Ah, the desert. One of the most inhospitable environments known to man. Impossibly hot by day, bitterly cold by night, little-to-no water with one wrong turn leading to dunes as far as the eye can see. It’s also a top camping and adventure destination, which means that you need to be on top of your survival game if you’re going to get involved.
Italian explorer, Max Calderan, has just become the first man to make a solo journey across the Rub' Al Khali desert, also known as the Empty Quarter, but his journey was not without struggle. Calderan described the last 200km as “the first time in my life I had prayed to make it out of the desert alive.”
But while Calderan has trained for years to be stranded in the Empty Quarter, there have been increasing numbers of people getting stuck and stranded in the UAE desert, leading to an over stretched emergency services in the process.
Our advice? Enjoy the desert, it’s beautiful, but go prepared. GQ spoke to former Royal Marines sniper and survival expert Aldo Kane for advice on how to stay safe. For Kane, there are two main schools of thought here...
Avoid getting lost in the first place...
Yeah, it sounds simple, but there are some fundamentals fail-safes that people often miss when planning a desert trip.
- Plan your route (vehicle).
- Don't travel alone.
- Always have a grab bag (survival basics).
- Tell someone where you are going and what your estimated time back will be.
- Carry a fully charged phone and spare battery.
- Dress accordingly.
- Take three times the amount of water you think you may need.
But if you do get lost...
Sometimes, even the best laid plans can go awry, and you should carry the basics needed to give yourself as much chance of survival as possible.
- Stop moving and attempt to retrace your steps if possible.
- Find shelter from the sun.
- If you can, stay with your vehicle. This makes it much easier for rescuers to find you.
- If water is limited, reduce food intake. This is because the body needs water to break down food.
- Be seen. Mark out SOS signal in the desert with rocks or branches. This needs to be something that’s big enough to be seen from the air.
- If you need to move, move at night when temperatures are lowest. Lie up during the day and find shelter. It’s crucial to conserve energy.
- If you’re out of water, look to the waddies. Once there, dig down around a foot or so and you should reach water.
- If you have any plastic bags you can make a solar still for fresh water from dew.
- Finally, use anything you can to signal for help