( Top 10 ) things to take on a desert island ( Illustrated )

There are a lot of survivalists and adventurers who do like to survive only off the land, however, surviving on a desert island can be fairly difficult. Mainly due to how remote the island can be, and oftentimes there is a good reason why these desert islands are uninhabited, mainly due to the lack of freshwater.

The 10 things to take on a desert island are, water, first aid kit, food, knife, paracord, fire starting kit, signaling devices, satellite phone, tarp and most importantly to get as much information as you can about the desert island. Most of these items you will use to feed and hydrate yourself, once you are able to do that, it is time to build a small shelter with the local materials using your knife, paracord, and your tarp.

If you ever plan to visit a desert island then my personal recommendation is to get a good portable water filter which only needs gravity to work Click here to check it out on Amazon.com

Most people will automatically ignore the first rule of 3’s which is 3 minutes without air, as there is plenty of air on a desert island but what some people forget that there might not be any viable food source on the actual island and they might be forced to fish and in this case your ability on how long you can keep your breath is crucial.
When you ask people what would they take on a desert island they usually only think either of water or some form of entertainment, very rarely you get somebody that would bring items which could potentially save their lives.

10 things to take on a desert island


Water will be extremely scarce on a desert island if you plan your trip there make sure to bring plentiful water. Altho you will find it impossible to carry enough water to the island on which you can survive for a longer period of time. You should also take into consideration that the humidity and temperatures on desert islands are higher then what you are used to, even simple tasks will make you sweat a lot. Your first item on the list of items for desert island is water, without it, your chances of survival will be limited.

In addition to getting water to the desert island, you will want to think of ways on how you will get fresh water. If you are lucky enough you will find a small stream or groundwater but you can not rely on always finding one. If you are not able to find a fresh water source you will need to get water in some other way by using the dew of local plants. You can do this by placing a plastic bottle on a branch with leaves or on the ground in the morning and wait for the morning dew to form and condense on the bottle.

This way you will get fresh water altho you will need a lot of plastic bottles to get enough for your daily needs. In my recent article, How long can you store bottled water ( Home, Garage, Car ) you will find out how dangerous it can be from drinking water from plastic bottles which have been exposed to sunlight for a longer period of time. Life straws would be a good addition to your survival tools, however, these can not filter out salt water as the salt molecules are a lot than what it can filter out if you want more information search around my site as I have an in-depth article about it.

First aid kit

You might think that first aid kits are only for emergency situations but most of these have also extra tools that you can use. In addition to that, you will get a lot of bruises and cuts while fishing and building your shelter, and an open cut could get infected very quickly in this environment.



The things to bring on a deserted island list should always contain at least one first aid kits. If you are planning to sp0end several days on a desert island you will need to bring plenty of food, my recommendation is to get it either in powder or dehydrated form. Be sure to pack extra water if as these types of food need a lot of water to be edible and will also use a lot more water while you are digesting it. I have also written an article recently on Can you eat dirt to survive ( Can you? ), where you will find that you actually can but should be only a last resort.



Without a knife, you are making it extremely hard for you, as this tool is extremely versatile and will help you hunt, build shelter, tools and also protect yourself. Just make sure that you have a good fixed blade knife, keep in mind that temperatures on desert islands are higher than usual and if the handle of your knife is made entirely of metal could end up burning you or limit you for how long you can use it. If you have read my article ( Top 4 ) essential items for bushcrafters USA, you already know how to pick a good survival knife, if not you should definitely read it.

Some people also suggest that you bring a spear with you but there is no need to as you can use your knife to make a spear or simply strap on a twig your knife and you have yourself a spear.



You might not think that something as simple as a paracord could be useful but you will be at a big disadvantage if you do not have one with you. You will use this in addition to your knife to build shelter, tools, traps or even a hammock.


Fire starting kit

Altho my suggestion is in addition to having a fire starting kit is to also have the skill to light a fire without any tools, just like our ancestors did thousands of years ago. In addition to cooking and boosting your morale the fire will also keep off the insects, just make sure to throw on the fire once in a while green leaves which will make the smoke black.


Signaling device

Always have a mirror, this can be a glass mirror or a metal surface that acts as a mirror. If you need help and you do not have any other communication devices you can use your mirror to signal for help, in addition to this you can use the power of the son to focus a beam of energy on a piece of wood which will catch on fire.


Satellite phone

Having a satellite phone on a desert island is a must-have as you never know what could happen. In addition to the satellite phone, my recommendation is to get a solar-powered charger in a waterproof bag, as electronic devices tend to get their batteries drained a lot faster in hotter temperatures.



The weather will not be always the best as these islands are frequently hit by storms which can last for a couple of days. This can be a two-edged sword as you will have plenty of water for a while at least but on the other hand, you will be almost constantly wet and this is where a good waterproof shelter comes in hand. Something even as simple as a tarp will shade you from the son and the incoming rain, in addition, you can use the tarp to channel the rainwater into your water bottles.


Information about the desert island

This is by far the most important “item” to have on a desert island, you need to make as much research on the local area as possible, including local flora and fauna, if there is a source of freshwater, how far a are the shipping lanes and how often does a ship goes by the island. In addition to informing yourself, you should also prepare your mind and body for it, in the case that something goes wrong things could spiral out of control fast.


Pro Tip: Sunblock is a good item also to have on a desert island, but you will need a lot of it. Most of your food will come from the sea and you will probably spend a couple of hours in the water which will wash the sunblock off. My suggestion is to find a shaded place to fish and always wear a hat. In addition to this while, you are making your research on the desert island find out which plants can act as a sunblock.

What do you need to survive on a deserted island?

In this part, you will find out what you actually need to survive on a deserted island, which are your 3 basic needs food, water, and shelter. Being stranded away on a deserted island is different than taking a trip to on as most likely you would be prepared for it. The major difference between these two is your psychology, stranded away due to an accident that will make you panic, but there are also a lot of people who make trips on these deserted islands and consider it a holiday.


If you are stranded on a deserted island it is more likely due to an accident and the first thing you should always do is to gather all the washed-up supplies. Make sure to gather everything as simple items can be used in a lot of ways with some creativity. While exploring the deserted island, try to find a fresh source of water, remember that you can go only without water for 3 days but this will be even lower than 3 days in a hot environment.


If you are not familiar with the fruits you see on the deserted island do not eat them, your best option will be fish. You can do this with a makeshift spear or a net, odds are you are not going to find a fishing spear but something as simple as women’s stockings could do the trick. Keep in mind that you can live on fish for an extended period of time but you will also need vitamin C of which fish do not have a lot of.

While you are gathering the washed-up supplies search for vitamin supplements or anything which has vitamins in them.


While you are exploring the deserted island keep an eye out for natural shelters such as caves if you do not find one you will have to improvise and build one out of the washed-up supplies or from the local natural resources. The shelter doesn’t need to be anything fancy, something simple to keep you out of the sun and rain. No need to build barricades against wild animals as most deserted islands do not have enough local game to keep alive bigger predators.

Pro Tip: After you have gathered all the washed-up supplies in a safe place, make sure to search for survivors along the shoreline as odds are that you are not alone. Most people after experiencing an accident will be in shock standing in disbelief of what just happened. Make sure you gather up all the survivors, tend to their wounds if possible and immediately go in search of water, do not just stay on the beach waiting for help as this might come after weeks or months.

Make sure to know what skills the survivors have and use them accordingly, no need for a medic to search for water while he could tend to the injured.

How to find food on a deserted island

You have several ways on how you can find food on a deserted island, your first task in finding food should be to explore the surrounding area. If you are lucky enough to find a stream keep in mind that local animals are also using it as a food source and keep out on the footprints near in the mud near the stream. This way you can know what kind of animals live on the deserted island and if there are any predators large enough for you to be worried about.

Probably your best source of food will be while fishing in shallow water near the coast or in the local stream. If you fish in the stream make sure to build a small dam which will make spearfishing easier. Also, keep in mind that most fish are not very active during the noontime and your best time to fish will be in dusk or dawn. In addition to this most fish are attracted to light and you can use this to your advantage.

Net fishing

If you have some kind of improvised fishing net take it to your fishing spot, light a small torch, place the net in the water and once you see a fish in your net just pick it out of the water. Patience is the key, do not make any sudden moves, just let the fish come at towards your torch.


Spearfishing is another viable option to get food on a deserted island although this is harder than you think. You must have the skill to make a good spear and a good aim to spear the fish, altho spearing the fish is actually the easier part as most people when spearfishing with a primitive spear will fail at actually getting the fish out of the water as the fish falls off the spear easily. To avoid the fish getting away make sure to make small wedges on your spear, this way once the fish is impaled it will be very hard to get off the spear.


If there are fruits that you are 100% that you recognize like the coconut than foraging is a viable option, otherwise, you could end up poisoning yourself. Something as simple as diarrhea in a deserted island where water is scarce could end up deadly fast. Your best place to forage for food is on the shoreline where you will find a lot of washed up items after the accident which made you stranded on the deserted island.


How to purify seawater on a desert island

In order to purify seawater into drinkable water, you will need to distill it. Distillation is the process where you heat water to the point where it is starting to evaporate, and then turning this vapor back into liquid form usually done with a colder recipient. Think of it this way, when you are cooking with a lid on the pan you will always see water droplets on the lid, this is because the water in your food has turned into vapor and then back into liquid once it hid the colder lid.

Distilling water without fire

Usually, for distillation, you will need a fire source but not always, desert islands have fairly high temperatures which will cause the water to evaporate, now you only need to trap and channel that vapor back into its liquid form.

This can be easily done with 2 plastic bottles, one should be larger than the other and both have to be cut in half in such a way that the larger bottle should be able to cover the smaller bottle. In addition to this fold inwards the larger bottle so the water droplets can collect there. Once you have both bottles cut, place the smaller bottle with some seawater on the ground and place the larger bottle on top of making sure the smaller bottle is entirely covered.

Don’t forget to fold inwards the bottom of the larger bottle were the water will collect, just leave it in place for a day and you will have 1-2 ozs of water. It is not much but it is better than nothing, usually, you will be able to find several of these plastic bottles around the deserted island as a lot of plastic bottles end up in the oceans.

Distilling water with fire

For this you can not use plastic bottles as the fire will most likely damage them, try and find some glass bottles or improvise with what you have. If you do have glass bottle put the seawater in it, make a small fire and make a platform on which the glass bottle can stay on its side, make another platform right next to the previous one and place another bottle on its side in such a way that once the water is heated in the first bottle the only where the vapor can go is in the next bottle.

In Conclusion

If you are prepping for a trip to a deserted island always make sure you cover your basic essentials, prepare for the worst and hope for the best. In the case you have become stranded on a deserted island make sure to keep calm, gather the washed-up supplies, search for survivors and as fast as possible start searching for water.

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