Out of all climate types on the planet, there are few that are more inhospitable to humans than deserts. These hot and arid places are a complete opposite of the regular human habitats – they lack in water and because of this, they also lack in any form of life, both plant and animal. At the same time, their scorching heat makes any ill-adapted creature, like humans, quickly lose water from their bodies. Once the sun sets, the temperature differential kicks in. In fact, the temperature only takes an hour or so to drop fast in the opposite direction, leading to exceedingly cold evenings and nights.
At the same time, most deserts in the world, regardless where they are located, share these traits, so there are no “hospitable” types to be found. Some might be slightly less vicious, but every desert is a very dangerous place for humans. In fact, the same environmental setup can easily bring about a whole lot of trouble for those who venture to a desert unprepared, including a chance of a lethal outcome. Yet, humans have lived and thrived in deserts for tens of thousands of years, showing that there is a way to overcome even the worst scenarios that can befall them there. Of course, for that to happen, anyone stranded in the desert firstly has to know how to find food and water in the desert. Here are the essential facts and know-how that can help anyone survive even in the most brutal deserts of the world.
Finding Water in the Desert
Firstly, it is important to debunk some basic misconception. Water can be found beneath deserts, but it is most likely deep underground, buried under layers of rock and sand. That is why any idea of digging for water will most likely fail. Instead, the main source of water in a desert is the air. From there, small amounts of water can be collected using the principle of moisture capture. To do this, the best approach is to try to collect dew in the early morning hours. This can be achieved by spreading out a thick plastic sheet between two poles or sticks, placing it at a slight angle. At the end of the slope that the sheet forms, the sheet should be rolled up, making a duct. There, the dew should slowly collect as it sticks to the sheet and rolls down in drops. This principle provides small amounts of water but with the right rig, it might be enough for survival.
The other means of finding water is to literally go and look for it. In deserts, small amounts of condensation can be found in hollow tree trunks, underneath big rocks and in other similar places. These objects can generate lower temperatures on one or more of their parts and moisture tends to build up there. With one or both of these methods, people can and have found water in the desert.
Finding Food in the Desert
It might sound strange, but finding food is not a priority in a desert survival situation. Instead, water is a much bigger source of worried, while food should be regulated, first and foremost, by avoiding physical strain and energy consumption. This way, even people who are otherwise lean can survive on water alone for weeks. But, when the situation becomes dire, there are several ways to find some nutrition in the desert. Firstly, insects are a good source of proteins and fats, most can be safely eaten. They can be caught by hand and eaten without any previous preparation. Aside from these, reptiles can be caught using simple snares that are made out of wire or shoelaces but have to be cooked. Most of the time, snakes can also be caught using only a stick to hold it in place and any kind of blade to cut the head off(machete, knife, hatchet, etc…), but be aware that some kinds of snake might be very dangerous and even cause death with only one bite. If you are not sure which kind of snake you are dealing with, the safest option is probably just to stay away from it.
Any other creature is likely too dangerous or poisonous to be caught. The same applies to a lot of desert plants, so people stranded there should only eat grass-type plants without any colorful spots or flowers (unless you really know what you are doing). Most of them only have mostly fibers and some simple sugars in them, but at least they are not poisonous. If possible, these plants should be picked above their roots and boiled (if possible) before eating. With this combination of potential nutritional sources, it is possible to almost always find food in the desert, but still, the rule of the thumb is to avoid eating until necessary.
Related article: Common Edible Plants in the American Deserts