The days are longer, the daffodils and tulips are coming up, and trees are budding – spring is here! This is a great time to get outside and witness the rebirth of the natural world. However, as always, it is important to be prepared when venturing out.
While outdoors, a fun and important activity is to look around and ask yourself, what would I do to survive if I was stuck right here, right now for the next seven days? No one plans on being lost or stranded, so this activity helps prepare you for when it actually occurs. It trains your brain to think about survival requirements and watch for things that may be useful. It also helps reduce panic when the situation arises. This is a great activity to do with children, not to scare them, but to engage their observation and problem-solving skills. It also instills confidence in them so if something happens to the adult, they can handle the situation and not panic.
The classic Rule of Three, humans can survive three weeks without food, three days without water, three hours without shelter and three minutes without oxygen, can help us prioritize our survival needs.
While traversing on land in the Great Basin, the probability that you’ll be without oxygen is low but given our dire need for oxygen you should be prepared for the possibility. Therefore, don’t forget to practice oxygen deficit scenarios. Choking is probably the most likely scenario involving the lack of oxygen, so train and be familiar with skills like the Heimlich maneuver.
Finding water in a desert can be a challenge, but in the springtime, you can usually find water in seasonally flowing springs and streams. Areas with increased vegetation (although they may not yet be green) are indicators of water. As always, it is best to purify water from an unknown water source before drinking it. With the cool night temperatures and typically moist air of spring, condensation is likely to occur and you can also capitalize on it as a source for water. Having something to collect dew, such as plastic, is a good thing to keep in your backpack.
We don’t often think about shelter as a concern, but the environment itself is something that we must protect ourselves against while recreating. The weather changes quickly in Nevada, so how might you protect yourself against the sun, a sudden snow squall or a thunderstorm? Carrying an extra layer of clothing or an emergency blanket is probably a better bet than relying on the sparse Nevada landscape for shelter.
The most common mistake people make is assuming they will be back as planned. Finding nutritious food in the desert is a challenge, thus packing a few extra granola bars is wise. That being said, remember, you can survive without eating for many days. In the event you are an adventurous eater, dandelion leaves and flowers provide nutrition and insects are also an option. However, if you are unfamiliar with edible plants and insects, your best choice is not to eat. The digestive distress from eating the wrong thing could be devastating, and lead to your demise long before not eating.
Get outside and explore nature! Enjoy the flowers and the birds and the dynamic conditions of spring in the mountains and on your local streets. And while you’re out there, think about how you might address a lack of food, shelter, water, or air. Preparing for such a situation could save your life.