Desert Bushcraft

Devoted to survival skills in the wilderness

Moderator: ZS Global Moderators

User avatar
Jeriah
ZS Lifetime Member
ZS Lifetime Member
Posts: 18722
Joined: Thu Aug 11, 2005 4:12 pm
Favorite Zombie Movies: Original Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead 04, and 28 Days Later are my top three, in that order.
Location: Chicago, IL
Contact:

Desert Bushcraft

Post by Jeriah » Mon Dec 13, 2010 10:41 pm

Image

Let's talk about the desert. I grew up in San Diego, which is an arid environment, and most of my family there live out in the Anza-Borrego Desert, a couple hours east of San Diego. A lot of bushcraft skills aren't really applicable in an area with few trees, little precipitation, mild winters, and absolutely flesh-searing summers. Desert bushcraft requires a lot of its own special skills, or modified applications of standard bushcraft skills. The gear you'll use is different, too. On the other hand, hiking and exploring in the desert has its own set of rewards: broad vistas of open terrain, unique wildlife, and a great retreat when your home base is covered in fifteen feet of pure white snow. This thread is a place for us to talk about all of those things.


Here are some suggested uses for this thread:
  • Post pictures, or tell stories, of your own desert bushcrafting adventures

    Suggest bushcrafting skills that you, or I, can practice, on our next trip to the desert.

    Recommend gear you find essential in the desert. Or ask questions about same.

    Any good books on desert survival?

Alright, have at! I will be following up this initial post with several posts on the above topics and more, but I wanted to throw this up here so folk can start discussion, if interested.


And since this issue is sure to come up, let's just get it out of the way now...

Image
Image

User avatar
Chef
ZS Donor
ZS Donor
Posts: 3600
Joined: Wed Sep 24, 2008 8:56 pm
Favorite Zombie Movies: Whatever that one with Bruce Campbell in it was
Location: Behind you, HOT!

Re: Desert Bushcraft

Post by Chef » Mon Dec 13, 2010 10:59 pm

It's always good to start with some background reading. Larry Dean Olsen's Outdoor Survival Skills is mostly geared toward the environment of the western US and has a lot of information regarding primitive survival skills for that environment. That's also Cody Lundin's AO, so his corpus of work would be good to study. There might be a few tidbits scattered around in Edward Abbey's fiction, which is pretty fun to read anyway.

I've done a good bit of hiking/backpacking in the west, but just about zilch in terms of working on applied survival techniques. I think a minimally equipped trek of about 30 miles over a span of four days or so would be a good fun training experience, after learning basic skills in a more controlled and close to home setting, of course. Ideally, it would traverse the "range" and "basin" zones of the environment.

Water would be an even more important element than usual. I've always wanted to try the trick of mopping up dew to collect water; it's a super simple concept, but I've never done it. Other things I've never tried include using vegetation clues to find water and digging in seemingly dry stream beds. I'd also like to practice desert movement that conserves water and energy, as in moving during the cooler parts of the day (BMNT to when it gets really hot, then late afternoon to EENT) and finding or creating shade and resting during the hottest part of the day.
Orville Wright did not have a pilot's license.

User avatar
Jeriah
ZS Lifetime Member
ZS Lifetime Member
Posts: 18722
Joined: Thu Aug 11, 2005 4:12 pm
Favorite Zombie Movies: Original Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead 04, and 28 Days Later are my top three, in that order.
Location: Chicago, IL
Contact:

Re: Desert Bushcraft

Post by Jeriah » Mon Dec 13, 2010 11:10 pm

In this post, I'm going to discuss the Anza-Borrego Desert, in Southern California. It's a beautiful region and I visit it as often as I can (a couple of times per year) as I have family there and love the area. The term "Anza-Borrego Desert" I use casually to refer to the area around and including Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, which is the largest state park in California:

http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=638" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Technically it is an area within the [urlhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colorado_Desert]Colorado Desert[/url], a subset of the Sonoran Desert, which extends from Mexico up into California and Arizona, giving way to the north to the higher-elevation Mojave Desert.

To the west of Anza-Borrego are the Lagunas Mountains and the towns of Ranchita, Julian, Santa Ysabel, and Julian. To the east is the Salton Sea, and beyond that, the Chocolate Mountains, Slab City, and the Salton Sea; beyond that is Arizona. To the south is the Mexican Border; the towns of Portrero and Jamul are southwest. To the north is a roadless expanse of arid mountains; beyond that is Palm Desert, La Quinta, Coachella, and Palm Springs, but you can't get there from here, you have to leave the desert by the West (through Ranchita) or the east (skirting the Salton Sea).

Oh, and you can Like it on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Anza-Borr ... 1618822407" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Image

Distinctive flora include the ocotillo (big spindly spiky plant, kind of looks like a Willy Pete explosion, at least I thought so as a kid), cholla (terrible, nasty cactus that leaps on you with no provocation and is a bitch to get out), barrel cactus (cool looking and not too pokey), smoke tree, creosote bush, and many more. This is NOT a sand dune type desert, it has lots of hardy desert plants.

Fauna include the Penninsular Bighorn Sheep, coyotes, jackrabbits, desert cottontails, antelope ground squirrels, desert iguanas, Western Diamonback and Mexican Red Diamondback rattlesnakes, tons of nonvenomous snakes and lizards, birds, and bugs.

My grandma, coolest person on Earth, used to work (or volunteer, I can't remember) for this organization: http://www.abdnha.org/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

They're a natural history association, so basically they're a nonprofit that works for the preservation, research, interpretation, and enjoyment of the State Park. They started out as a volunteer organization that worked with the State Park, and now they're a separate body. My grandma is still friends with all of them and I visit their store when I'm in town. Good books, especially.

Well, there's an introduction. I'll post more in a few days, since that's where I'll be. I'm sure I'll have some good adventures, I'm planning on hiking Indian Head (cool mountain, big by desert standards) which is new to me, as well as my usual old favorites.

What's your favorite desert?
Image

User avatar
Jeriah
ZS Lifetime Member
ZS Lifetime Member
Posts: 18722
Joined: Thu Aug 11, 2005 4:12 pm
Favorite Zombie Movies: Original Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead 04, and 28 Days Later are my top three, in that order.
Location: Chicago, IL
Contact:

Re: Desert Bushcraft

Post by Jeriah » Mon Dec 13, 2010 11:25 pm

Chef wrote:It's always good to start with some background reading. Larry Dean Olsen's Outdoor Survival Skills is mostly geared toward the environment of the western US and has a lot of information regarding primitive survival skills for that environment. That's also Cody Lundin's AO, so his corpus of work would be good to study. There might be a few tidbits scattered around in Edward Abbey's fiction, which is pretty fun to read anyway.
I'm going to put those on my reading list, for sure.

I'm on my second copy of Charles A. Lehman's Desert Survival Handbook, which is super rudimentary but does contain good basic survival information, nothing that stands out as bullshit, and a few good desert tricks: the transpiration still, where you tie a plastic bag over some vegetation to see what water accumulates, is one I plan on trying on my upcoming trip. In general I think this is a great book to give to kids to get them interested in survival (it was my first), as well as for a lay person with no background in survival, but a bit too basic for most people who already have some background on the subject. I still love it, it's just basic. The military survival manuals often cover some survival stuff, as well. I'll give Olsen, Lundin, and Abbey a read as soon as I can pick up a copy. (I'd order 'em now but I'll be gone before they'd get here!)
I've done a good bit of hiking/backpacking in the west, but just about zilch in terms of working on applied survival techniques. I think a minimally equipped trek of about 30 miles over a span of four days or so would be a good fun training experience, after learning basic skills in a more controlled and close to home setting, of course. Ideally, it would traverse the "range" and "basin" zones of the environment.
The Anza-Borrego Desert is really close to the Pacific Crest Trail, but it doesn't drop down into the valley floor itself. Almost all the hiking and activity takes place around the rim, with trails starting on the valley floor and going up canyons. There's also some cool broken terrain I think might qualify as a "gebel," that includes The Slot and Font's Point areas. The idea of taking a pack and just walking across the valley floor is strangely daunting, although not as much so as crossing a barren, "sand dune" type desert.
Water would be an even more important element than usual. I've always wanted to try the trick of mopping up dew to collect water; it's a super simple concept, but I've never done it. Other things I've never tried include using vegetation clues to find water and digging in seemingly dry stream beds. I'd also like to practice desert movement that conserves water and energy, as in moving during the cooler parts of the day (BMNT to when it gets really hot, then late afternoon to EENT) and finding or creating shade and resting during the hottest part of the day.
Moving at night is the recommended practice in everything I've read, with the caveat that on a moonless night it's better to move at dawn and dusk so you don't fall down a hole and die. During the winter in my desert AO (others will vary) it's not too bad to move about during the day, it's like comfortable T-shirt weather. In the summer, fuck it, I'm not moving around in that shit. Wait for night, or at least evening, and hole up in the shade all day. On the few occasions I visit my grandma in the summer I practice this survival technique by sitting inside and watching TV all day, to stay out of the sun, and only going outside once it cools off. :lol:
Image

Mojave
*
Posts: 71
Joined: Fri Dec 10, 2010 6:09 pm

Re: Desert Bushcraft

Post by Mojave » Tue Dec 14, 2010 1:00 am

I wish you luck with the transpiration still, and should you find anything in the desert worth using it on, I hope you'll let me know. I've never found any desert plants that aren't stingy enough with their water loss (as in, a few teaspoons per day per grocery produce bag) to make it worth my while - I suppose if I ever have a plane full of hundreds and hundreds of plastic bags (and me) go down in the desert, I'll be set.
"You can't go around building a better world for people. Only people can build a better world for people. Otherwise it's just a cage."

Abel
* *
Posts: 155
Joined: Tue Feb 13, 2007 9:51 pm
Location: Mesa, AZ

Re: Desert Bushcraft

Post by Abel » Tue Dec 14, 2010 1:52 am

Great thread man! I can try to add a few things, being a long-time desert rat. My experiences are in the Mojave, which may seem like just another desert to many people. Non-desert dwellers seem to think all deserts look the same, which is kind of how I feel about places with a shit-ton of trees.

At any rate, the Mojave is quite different than its southern neighbor, the Sonoran. The Sonoran Desert covers Arizona, Texas, California, New Mexico, and the bottom tip of Colorado. It's quite a bit wetter, in terms of both precipitation and surface water(the Rio Grande and Colorado rivers both go through it).

The Mojave desert is further north, covering mostly southern Nevada, and bits of California, Utah, and Arizona(mostly where they border southern Nevada). It's hot as fuck, with very little precipitation and excluding Lake Mead(man-made), very little surface water.

Just north of the Mojave is the gigantic Great Basin desert. This thing covers a huge swath of land...essentially the rest of Nevada, the eastern edge of California, and roughly half the state of Utah.

Here's a map: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... sinmap.png" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Now, while there is a bit of crossover, the easiest way I've found to tell which desert you're in is to look for plants specific to that desert. If the keynote plant ain't there, you're in the wrong desert. For example, the Saguaro cactus is a native of the Sonoran desert. http://www.gatewaytosedona.com/image/ar ... aguaro.jpg" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Unless it's in someone's front yard, you ain't gonna see it in Vegas. Same goes for ocotillo, which Jeriah noted above.

The primary plant most people associate with the Mojave is the Joshua Tree(one of the many yucca species we have here). Here's a pic: http://media-cdn.tripadvisor.com/media/ ... a-tree.jpg" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

If you go too far in any direction, you will quickly notice the Joshua Trees disappearing from the landscape.

Okay, starting a new post to talk about the uses of plants in the Mojave.
Image

User avatar
Jeriah
ZS Lifetime Member
ZS Lifetime Member
Posts: 18722
Joined: Thu Aug 11, 2005 4:12 pm
Favorite Zombie Movies: Original Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead 04, and 28 Days Later are my top three, in that order.
Location: Chicago, IL
Contact:

Re: Desert Bushcraft

Post by Jeriah » Tue Dec 14, 2010 2:04 am

Mojave wrote:I wish you luck with the transpiration still, and should you find anything in the desert worth using it on, I hope you'll let me know. I've never found any desert plants that aren't stingy enough with their water loss (as in, a few teaspoons per day per grocery produce bag) to make it worth my while - I suppose if I ever have a plane full of hundreds and hundreds of plastic bags (and me) go down in the desert, I'll be set.
This may be why some guides like the military survival guides only show the methods where you chop off vegetation and put it in the bag. I guess they have no choice but to lose their water if they've been cut. I won't be trying this method as it is destructive in a sensitive environment, it's not a real emergency, and my grandma wouldn't approve. Unless she needs me to prune some more of her yard trees...except the oleander, which is poisonous; I wouldn't drink that water.

With the on-plant method, I'm thinking that I'll try a native plant like a smoke tree or creosote bush, and then for comparison I'll try my grandma's grapefruit tree. I'm going to try to use large, clear garbage bags, if I can find any. I'll post my results.
Image

User avatar
Jeriah
ZS Lifetime Member
ZS Lifetime Member
Posts: 18722
Joined: Thu Aug 11, 2005 4:12 pm
Favorite Zombie Movies: Original Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead 04, and 28 Days Later are my top three, in that order.
Location: Chicago, IL
Contact:

Re: Desert Bushcraft

Post by Jeriah » Tue Dec 14, 2010 2:12 am

Abel wrote:Now, while there is a bit of crossover, the easiest way I've found to tell which desert you're in is to look for plants specific to that desert. If the keynote plant ain't there, you're in the wrong desert. For example, the Saguaro cactus is a native of the Sonoran desert. http://www.gatewaytosedona.com/image/ar ... aguaro.jpg" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Unless it's in someone's front yard, you ain't gonna see it in Vegas. Same goes for ocotillo, which Jeriah noted above.
Great point re: keynote plant. You mentioned overlap; there are also subsets or exclusions. For example, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is in the Colorado Desert, a subset of the Sonora. While the Saguaro is native to most of the Sonora, you don't see them in the Colorado (or at least not in Anza-Borrego).

Or, I should say, you do, but only in people's yards, just like Vegas, apparently. That's a funny human instinct I see in a lot of human habitations in "wilderness" areas: if it doesn't look like the postcard/cartoon/that one movie, they change it until it does. Seems silly to me, like it kind of defeats the purpose of going to a place if you're just going to make it into some other place. I just want to tell 'em, "If you wanted Saguaros, you should have gone to Arizona!" But don't mind me; I hate lawns, too. :lol:

Looking forward to the uses of desert plants post.
Image

Abel
* *
Posts: 155
Joined: Tue Feb 13, 2007 9:51 pm
Location: Mesa, AZ

Re: Desert Bushcraft

Post by Abel » Tue Dec 14, 2010 2:16 am

As quoted by Mojave(nice name for this thread, btw :)), transpiration stills are kind of a waste out here unless you're talking higher elevations that has bushy green stuff everywhere. Even then, I'd advise against it. Many desert plants are very alkaline and some will make you quite ill with the water you've gained from them. Bring water with you. If you're out in the Mojave desert, and you think you have enough water...double it. I'm not kidding.

However, many of the plants in the Mojave have a number of uses. The various species of yucca are quite useful. Their fruits are edible, their leaves can be used by themselves for making baskets and other containers, even ad-hoc footwear or hats (to keep the broiling sun off you). Since the leaves are fibrous, you can also pound them to break up the leaf into individual fibers and braid together some very strong cordage. Yucca stalks, sufficiently dried, can be used for primitive fire-starting methods, like the fire-plow or bow-and-drill.

Agave are also useful, for many of the same reasons the yucca is. Broad, fibrous leaves can be used for cordage, but many of the varieties have leaves too thick to use for weaving. The tips of their leaves are usually thick needles...if you pinch just below where the hard needle meets the soft leaf, you can pull out the needle and a hunk of fibers for thread. Useful if you have to do any impromptu sewing. The heart(base of the agave stripped of its leaves) can be roasted, creating a sweet, molasses-like chunk of calories for the desert survivor. Prepping one to roast can be a chore, though, so I wouldn't recommend this food-gathering technique unless you've got a lot of people with you to help share the work.

Creosote is found nearly everywhere in the Mojave, dotting the desert floor as far as you can see. The sticky resin that covers the leaves has anti-bacterial properties, and native people used to bathe themselves by tossing branches onto a fire, then wafting the smoke over their bodies. I imagine it also helped conceal human odor for hunting.

I know there's more, but my tired brain can't recall any other plant uses accurately at the moment. I'll add in more later. Oh, and a spectacular book on desert plant uses is this: http://www.amazon.com/Herbal-Medicine-A ... 73&sr=1-19
Image

Abel
* *
Posts: 155
Joined: Tue Feb 13, 2007 9:51 pm
Location: Mesa, AZ

Re: Desert Bushcraft

Post by Abel » Tue Dec 14, 2010 2:22 am

Durrr, barrel cactus. Alright, lemme clear up this myth. If you lop open a barrel cactus, you will not find a delicious lagoon of drinkable water pooled inside it. You will instead find wet, fleshy stuff that usually tastes downright awful. It can slake your thirst, but just chew on it, don't swallow. It can make you very ill.

Also, IIRC, there are only one or two species of barrel cactus that are actually safe to ingest at all. The others make you violently ill, and are potentially fatal. I'll try and find which species are the safe ones and report back. :D
Image

User avatar
Jeriah
ZS Lifetime Member
ZS Lifetime Member
Posts: 18722
Joined: Thu Aug 11, 2005 4:12 pm
Favorite Zombie Movies: Original Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead 04, and 28 Days Later are my top three, in that order.
Location: Chicago, IL
Contact:

Re: Desert Bushcraft

Post by Jeriah » Tue Dec 14, 2010 2:25 am

I'm loving the book references. I'm going to have some reading to do. I'll also see if they have any of these at the ABDNHA bookstore in Borrego, and if not, I may recommend them.
Image

User avatar
Jeriah
ZS Lifetime Member
ZS Lifetime Member
Posts: 18722
Joined: Thu Aug 11, 2005 4:12 pm
Favorite Zombie Movies: Original Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead 04, and 28 Days Later are my top three, in that order.
Location: Chicago, IL
Contact:

Re: Desert Bushcraft

Post by Jeriah » Tue Dec 14, 2010 2:26 am

Abel wrote:Durrr, barrel cactus. Alright, lemme clear up this myth. If you lop open a barrel cactus, you will not find a delicious lagoon of drinkable water pooled inside it. You will instead find wet, fleshy stuff that usually tastes downright awful. It can slake your thirst, but just chew on it, don't swallow. It can make you very ill.

Also, IIRC, there are only one or two species of barrel cactus that are actually safe to ingest at all. The others make you violently ill, and are potentially fatal. I'll try and find which species are the safe ones and report back. :D
Could be perfect fodder for an in-ground solar still, though. Line the pit with pulped cactus, do the yadda yadda with the plastic sheet and the cup and the pebble, and you'll get more water out of a barrel cactus than just about any plant in the desert. Unless...you don't think that toxicity would evaporate with the water, condense with it, and end up in the cup?
Image

Abel
* *
Posts: 155
Joined: Tue Feb 13, 2007 9:51 pm
Location: Mesa, AZ

Re: Desert Bushcraft

Post by Abel » Tue Dec 14, 2010 2:40 am

That, my friend, is a fascinating idea. Honestly, I've no idea how the toxicity would affect the results. I'll look into it and see what I find. Great thinking outside the box though!
Image

Mojave
*
Posts: 71
Joined: Fri Dec 10, 2010 6:09 pm

Re: Desert Bushcraft

Post by Mojave » Tue Dec 14, 2010 3:30 am

Abel wrote:Many desert plants are very alkaline and some will make you quite ill with the water you've gained from them. Bring water with you. If you're out in the Mojave desert, and you think you have enough water...double it. I'm not kidding.
And don't forget to mention that lots of the water you can find that isn't in a plant or animal already (and even some that is) in the Mojave is often pretty heavily laced with arsenic. It's an awesome desert, and there are a ton of great things to see and explore - both natural and man-made-then-abandoned - but it's not a kind and loving desert to the unprepared. (Translation: It's not my fault if anyone reads anything I write on here and rushes out to see it, and then dies of hypothermia/hyperthermia/dehydration/cave-in/snakebite/poisoned water/radioactive waste/poisonous fumes/finding and screwing with live ordinance/landslides/getting run over by off-roading morons/etc.)
"You can't go around building a better world for people. Only people can build a better world for people. Otherwise it's just a cage."

User avatar
KentsOkay
* * * * *
Posts: 3207
Joined: Mon Jul 05, 2010 2:20 pm
Favorite Zombie Movies: Shawn of the Dead
Location: Texas

Re: Desert Bushcraft

Post by KentsOkay » Tue Dec 14, 2010 3:31 am

I will play. My AO (just north of Austin, central texas) is more scrubland / savannah, and prairie to the west, but many of the skills are still more relevant than temperate forest.
What I've learned:

Stuff can catch on fire, fast

Prickly pear pads and fruit are edible / a source of moisture. It is a good idea to roast them over a fire. Shishkabob it, burns off the spines, and cut open. Fruit is far preferable to pads, but take what you can get you know? Heating breaks down the flesh, easier to get to the moist goodness inside. I eat everything inside the fruit and spit out the seeds (not unlike an alien watermelon), i just suck on / chew the pads.

Insects are delicious, but damn are they hard to catch. I gave up on trying to catch big grasshoppers and just started shooting them with my good ol' daisy red ider bb gun. Remove legs and wings, roast. Avoid shiny beetles and spiders, grasshoppers are the safest bet and taste the best. Very nutty. Beetle larvae (grubs and meal worms) are decent, can be found in dead, rotting wood.

I'm currently in Boston, but I'm getting the hell back to Texas ASAP
0122358 wrote:so we moved a thread to maintain OPSEC on a fictional vid game so our team doesnt get kill as easily by possible spies...fuckin sweet

Image
Unofficial FB for ZSC XXX http://www.facebook.com/groups/156431031119773

User avatar
the_alias
ZS Global Moderator
ZS Global Moderator
Posts: 6047
Joined: Tue Jan 22, 2008 7:51 pm
Location: Not Here.

Re: Desert Bushcraft

Post by the_alias » Tue Dec 14, 2010 5:15 am

All I can add are these:
Ray Mears in the Sahara: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DDM0PWRzamk" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; Part 1- (other parts should be easy to find)
Ray Mears Arizona Desert: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0DLnhVIBybw" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; Part 1 " " " "

Would love to visit a desert one of these days!
Man is a beast of prey

User avatar
Gingerbread Man
ZS Lifetime Member
ZS Lifetime Member
Posts: 10834
Joined: Mon May 17, 2010 10:05 am

Re: Desert Bushcraft

Post by Gingerbread Man » Tue Dec 14, 2010 8:23 am

I spent some time out in the middle of a couple deserts, not in a survival situation, but on duty. Here's what I experienced....
1. 2 ponchos. One for the ground and one to use as a tarp. I went from sweating my ass off to it being actually tolerable. The one on the ground is so you don't have to sit on the sand. I'd put my ground pad down and sit on it so I wouldn't have to sit/lay on the hot sand.
2. I hated, HATED the black boots I had to where. So, I'd advise wearing the lightest colored boots possible.
3. Massive amounts of sun block. Not screen, block. Highest SPF possible. Re-apply every hour. Even a finger width burn sucks. Especially when the very next day your going to be out in the same sun. IF I didn't have sunblock, I would not go out in the sun.
4. Have lots of water. I never, ever saw anywhere to get water. Only from a water buffalo, bottles or a small stream. The small stream was more of a wash. Mere trickle.
5. Sand is a harsh abrasive. If you get sand in your crotch, armpits or boots, get it out ASAP. It's literally like having sand paper against your skin. It will suck.
6. I hated having to wear out dark BDUs. They were dark and attached lots of heat. Wear light colors.
7. Doing everything at night was much better. The difference between the night and day was from 20-50 degrees. Depends on the time of the year but I always volunteered for night duty.
8. There isn't much food in a desert. No fruit, nuts, berries. At least none that I saw. The only life I saw were some lizards, goats and snakes. There were some massive spiders. IMO, it'd be best to have food before hand and not expect to find anything in the sand.
Shrapnel wrote "nobody is trying to be a dick and give out warnings for every little thing" :|
Image
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DS1icEssOUM

User avatar
Ghost_Jaws
*
Posts: 96
Joined: Sun Jan 31, 2010 8:55 am
Location: Southern AZ

Re: Desert Bushcraft

Post by Ghost_Jaws » Tue Dec 14, 2010 1:43 pm

I'll throw my hat in with a "How-To" which I will call Desert Needle & Thread.

Sometimes as we're moving through the wilderness, we'll do some damage to our gear, clothing, or even our own bodies. If you're not packing the right equipment then repairing that damage can be a pain. However, for anything that might be fixed with a needle and thread, the desert provides a solution.

Image

I'm not sure of the exact name for this beast but I believe it's a Desert Agave. I am going to call it the "stabs you in the eye" plant because of this next bit. You may have seen this plant on some desert survival shows where they pull out one of the thorns and it comes with a tough fiber attached. You may have seen them pull it out by biting the thorn to break it loose and then pulling on it with their teeth. Don't do this, the thorn itself is very difficult to pull out and the plant is so spiny that chances are good you'll end up jabbing your face on one of the other leaves. Instead, I'll show you the safe way to get what you want.

First, you can take your knife and cut through the surface flesh around the thorny point of the leaf or just bend it a few times to break it loose like so:

Image

Next, take out your trusty multi-tool (you did bring one right?) and grip the thorn with the pliers. Pull with a slow, steady pressure to avoid breaking the fibers. You'll have to pull pretty hard, just don't jerk it and eventually it will come loose:

Image

If you do it right you'll end up with a needle with a few long fibers attached at the end. You can either use a knife to shave the sides of the thorn to reduce it's thickness or grind it down on a rock. The thorn should have a few strands of fiber at the end which you can trim off to only get what you need, or braid together for even stronger cordage. The length of the fiber will vary with the length of your leaf of course but this is what I got:

Image

If you just need cordage, you can cut off one of the leaves and smash it up with a rock to break it up. The leaves are packed full of these fibers and once you get the mush off of them you can weave them together to make some longer cords. Or you can use them individually as they are actually pretty strong. It's not quite paracord, but it's a great alternative if you don't have anything else.

This fiber can also be used to make fishing line if you can find water to fish in, or braid a few strands together to make some cord for snares, basic rope, all kinds of useful tricks. Sorry but I didn't get around to doing that much with it on this trip, maybe another time I'll do a basic "make a rope out of cactus leaf" tutorial :)


*Edit: Forgot to add, I have one more day left in the Iraqi desert and then it's back home to the Sonoran. High desert FTMFW!
Image

The artist formerly known as Agent_Jaws. RIP old profile...

Jaws' Junk:
BOB testing thread
Underwear thread
Knife & Tool thread
IFAK post
My Site

“A black belt only covers two inches of your ass. You have to cover the rest.” - Royce Gracie

spacecop
ZS Member
ZS Member
Posts: 181
Joined: Wed Nov 17, 2010 11:16 am
Favorite Zombie Movies: Zombieland, Shaun of the Dead.
Location: Slidell Louisiana
Contact:

Re: Desert Bushcraft

Post by spacecop » Tue Dec 14, 2010 2:03 pm

One of the most important things about traveling the desert at night is the need for light. I know this from personal experience. What was an easy trail during the day vanishes at night and could become an invisible obstacle course of cactus. Not to mention that other dangerous creatures in the desert have also caught on to the "move at night" idea. Never underestimate the value of a good flashlight or headlight. Even if you don't think you will be there after dark.

I ended up being airlifted by Blackhawk from a desert mountain in El Paso because I fell while rock climbing what should have been a short easy course. I could walk but I could not climb which meant walking the long way out rather than up and over. Sun went down and it got dark. I could not see shit and two feet of the trail in any direction was some vicious cactus. I was in the army at the time and just waiting for daylight was not an option because I had formation first thing in the morning. I called one person to come to my area with a spotlight and light the trail for me. Next thing you know someone hit the big red button and full emergency service response was activated. They flew in a damn Blackhawk for god sake. All because I did not have a good flashlight.
Life is hard, it's harder if you're stupid.

User avatar
Jeriah
ZS Lifetime Member
ZS Lifetime Member
Posts: 18722
Joined: Thu Aug 11, 2005 4:12 pm
Favorite Zombie Movies: Original Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead 04, and 28 Days Later are my top three, in that order.
Location: Chicago, IL
Contact:

Re: Desert Bushcraft

Post by Jeriah » Tue Dec 14, 2010 5:03 pm

the_alias wrote:All I can add are these:
Ray Mears in the Sahara: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DDM0PWRzamk" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; Part 1- (other parts should be easy to find)
Ray Mears Arizona Desert: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0DLnhVIBybw" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; Part 1 " " " "

Would love to visit a desert one of these days!
These are great. I've never seen this guy before. I'm on the third AZ one right now, haven't watched the Sahara ones yet but I'm gonna after I finish AZ.
Image

User avatar
doctor patches
* * *
Posts: 321
Joined: Thu Dec 10, 2009 8:54 pm

Re: Desert Bushcraft

Post by doctor patches » Tue Dec 14, 2010 8:56 pm

i live in reno, which is very high in elevation. it surprises people what kind of weather we get here. the biggest things i noticed (being from the northern california valley) is how dry it is. also, it's extremely windy. i have to drink twice as much water as i normally did before moving. also, i now have to use moisturizer for my skin, especially after shaving my face. however, reno is surrounded by water. some of it is alkaline. you could always make a solar still and get rid of most of the salt and other minerals. i'm still working on a small, lightweight kit to have with me for when i have to drive to BFE for work. i always keep a case of water (covered and insulated so as to not leach chemicals into the water) as well as 2 gallons in an igloo cooler. ice chest in the passenger seat has a dozen bottles of water for daily drink that i refill every night, and stuff for lunch in case i'm out of town and didn't make lunch/don't have money to buy lunch.

as far as bushcraft,. i know that you can dig down in the soil a few inches and the ground is cooler (for bedding down during the day). we have tons of juniper trees that are great for cover, their bark is a lot like cedar (stringy, makes great tinder, can be used for bedding as well a la survivorman).

for trapping purposes, there's a thread on here about trapping wild desert rabbits. if you haven't read it, i highly suggest you do so.
love,
patches,
kthxbai

Mojave
*
Posts: 71
Joined: Fri Dec 10, 2010 6:09 pm

Re: Desert Bushcraft

Post by Mojave » Tue Dec 14, 2010 10:49 pm

Ok, I've got a question/discussion topic for the rest of you desert rats: Water conservation. Any trade secrets you have? Specifically in regards to cooking: how do you manage water loss due to cleanup of your utensils? I'm sure I have to be the only one nutty enough to subsist on nothing that can't be cooked in the container it came in. But damn, it's hard to see water go to waste after you've carried that shit on your back for the last 30 miles.
"You can't go around building a better world for people. Only people can build a better world for people. Otherwise it's just a cage."

cannon
* *
Posts: 136
Joined: Wed Aug 20, 2008 12:48 am
Location: The Great Mojave Desert

Re: Desert Bushcraft

Post by cannon » Wed Dec 15, 2010 1:20 am

Great thread with lots of interesting information.

I live in the Mojave desert and spend all my free time exploring it. From truck and trailer down to a jeep and a foot wondering the desert is what I enjoy most. My favorite sport when doing so is finding water and finding and following old/ancient paths.

If you can find an ancient path you will come to water or where water was eventually. There is quite a bit of water in the Mojave either spring water or under a few feet of ground. I look for hints like green plants or bees in flight since bees always fly to water if you see a bee. follow it. Quail are always close to their water source and a quail colony with unlimited water nearby usually numbers no more than 250 birds. They are easy to spot and follow.

I'll add more later.

It's later...

Most pre motor vehicle roads like old paths lead from water source to water source, A perfect example is the Old Mojave road. So if you are out dirt roading you'll find a water source or where one was near almost any old building site.

Places like the Mojave river which is almost dry it's entire length now actually had year round running water into the early 1960's. Even now the Mojave river near Camp Cady has plentiful water about three feet down.

As the Mojave developed in the 60's a lot of ground water has been pumped and that lowered the water level which dried the river and many springs.
Last edited by cannon on Wed Dec 15, 2010 1:38 am, edited 2 times in total.
The Earth will survive
Save yourself

cannon
* *
Posts: 136
Joined: Wed Aug 20, 2008 12:48 am
Location: The Great Mojave Desert

Re: Desert Bushcraft

Post by cannon » Wed Dec 15, 2010 1:22 am

Mojave wrote:Ok, I've got a question/discussion topic for the rest of you desert rats: Water conservation. Any trade secrets you have? Specifically in regards to cooking: how do you manage water loss due to cleanup of your utensils? I'm sure I have to be the only one nutty enough to subsist on nothing that can't be cooked in the container it came in. But damn, it's hard to see water go to waste after you've carried that shit on your back for the last 30 miles.
Ever try sand scrubbing?
The Earth will survive
Save yourself

Post Reply

Return to “Bushcraft”