Desert Survival

A desolate stretch of road along the Sea of Cortez between Puertecitos and Bahia Gonzaga - no Auto Club or cell service here.

The most important item in any survival kit should be common sense. The more the better. Know what you are really capable of doing. You are not superman and your vehicle is not a trophy truck. You can have some pretty exciting adventures if you learn to trust knowledge and skills that you really have. Know what your limits are. Know when to stop.

If you haven’t been out for awhile or your rig has been parked for the summer you should consider a cruise around the neighborhood and a back yard campout. If you can’t survive in your back yard or don’t trust your buggy to get you to town and back then you won’t last out in the desert.

Unless you know the area you are going into and are well prepared you should never travel alone. Having a buddy along is the best safety net there is. Consequently if you are driving having another rig along is just as important.

Water is the most important item on the survival kit list. Coffee and beer don’t count because they cause dehydration. If you are hiking the Sierra San Pedro Mártir, where the larger canyons hold water all year, you only need to carry a filter. In all other local areas, you will need to carry a gallon per person per day.

If you are driving out in the desert you should have a basic tool kit, a dependable jack with a board to set it on, a spare can of gas, and a spare tire in your rig. You should also consider carrying a tarp or extra blankets, jumper cables, a 12 volt air pump, extra oil, a shovel, and a tow rope. The remainder of a basic survival kit should include a sharp knife, matches or a lighter, a bandana or large handkerchief, and 10 or 20 feet of light rope or cord.

Having a few basic skills, such as being able to change a tire or making minor automotive repairs, is important. Being able to start a fire or use a compass could contribute to saving your life.

Hypothermia can be as dangerous as dehydration because desert temperatures fluctuate dramatically. For example, temperature fluctuations of 20, 30 and 40 degrees over a 24 hour period are common. Carry a sweater, windbreaker or blanket and wear layered clothing.

If traveling light, take something to eat such as jerky, peanuts, or candy bars. If traveling heavy, the sky’s the limit. In fact, many of our locals are known for carrying gourmet survival rations with them.

Even though getting bit by a snake is only a slim possibility you should know how to react to it. There is often a greater amount of permanent injury done by reckless snakebite treatment than by the bite itself. Doctors no longer recommend that people make an incision at the wound. Similarly, do nothing to increase your heart rate. Rather, find a sheltered location with firewood and water, sit down, relax and conserve energy. Tie a tourniquet between the wound site and your heart but remember to release the tourniquet every five minutes for a one-minute period. Send someone for help but be sure that someone knows where he or she is going. A rattlesnake bite doesn’t have to be fatal even if you can’t get to a doctor.

Finally, we have never had a case of starvation in our local desert although we have had dehydration, hypothermia, and injury. You can safely enjoy the beauty of the desert with a only a few skills. We recommend you consider one or more of our locally organized safaris such as those conducted by the San Felipe Association of Retired Persons. With their help, and a little preparation on your part, you’ll soon be exploring the magnificent beauty of Baja.