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AIR2AIR asked me to post a primer on desert survival. This is specifically written with the FJ Cruiser in mind. You are not parachuting into a combat zone and you are not on a wilderness hike. Your FJ stopped working.

The GPS “Spot” Spot Messenger > Home is a good place to turn if things go badly for you, however, your Spot Messenger may not work (the batteries may have run down or they may have leaked as they are prone to do in excessive heat). It runs on batteries. It’s a machine. So is your FJ Cruiser.

This thread deals with basic survival hints and the most important survival tool you have is your brain.

You are in the desert on a run and you’re in your rig. Something goes horribly wrong. This happens all of the time and people die needlessly because they are not prepared. This thread doesn’t take the place of training, but it’s a place to start.

UPHILL’s Desert Preparation Hints for the FJ Cruiser.

Scenario: You are not parachuting into a combat zone. You’re driving your FJ and something happens. You know where you came from and with any luck at all you know where you were going – you have a map. (please never rely completely on a GPS) For whatever reason, you can’t drive your FJ anymore. Decision time. If you can call for help, call for help and wait where you are.

Sometimes you need to walk out because there isn’t any other choice – THAT is what these suggestions are principally intended to address.

1. Develop a Plan. Then stick to the plan. Don’t waste time because you have two great gifts. (a) time (b) the choice in how you use it.

Leave a note under your windshield wiper with your plan on it so if somebody finds it, they will be aided in finding you.

2.0 Water – You won’t last long without hydration. If you bring water along with you in your FJ, please store at least a couple of gallons in canteens or camelbacks. I carry 3 gallons in canteens as a general rule. One of those canteens is bright orange. The desert rats call it a ‘body marker’. You can’t haul a 5 gallon Jerry can out with you if you need to walk. Learn to ration sweat, not water. Sipping water does not get it to the brain and vital organs. Take a long drink when you need it. People have been found dead from dehydration with water in their canteens.

2.1 In desert areas there is potable water and there is alkaline water, which is not. If you find alkaline water, douse yourself in it to keep you cool and drink your potable water.

2.2 If there are green plants in the desert, there is water present. Make of that what you will. You may burn more sweat trying to dig water than you earn if you find water. Those green plants usually have deep roots.

2.3 Solar stills are not a good source of water. You often produce more sweat digging the hole than you obtain from water gained through the still.

3. Clothing – The second most important thing to consider is what you should wear. Long sleeve shirts and long trousers are a better choice than short pants and t-shirts. They help retain sweat, you’re ultimately cooler and they’re better than sunblock. A wide brim hat with a closed crown is MOST IMPORTANT.

3.1 The Bedouin have been living in the desert for thousands of years. How do they dress? A long white tunic, a sleeveless cloak and a headcloth. The tunic is loose fitting, allowing air to circulate, preventing sweat from evaporating too quickly and slowing dehydration in hot, dry air. Consider this in your planning. My FJ Cruiser, THE SCORPION was built in honor of T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia). When Lawrence crossed the El Houl, a barren plain bordering the Nefudh Desert on his way to attack Aqaba in July 1917, he observed and recorded:
"It was a breathless wind - and, as the day went on and the sun rose in the sky it grew stronger - By noon it blew a half gale, so-dry that our shrivelled lips cracked open, and the skin of our faces chapped; while our eyelids, gone granular, seemed to creep back and bare our shrinking eyes. The Arabs drew their head-cloths tightly across their noses, and pulled the brow folds forward like visors with only a narrow, loose flapping slit of vision."

4. Shelter – A sleeping bag or tarp should be carried with you for shade. You must keep out of the sun during the heat of the day to prevent wasting sweat/water.

5. Fire - Matches, a flint striker, potassium permanganate, or something to cause a fire. It’s good for signaling and it gets cold in the desert at night during most of the year – far colder than most people expect.

6. Food? - Not really important. If you run out of water, food won’t matter. Three days without food isn’t a killer. Your supply of water defines how long you have to go before you shuffle off this mortal coil. If you want to bring food, bring food that is light weight.

7. A sharp knife has many uses.

8. A compass is handy if you know how to use it. Learn to use it. Having a map as a point of reference, the compass is even more valuable. Orienteering classes can be fun and will teach you to take an asmuth from your lensatic compass and will aid you in land navigation. However, we’re walking out and we know where we were and hopefully where we were going. Better to stay on the road.

Additional Thoughts

Life is always hard but it's harder when you're stupid. If you have a beloved pet, I suggest you write it off. It will drink your water. I know the dog lovers will have at me for this, but it's my opinion. We're talking about survival here and you may be able to save your pet if you can make it out, but if you don't make it, the beloved pet will surely perish in the desert.

Firearms are good if you know how to use them. It's extra weight and you need to balance the weight against the utility. If you have to shoot something, take your time, squeeze the trigger with good sight alignment/sight picture. Speed is fine, accuracy is final. As I've said, I like firearms. I don't know that they have much utility except as signaling devices in the desert survival scenario as presented.
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