sleep during the day so that you will be rested and ready to travel when night falls.

4. Wear Sunglasses

The desert sun reflecting off the sand can be extremely hard on your eyes. Not only will it spoil your night vision for hours into the night, it can also cause severe headaches and blurry vision. To avoid this, you will want to wear sunglasses if you have them. If you don’t, do your best to make a sun shield using your hat, cardboard, or whatever else you have available.

5. Keep Your Clothes on

It may be tempting to start shedding your clothes when the temperature climbs, but it’s better if you don’t. Exposing your bare skin to the sun hastens dehydration and puts you at risk of severe sunburns.

6. Cover Your Head

This might seem counterintuitive as most people cover their head to keep it warm, but if your head and it’s possibly dark hair is exposed to the sun all day, it is going to absorb a lot of heat and make it difficult for your body to stay cool. Ideally, you’ll want to cover your head with a light-colored hat or shirt. Speaking of which…

7. Wear Light Colors

Light colors reflect sunlight while dark colors absorb it. When keeping cool is a priority, the former is far more desirable than the latter.

8. Cover Your Mouth

The body loses a lot of moisture when you exhale, especially through the mouth. Try to breathe through your nose, or better yet, cover your mouth with a bandana or another article of clothing.

9. Watch for Floods

Floods may seem like the last thing you have to worry about in a desert, and 99% of the time this is true. However, when it does rain in the desert it rains hard, and flash floods are the norm. If you see thunderheads approaching, avoid dry washes (arroyos).

10. Wear Chapstick

Time spent in the desert without chapstick is certainly not going to be enjoyable. If you have chapstick available, you will definitely want to apply it frequently. If you do not have chapstick available, avoid licking your lips. The temporary relief will not be worth the long-term misery.

11. Find Water

Being stuck in the desert without an ample water supply is an incredibly dangerous situation. Thankfully, there are a few ways you can collect water in the desert. If it’s summertime, keep your eyes peeled for cactus fruit. Eating cactus fruits will help keep you hydrated, however, you’ll want to be very careful because too much of it could make you sick, dehydrating you even faster. So even if you find some cactus fruit, keep searching for water. Some ways to find water sources in the desert include:

1. Following animals to a water source. Watch for instances where multiple trails seem to converge in the same direction, especially downhill. Also, if you see lots of bees, mosquitoes, and other flying insects, there may be water nearby.

2. Search the shady side of canyons. If you live in the Northern hemisphere, search the Northern side of canyons for areas that are shaded through most of the day. (If you’re in the Southern hemisphere, search the Southern side.) You’re far more likely to find standing water here.

3. Look just beneath the surface of dried up creek beds. Obviously, this has a much better chance of working if it has rained recently (perhaps during Monsoon season). Find the lowest point of the creek bed where plants are growing, and dig. If you don’t find water within a foot of the surface, move on.

Or you could…

12. Build a Water Still

If you are unable to find a sufficient water source, you can collect some water by building a water still. To build a water still, you will want to dig a hole, fill it with vegetation, place a container in the middle of the hole, and cover the hole with plastic sheeting. Place rocks around the perimeter of the sheeting to hold it in place and put one small rock in the center of the sheeting directly above the container. As water evaporates from the vegetation, it will condense on the plastic sheeting and drip down into your container.

However, a single solar still will only get you a little bit of water, so I would only do this if you’re staying put and waiting for rescue. If you’re on the move, there are much better ways to gather water (see the previous tip). You should also only do this during twilight or nighttime, as you might lose more water through sweat while digging than you would collect from the still.

13. Don’t Sit Down

Lying down on the rocks or in the sand may seem like an intuitive way to conserve energy. However, the rocks and the sands in the desert are often upwards of 30 degrees warmer than the air, causing you to overheat much faster than you would if you were standing. In addition to this, poisonous snakes and scorpions can hide underneath rocks and beneath the sand. If you do need to stop for a rest, try to find a shaded area and carefully make sure no dangerous critters are already using it.

14. Travel in One Direction

Common wilderness survival advice is to go downhill until you find a creek or river, and then follow that until you find a road where you can flag down someone for help. But what if you’re in a large flat desert and there is no up, down, or creek (not even a dried up one)?

In that case, your best bet is to find North and then choose whichever direction is most likely to lead to civilization and stick with that direction. Avoid straying from that one direction or you’ll likely end up going in circles. Take breaks and find North again to make sure you’re still heading in the right direction. If you are able to survive long enough, you are bound to eventually find a road, a town, or some other means of rescue.

If you’re in an area with lots of hills and valleys, on the other hand, you’re better off staying put and waiting for rescue. The last thing you want to do is slip and break your leg.

15. Drink the Dew

Mountain Dew isn’t a good drink to survive in the desert, but morning dew is. In the early morning hours before the sun has risen, you should be able to collect dew that has gathered on nearby plants. Use a cloth or your shirt to soak up dew from plants, then squeeze it into your mouth or a container.

Drinking dew won’t provide much water, and it will only be available in the early morning hours before the blazing sun evaporates it, but in a situation where every drop counts, drinking the morning dew could be the difference between survival and dehydration.

Hopefully, you won’t ever find yourself stranded in the middle of the desert, but in case you do, these desert survival tips will mean the difference between life and death.

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Tips For Floods

TYPES OF FLOODING

 

A flood is defined as an overflow of water that submerges land which is normally dry. In the United States, there are various causes for flooding, including:
Flash Floods: Flash floods usually develop shortly after a nearby heavy rain. I say nearby because it doesn’t have to be raining at your location for rising water to endanger you. These floods create a rapid rise of water, especially in low-lying areas like floodplains. Causes of flash flooding include heavy rain, ice jams, and levee or dam failures. This is especially common in the western United States where normally dry areas next to steep terrain might fill with rushing water.

River Flooding: River flooding can be caused by heavy rainfall, dam failures, rapid snowmelt and ice jams. Normally flow can become turbulent rapidly as in a flash flood. In other cases, water levels may rise slowly but steadily. Either way, the result threatens structures and populations along its course.

Storm Surges: Tropical (or even non-tropical) storm systems can bring heavy winds, but most damage occurs as a result of flooding due to the storm surge. Storm surge is the rise in water generated by the storm above normal tide levels. When the storm approaches the coast, high winds cause large waves that can inundate structures, damage foundations, and cause significant loss of life.

Burn Scars: The Western U.S. has had significant wildfire activity, most recently in California. After a fire, the bare ground can become so hardened that water can’t be absorbed into the ground. This is known as a “burn scar”. Burn scars are less able to absorb moisture, leading heavy rains to accumulate water wherever gravity takes it.

Ice Jams: Northern areas of the continental U.S. and Alaska may have flooding as a result of ice jams. When moving ice and debris are blocked by an obstruction, water is held back. This causes flooding upstream. When the obstruction is finally breached, flash flooding occurs downstream. Many ice jams occur at bends in a river.

Snowmelt: Snowmelt flooding is common in mountainous Northern U.S. states. Snow is, until temperatures rise above freezing, just stored water. When it gets warmer, the snowmelt acts as if it were rain and flooding can occur.

Barrier Failures: When a dam or levee breaks, it can be due to excessive rainfall, erosion, landslides, earthquakes, and many other natural causes. Some dams fail as a result of man-made issues, such as negligence, improper maintenance, and even sabotage. As a result, water level can overflow the barrier or water can seep through the ground.

 

FLOOD PREPAREDNESS
Most people have heard of hurricane or tornado watches and warnings, but the U.S. weather services also tries to warn the populace of flooding. A “flash flood watch” means that flash flooding is possible in the near future; a “flash flood warning” means that flooding is imminent in the area.
If you live in a low-lying area, especially near a dam or river, then you should heed warnings when they are given and be prepared to evacuate quickly. Rising flood waters could easily trap you in your home and you don’t want to have to perch on your roof waiting for help.

FLOOD SAFETY TIPS

To make it safely through a flood, consider the following recommendations:
Hit The Road Early
Make the decision to leave for higher ground before flooding occurs and roads are blocked. Having a NOAA weather radio will keep you up to date on the latest advisories. When the authorities tell you to leave, don’t hesitate to get out of Dodge.
Be Careful Walking Through Flood Waters
Drowning is the most common cause of death during a flood, especially a flash flood. Rapidly moving water can knock you off your feet even if less than a foot deep. Even calm flood waters are often murky and hide debris that can cause injuries if you walk through them.
Don’t Drive Through a Flooded Area
In a flood, many people drown in their cars as they stall out in moving water. Most vehicles can be carried away by water just two foot deep.Road and bridges could easily be washed out if you waited too long to leave the area. Plan before a flood occurs to see if there is a “high road” to safety.

Beware Of Downed Power Lines
Watch for downed power lines; electrical current is easily conducted through water. You don’t have to touch the downed line to be electrocuted, only step in the water nearby. There are numerous instances of electrocutions occurring as a result of rescuers jumping into the water to try to save victims of a shock.
Don’t Drink The Water
Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink: Flood water is not clean water. It is contaminated by debris and water treatment plants may even have been compromised by the disaster. Have a reliable way to purify water and a good supply of clean water stored away. 12-16 drops of household bleach will sterilize a gallon of water (a teaspoon for 5 gallons), but a filter might also be needed to eliminate debris. Wait 30 minutes after sterilization to drink.

Have Supplies Handy
Flood waters may not recede quickly. Besides water as mentioned above, have non-perishable food, bottled water, heat and light sources, batteries, tools, extra clothing, a medical kit, a cell phone, and a NOAA weather radio among your supplies.
Turn Off The Power

If you have reason to believe that water will get into your home, turn off the electricity. If you don’t and the water reaches the level of the electric outlets, you could easily get electrocuted. Some warning signs might be sparks or strange sounds like crackling, popping, or buzzing.

Beware of Intruders
Critters that have been flooded out of their homes may seek shelter in yours. Snakes, raccoons, insects, and other refugees may decide your residence is now their territory. Human intruders may also be interested to see what valuables you left behind.
Watch Your Step
After a flood, watch where you step when you enter your home; there will, likely, be debris everywhere. The floors may also be covered in mud, causing a slip-and-fall hazard.
Check for Gas Leaks
Don’t use candles, lanterns, stoves, or lighters unless you are sure that the gas has been turned off and the area is well-ventilated.
Avoid Exhaust Fumes
Only use generators, camping stoves, or charcoal grills outside. Their fumes can be deadly.
Clean Out Saturated Items Completely

If cans of food got wet in the flood, their surfaces may be covered with mud or otherwise contaminated. Thoroughly wash food containers, utensils, and personal items before using.

Don’t use appliances or motors that have gotten wet unless they have completely dried. You might have to take some apart to clean debris out of them.

Use Waterproof Containers for Important Stuff

Waterproof containers can protect food, personal items, documents, and more.  If your area is at risk for flooding, have the important stuff protected by storing them correctly.
Floods are just one of the many natural disasters that can endanger your family and turn your home into a ruin. With planning and some supplies, however, you’ll be able to keep your loved ones safe and healthy.

 

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Cold Weather – Basic Survival Tips

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It is more difficult for you to satisfy your basic water, food, and shelter needs in a cold environment than in a warm environment. Even if you have the basic requirements, you must also have adequate protective clothing and the will to survive. The will to survive is as important as the basic needs. There have been incidents when trained and well-equipped individuals have not survived cold weather situations because they lacked the will to live. Conversely, this will has sustained individuals less well-trained and equipped.

There are many different items of cold weather equipment and clothing issued by the US Army today. Specialized units may have access to newer, lightweight gear such as polypropylene underwear, GORE-TEX outerwear and boots, and other special equipment. Remember, however, the older gear will keep you warm as long as you apply a few cold weather principles. If the newer types of clothing are available, use them. If not, then your clothing should be entirely wool, with the possible exception of a windbreaker. You must not only have enough clothing to protect you from the cold, you must also know how to maximize the warmth you get from it. For example, always keep your head covered. You can lose 40 to 45 percent of body heat from an unprotected head and even more from the unprotected neck, wrist, and ankles. These areas of the body are good radiators of heat and have very little insulating fat. The brain is very susceptible to cold and can stand the least amount of cooling. Because there is much blood circulation in the head, most of which is on the surface, you can lose heat quickly if you do not cover your head.

There are four basic principles to follow to keep warm. An easy way to remember these basic principles is to use the word COLD–

C – Keep clothing clean.
O – Avoid overheating.
L – Wear clothes loose and in layers.
D – Keep clothing dry.

C – Keep clothing clean. This principle is always important for sanitation and comfort. In winter, it is also important from the standpoint of warmth. Clothes matted with dirt and grease lose much of their insulation value. Heat can escape more easily from the body through the clothing’s crushed or filled up air pockets.

O – Avoid overheating. When you get too hot, you sweat and your clothing absorbs the moisture. This affects your warmth in two ways: dampness decreases the insulation quality of clothing, and as sweat evaporates, your body cools. Adjust your clothing so that you do not sweat. Do this by partially opening your parka or jacket, by removing an inner layer of clothing, by removing heavy outer mittens, or by throwing back your parka hood or changing to lighter headgear. The head and hands act as efficient heat dissipates when overheated.

L – Wear your clothing loose and in layers. Wearing tight clothing and footgear restricts blood circulation and invites cold injury. It also decreases the volume of air trapped between the layers, reducing its insulating value. Several layers of lightweight clothing are better than one equally thick layer of clothing, because the layers have dead-air space between them. The dead-air space provides extra insulation. Also, layers of clothing allow you to take off or add clothing layers to prevent excessive sweating or to increase warmth.

D – Keep clothing dry. In cold temperatures, your inner layers of clothing can become wet from sweat and your outer layer, if not water repellent, can become wet from snow and frost melted by body heat. Wear water repellent outer clothing, if available. It will shed most of the water collected from melting snow and frost. Before entering a heated shelter, brush off the snow and frost. Despite the precautions you take, there will be times when you cannot keep from getting wet. At such times, drying your clothing may become a major problem. On the march, hang your damp mittens and socks on your rucksack. Sometimes in freezing temperatures, the wind and sun will dry this clothing. You can also place damp socks or mittens, unfolded, near your body so that your body heat can dry them. In a campsite, hang damp clothing inside the shelter near the top, using drying lines or improvised racks. You may even be able to dry each item by holding it before an open fire. Dry leather items slowly. If no other means are available for drying your boots, put them between your sleeping bag shell and liner. Your body
heat will help to dry the leather.

A heavy, down-lined sleeping bag is a valuable piece of survival gear in cold weather. Ensure the down remains dry. If wet, it loses a lot of its insulation value. If you do not have a sleeping bag, you can make one out of parachute cloth or similar material and natural dry material, such as leaves, pine needles, or moss. Place the dry material between two layers of the material.

Other important survival items are a knife; waterproof matches in a waterproof container, preferably one with a flint attached; a durable compass; map; watch; waterproof ground cloth and cover; flashlight; binoculars; dark glasses; fatty emergency foods; food gathering gear; and signaling items.

Remember, a cold weather environment can be very harsh. Give a good deal of thought to selecting the right equipment for survival in the cold. If unsure of an item you have never used, test it in an “overnight backyard” environment before venturing further. Once you have selected items that are essential for your survival, do not lose them after you enter a cold weather environment.

Sourced from http://army.com