Desert Island Survival Tips

Shoreline Pic

If you should be unfortunate to find yourself on a desert island, alone, and deserted in the middle of nowhere, there are some key things to remember. No matter how you ended up there, what happens in the next 48 hours is crucial and will determine your fate. The following is a quick round up of what exactly your priorities should be.

Water Source

Water is the first thing you should set out to gather. The body can only survive without water for about 3 to 4 days, where as you will be able to survive without food for some time longer, perhaps weeks, as your body utilises its reserves.

There are three main ways that you can collect fresh water, ensuring your survival for a little while longer. The first is obvious, it’s the collection of water from a fresh water source located somewhere on the island. Not all islands will have one, but it’s likely that if the island’s big enough and there’s vegetation, then there will be a source of fresh water. This could be a spring, leading to streams, waterfalls, and plunge pools. Alternatively the water could be run off rainfall from the high ground which runs downhill through established natural channels.

Secondly you could make an effort to collect rainfall. Obviously there’s a chance that you may be faced with the predicament that there is no rain, in this scenario you should think about the third option.

The third option is a little more complicated and requires you to have available a plastic sheet or tarp, perhaps even a survival blanket will do the job, and a container of some kind to collect the water. This method is called a Solar Water Still and involves digging a hole, gathering vegetation and putting it in the hole surrounding your container, placing the sheet at ground level secured with rocks to keep it tight, and placing a small rock in the centre of the tarp so that it’s a little like an inverted volcano. Water will condense from the vegetation and onto the underside of the tarp, rolling down and dripping into your container, providing you with safe drinking water.

Getting Shelter

Now that you have your water source sorted, it’s important to find shelter. Even in countries that are hot during the days, quite often the nights will be very cold, so it’s important that suitable shelter is found or built. In the event of a wrecking or crash, it may be possible to salvage materials from any wreckage that could prove useful when building a shelter.

Alternatively it may be possible to find shelter on the island, in a cave or alcove, but staying near the shore would probably be the best thing in the days and weeks immediately following the incident which brought you to the island. This is because it’s your best chance of being spotted and rescued.

You can build a shelter using logs and branches, although this may be tough going with the absence of forestry equipment. There are two main styles of shelter for you to build; the first is a lean-to, which utilises an existing tree to act as part of the shelter. The other is a tepee style. A lean-to shelter would be the best option initially as it requires a lot less work and still provides adequate shelter.

Getting off the Island

If a little further down the line you find yourself still not rescued, and in a state of desperation to leave the island then it may be a reasonable idea to put these thoughts into motion by building a raft. It can be assumed that by the time a raft is a viable option you would have an established source of water, food, and shelter.

Without forestry equipment, the gathering of materials suitable for the construction of an ocean going raft is going to take some time. There are a lot of things to consider, for example how big will the raft be and how many logs will you need? Some kind of twine will need to be sourced to lash the logs together to make it secure. In the days or weeks before you plan to set off and leave the island, food should begin to be gathered for you to take on your journey in case you are at sea for an extended period. Using the solar water still method you can extract salt from saltwater and use this to preserve some things, like meat or fish for example.

From the moment of you landing on the island you should begin to take note of the winds, direction from which you arrived, and other aspects of the environment. These can really pay off when deciding when and where to launch your raft as surface currents, manipulated by the wind, will be the driving power behind which direction your raft travels.


For a great selection of Forestry Equipment that could help you survive a desert island, head to Buxton’s wonderful online store.

[shareaholic app="share_buttons" id="4703992"][shareaholic app="recommendations" id="4704000"]


  1. Great tips!
    I read once that to get fresh water you can pace 100 steps from the water’s edge heading inland and dig a deep hole in the sand. Then support the outer radius/walls of the hole by using wood or stones and the salt water will become fresh water by the time it flows into your hole as the sand will filter the salt out.
    I haven’t tried this though as people might think I’m nuts on the local beach when a pub with cold beer is just another 100 paces away 🙂

  2. -survival needs to be calm and preparedness. know some distress call that attract attention from outside by making improvise word on the sand “HELP will do and/or an SOS”
    -learning to take advantage of using the source you’ll find in the vicinity,such like spear out of bamboo to feed your hunger getting a fish near shore.
    just a helping tips can do…from:anthony peligrino of tarlac,seafarer’s

Leave a Reply