Last Updated on June 19, 2023

Surviving in the desert can be a thrilling experience for those who love adventure and the great outdoors.

However, the desert is also one of the most challenging environments to survive in due to its harsh and unforgiving conditions.

This is why having the right gear is essential for anyone venturing into the desert.

In this article, we will be exploring the top ten items that you need to have in your desert survival gear list.

Desert bushcrafting requires a specific skill set and equipment to ensure that you stay safe and comfortable in an environment that can easily become dangerous.

The desert is a harsh and unpredictable place, with temperatures that can soar to over 120°F and drop to below freezing at night.

Without adequate desert bushcraft gear, you can easily succumb to dehydration, heat exhaustion, hypothermia, or even death.

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Desert Survival Gear Packing List
Desert Survival Essentials: What to Pack for the Desert

10 Items You Need to Survive in the Desert

1. Water

You know what they say, hydration is key. But when you’re stranded in the middle of the desert, water isn’t just a matter of convenience, it’s a matter of life or death.

The desert environment can be brutal, with temperatures soaring to unbearable heights and the arid air sucking the moisture right out of you.

That’s why having a reliable source of water is crucial when it comes to desert survival.

You might think that you can just rely on finding water in the desert, but let us tell you, that’s a risky move.

Water sources in the desert can be scarce and unreliable, and you don’t want to be left high and dry with no backup plan.

So, what’s the solution? Bring your own water. And not just a little bit either. Plan on drinking at least a gallon of water per person per day. Trust us, you’ll need it.

Pack lightweight, durable containers that won’t leak or break easily, and consider bringing a water filtration system or purification tablets in case you run out or need to refill from a natural source. When you’re in the desert, make sure to drink water regularly, even if you don’t feel thirsty.

Avoid drinking alcohol or sugary drinks, as they can dehydrate you further. And if you start feeling dizzy or nauseous, that’s a red flag that you need to stop and rest in the shade and drink water.

Don’t mess around when it comes to water, it’s the key to staying alive in the desert.

2. Navigation

In the desert, everything can start to look the same after a while. It’s a vast, featureless expanse that can make you feel like you’re wandering around in circles.

That’s why having a reliable navigation system is crucial when it comes to desert survival.

There are a few different options when it comes to navigation tools, but the most popular ones are GPS devices, maps and compasses, and satellite phones.

GPS devices are great for providing accurate and up-to-date location information, but they can be affected by battery life and satellite coverage.

Maps and compasses are more old-school, but they require more skill and practice to use effectively, but they are a must when travelling in the desert where GPS signal is unreliable.

Satellite phones are a good backup option if you need to call for help in an emergency.

Before you head out into the desert, make sure you’re familiar with your chosen navigation tool and practice using it in a safe environment.

Bring extra batteries or a solar charger to keep your devices powered, and make sure to pack a backup navigation tool in case of equipment failure. You don’t want to get lost in the desert, trust us.

3. Clothing

When it comes to desert survival, your choice of clothing can make all the difference.

The desert climate can be extreme, with temperatures fluctuating between scorching hot days and freezing cold nights.

The right clothing can help regulate your body temperature, protect your skin from the sun, and prevent heat exhaustion or hypothermia.

When packing your clothes for the desert, you’ll want to choose lightweight, breathable fabrics that wick moisture away from your skin.

Long-sleeved shirts and pants are a must to provide full coverage from the sun, and a wide-brimmed hat will protect your face and neck from getting fried.

You might also want to consider packing a lightweight, packable rain jacket in case of sudden storms.

And don’t forget about your feet! Choose sturdy, comfortable boots or shoes with good ankle support and traction.

Sandals or flip-flops might be tempting, but they offer little protection and can cause blisters or injuries.

Consider packing extra pairs of socks as well, as your feet will likely get sweaty and dusty in the desert. Merino wool is the best fabric for desert-friendly socks.

Bring a warm fleece or jacket to throw on when the sun goes down, and make sure to keep a hat and gloves handy as well. And finally, make sure to pack a good pair of sunglasses to protect your eyes from the bright, reflective desert sun.

4. Shelter

When the sun goes down in the desert, the temperature can drop drastically, making it important to have a shelter to protect yourself from the elements.

A shelter can also provide shade during the day, which can help regulate your body temperature and prevent sunburn.

There are a variety of shelter options to choose from, depending on your preference and skill level.

A lightweight, packable tent is a good option if you’re planning on staying in one place for a while, while a simple tarp or emergency blanket can provide quick and easy shelter in an emergency.

You might also want to consider a bivvy sack or sleeping bag to keep you warm at night.

Whatever shelter you choose, make sure to set it up in a location that is protected from the wind and sun, and make sure to secure it properly to prevent it from blowing away in the desert winds.

And if you’re feeling crafty, you can even try building a shelter from natural materials like branches, leaves, or sandbags.

5. Fire Starting Tools

Fire can be a lifesaver in the desert, providing warmth, light, and a way to purify water or cook food.

But starting a fire in the desert can be challenging, especially if you don’t have the right tools. When it comes to fire starting, there are a few different options to consider.

Waterproof matches or a lighter are the most common, but you might also want to pack a fire starter kit or magnesium fire starter for backup.

Make sure to keep your fire starting tools in a waterproof container to prevent them from getting damaged or wet. And don’t forget about the fuel!

You’ll want to collect plenty of dry, combustible materials like twigs, dried grass, or small branches to get your fire going.

Make sure to set up your fire in a safe location, away from any flammable materials like dry brush or grass, and always make sure to extinguish your fire completely before leaving.

6. First Aid Kit

Accidents can happen anywhere, but in the desert, a small injury can quickly turn into a life-threatening situation.

That’s why it’s essential to pack a comprehensive first aid kit when heading out into the desert. Your first aid kit should include basic supplies like bandages, gauze, antiseptic wipes, and pain relievers, as well as more specialized items like a snake bite kit, tweezers, and a thermometer.

It’s also a good idea to pack any prescription medications you might need, as well as a basic first aid manual to help you treat injuries and illnesses.

Before you head out into the desert, make sure to familiarize yourself with the contents of your first aid kit and how to use them.

And if you’re traveling with a group, make sure everyone knows where the first aid kit is located and how to use it. Remember, in an emergency, time is of the essence, so be prepared to act quickly and decisively.

Surviveware Survival First Aid Kit
Surviveware Survival First Aid Kit
First aid kit for desert hiking and backpacking

Rapid Care First Aid Unitized First Aid Kit
First aid kit for those who live in a desert area

Ven-Ex Snake Bite Kit
Venom extractor against snakes, scorpions, spiders, bees and wasps.
Read more: Best first aid kits for desert

7. Multi-Tool

In the desert, you never know what kind of situation you might find yourself in. That’s why having a versatile, multi-purpose tool is essential for desert survival.

A good multi-tool should include a variety of functions, such as pliers, a knife, a saw, a can opener, and a screwdriver.

These tools can be used for everything from fixing gear and building shelter to preparing food and cutting through tough materials like rope or wire.

When choosing a multi-tool for a trip to the desert, look for one that is sturdy and durable, with a comfortable grip that won’t slip out of your hands.

And make sure to practice using it before you head out into the desert, so you’ll be familiar with its various functions and capabilities.

8. Sun Protection

The desert is one of the sunniest places on earth, with intense UV rays that can cause sunburn, dehydration, and heat exhaustion.

That’s why it’s important to pack sun protection gear like a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30.

You should also wear lightweight, breathable clothing that covers your arms and legs to protect against the sun’s rays while allowing your skin to breathe.

And don’t forget to take frequent breaks in the shade and drink plenty of water to avoid heat exhaustion and dehydration.

Not only you need to apply the strongest sun protection you can find, but if you are hiking for several hours, you will need to re-apply it regularly as you sweat in the desert heat.

SPF 100 Banana Boat Sport Ultra

SPF 100 Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch

SPF 100 La Roche-Posay Anthelios

SPF 110 Neutrogena Age Shield
Selected SPF 100+ sunscreen lotions for the hot desert.

9. Food and Snacks

In addition to water, having a sufficient amount of food and snacks is essential for desert survival.

You’ll need to pack lightweight, high-energy foods that won’t spoil easily in the heat. Some good options include energy bars, nuts, dried fruits, jerky, and trail mix.

Consider packing a small portable stove and cooking utensils to prepare hot meals, especially during cold desert nights.

Make sure to pack enough food to sustain you for the duration of your trip, and consider bringing extra in case of an emergency or unexpected delays.

Remember, food is fuel for your body, and you’ll need all the energy you can get to survive in the harsh desert environment.

10. Vehicle Emergency Kit

When driving in the desert, it’s important to have a vehicle emergency kit with essential items that can keep you safe and comfortable until help arrives.

The kit should include a large leaf bag or solar blanket for instant body shelter, a small mirror or signal mirror for signaling for help, and a shovel and traction mat to get your vehicle unstuck from sand.

Other important items to consider are a portable air compressor and tire repair kit, extra fuel and oil, a fire extinguisher, and a reliable communication device like a satellite phone or two-way radio.

Be prepared for any emergency that may arise in the desert and keep yourself and your vehicle equipped with the necessary tools to stay safe.

Desert Camping Essentials Checklist

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