Shelter Building in the Desert

By Joann Clark
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Shelter Building in the Desert

Joann Clark
 
Stock photograph of a saguaro cactus forest in Saguaro National Park, Arizona, USA during sunset.
Stock photograph of a saguaro cactus forest in Saguaro National Park, Arizona, USA during sunset.
 
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A third of all the land on Earth is made up by deserts, so there is a high chance that you will end up in a desert someday. Deserts can be very dangerous places, and knowing how to survive in a desert is a skill that is more important than most people think. One of the most important survival skills that could probably save your life in a desert is knowing how to build a shelter.

A shelter is a basic life need, even in normal conditions. In extreme conditions like deserts, however, the importance of shelter cannot be overestimated. A good shelter will protect you from the elements, such as sandstorms or the blistering hot sun, and could be the difference between life and death.

Shelters are critical in a desert environment, and even a crudely-built shelter like this will offer some protection from the sun and sand
Shelters are critical in a desert environment, and even a crudely-built shelter like this will offer some protection from the sun and sand

The following are some tips that can be important for building a shelter in the desert.

Dig a Trench

Dig a trench
Dig a trench

Many animals survive the hot, harsh conditions of the desert by staying underground. You can imitate this survival strategy if you wish to survive. Dig yourself a trench – and yes, a trench does count as a shelter (at least in a desert environment). However, one thing you must keep in mind is that digging a trench in the desert will take a lot of energy out of you, so be wary of this.

You can dig up to two feet, and make sure that it is wide enough for you to lie down in comfortably. The trench should be much cooler and should help you from getting tired too quickly. You can dig your trench with a survival shovel, which would be a part of your survival gear kit.

Build a Mound

The sand you dug out of the hole is also important.
The sand you dug out of the hole is also important.

The sand you dug out of the hole is also important. Use the sand to form a mound around the trench; however, make sure that the mound is built only on three sides.

The fourth side should serve as your entrance for going in and out of the trench. Just as you did when digging, make sure that the mound is built in the cooler part of the day so that less energy is dissipated as you work.

Cover Up the Trench

One of the survival items you should bring with you in your desert survival gear is a tarp. It can be used for many things – in this case, as a covering for the trench that you have built. The tarp will shelter you from the hot sun and keep you cool. Besides, it should also protect you from dust and sand blown by the desert wind.

Secure the Tarp

It is not enough to simply lay a tarp over your trench. This is because the wind often blows in the desert and would have no problem blowing your tarp right off your shelter if it was not properly secured.

If you ever go out into the desert, a tarp will be one of the most effective shelter items you can bring to shield you from the sun
If you ever go out into the desert, a tarp will be one of the most effective shelter items you can bring to shield you from the sun

You can secure the tarp by using a rope or a chord to tie it to rocks or sticks that have been put in the ground for the purpose. Any heavy object would do. Just make sure that the tarp is secured and would not be easily blown away.

Allow for Air

When building a shelter in the desert, it is important to regard ventilation as one of the most important factors. You should place your tarp roof a little bit off the ground so that the shelter can be ventilated.

While exposure to the sun is countered by the shadowed shelter, allowing air to pass through will protect you from intense sweating. Remember that the goal is to be cool and to keep fluid levels up.

Bring Bedding

You have to sleep at night; so, when you prepare for desert survival, think about bedding too. While you won’t be able to bring king-sized, seven-feet beds, you can still make bedtime comfortable at least.

Yes, certain deserts around the world can get very cold (especially at night), and you should prepare appropriately
Yes, certain deserts around the world can get very cold (especially at night), and you should prepare appropriately

Bring blankets that you can lay on each other to make bedding. It might not be the most comfortable sleep, but it would be better than sleeping on the cold, dry ground. You should also note that having an uncomfortable night’s rest would affect the next day, so make the best of it.

Prepare for the Cold

Many people think of the desert as a hot, scorching place, and they are right. However, they often fail to realize that the desert can be an intensely cold place too. You need to be prepared for the cold nights. Good quality blankets are a key part of any desert survival gear. Be sure to have enough blankets in your shelter to cover up in the night. There are also good body bags that would keep you warm in intense weather conditions.

There are more important tips that can be quite beneficial when you are building a shelter in the desert. The above tips, however, are a good place to start. Against the odds, be a survivor!

 

 
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