Survival Kit for Desert Travel

Tips and Ideas for Desert Survival

by Felice Prager

Survival in nature does not always turn on life and death situations, but it certainly can.  If planning your equipment and clothing improves your personal comfort and convenience and adds to the enjoyment of your trip, then they become essential benefits that may improve your experience and perhaps your chances for survival in the wild. 

Servival Kit contents

An emergency survival or preparedness kit is an item to be carried while exploring on foot.  It can be modified for road trips and other methods of exploration, but specifically here, it is intended for hiking and climbing experiences.  Whether you are engaged in a recreational activity or in coping with a survival problem, this simple, well-planned, homemade item can determine the outcome of your time in the wilderness.  Emergency survival kits are not one-size-fits-all.  Different locales require different items.  A desert excursion requires different items than one in a cold area.

Servival Kit contents

The most important factor in an emergency preparedness kit is that it contains what you need to take care of YOU until help arrives or until you are back to civilization.  The most important aspect is to include items that can be used for many purposes.  Single-purpose items usually are not very important unless they hold a significant value to you or your health.

A basic kit should fit in your pocket or backpack within a relatively small metal or plastic container.  The following are some suggestions and possible uses for various items.  You can probably think of many more that might suit your individual needs as well or better.  Plan your kit carefully.  Think it through before you go.  Know how everything works and what your plans are for each item.  Make it your own list and tailor it to your personal needs. 

Servival Kit contents

You may be tempted to buy a ready-made survival kit and some of these have some very useful items in them, but they are more expensive and may not fit your requirements.  They also can be dangerous if you have not carefully gone through each item in the kit to know how they work and what their uses are.  You may think you are prepared, but then if it comes to using an unfamiliar item, you may have a serious problem.  In an emergency situation, you will not want to sit down and read a “how to” booklet.  These store-bought kits may have items in them, however, that can be used in your kit.  That is a viable option.  If you plan your emergency preparedness kit yourself, the odds are that you will be thinking about how to solve a problem, not “What in the world is this thing for?”

Servival Kit contents

Most items are easy to find in a drugstore or in an outdoor store.  Many of the items may be found around your home.

  • A sturdy 2-bladed knife.  A Boy Scout variety is a good example because it is multi-use.  There are many small practical knives available. 
  • Several large leaf bags for instant body shelter from the sun or cold weather.  Retail stores sell convenient solar blankets that will provide the same protection.  They come neatly folded into small packages and are inexpensive.  This is one instance where a store bought item may be superior.

  • A small mirror or a signal mirror.
  • A dependable magnetic compass and the ability to use it.  You should not wait to be lost in the desert before you learn to use one.
  • Matches, 12 or more.  Buy waterproof matches or waterproof them yourself by completely coating each match in wax or paraffin. 
  • A police-type whistle.  Make sure it works and works well because it can be a vital signaling device.
  • A small magnifying lens. 
  • Heavy thread - 100 feet of 8-strand for snares, shelter building, gear and clothing repairs.  Add a needle to this as it takes up virtually no room.  Add a safety pin.  Again, this takes up no room and has many uses.
  • Water purification tablets - at least a dozen.  The iodine variety is much more dependable than halazone.  Keep them dry until you are ready to use them.  The iodine type can also be dissolved and used as an antiseptic.
  • Aluminum foil for signaling.  Aluminum can also be formed into the shape of a cup or pot.
  • Razor blade - single edge.
  • Adhesive tape.  It can be used, not only for first aid purposes, but also for clothing repair, tying and cactus thorn removal.
  • Balloons - several large, bright-colored ones for carrying water, signaling.  Protect them against heat by powdering them and rapping them in newspaper.  Replace frequently, as balloons will dry out.
  • Flint and steel.  Practice using these to start a fire.  This is something you must know how to do before you have to use them.
  • Candle stub.  For drying out damp fire tinder or for light.  Wrap in foil and newspaper to prevent or at least to protect from melting in desert heat.
  • Pencil stub.  Help rescue parties by leaving notes if you must move to another location.
  • Cigarette or note papers.  For writing on, for fire starting, and for trail markers.
  • Fish hooks and line for fishing. 
  •  Alcohol wipes or similar items that come pre-packaged in drug stores.
  • Miscellaneous items.  Permanent metal toothpicks take up little room, a cork, tweezers, comb for removing cactus thorns, emergency medication, aspirin, an inhaler, or Tylenol. 

Other items that can be carried on a person are a belt knife, a good map of the area, 30 feet or so of strong nylon cord, a canteen and a watch.  You might carry a firearm with ammunition—provided you are trained in its use.  Consider carrying your gear in a small backpack.  Weight carried in this manner is less tiring to the hiker.  And always make sure you have plenty of water. 

Put together this emergency survival kit before you need it.  Think about the variety of potential dangerous situations you might find yourself in and mentally prepare yourself by knowing what you would do.  Be aware of the multiple uses of each item in your kit.  Even if your kit is never used, it is something you must have.  The key to this kit is to improvise and think about possible problems BEFORE they occur.  Keep the things in your kit small and keep it with you.  The best kit in the world cannot help you if you have left it in the glove compartment of your car or back at camp.  Being prepared can mean the difference between success and failure in the wild.


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