Our Spring Summer 2021 collection SPIRIT OF FREEDOM charts a rocky path through the desert landscapes of the United States, portraying a cast of misfits in a dangerous quest for enlightenment.

In keeping with our house tradition of educational prints, PHIPPS presents a non-exhaustive list of tips and tricks for desert survival. We hope you will never need these, but better be safe than sorry (or bitten by a rattlesnake).


The desert is the worst-case scenario for providing you with even the basic elements of survival. However- in most cases, it’s not the barren wasteland you might imagine it to be. Plants and animals survive and thrive in even the most arid environments, and where there are plants and animals, there is necessarily water (remember that for later). You just need to know where to look.

Begin by looking around you: focus on low-lying areas that water would naturally converge to or collect in if it were flowing. Follow the lines on the horizon to a downward point.

If you come across a dry stream, don’t despair- you’re one step closer to water. Are there plants around it? How healthy do they look? The greener and the more abundant, the more likely you are to discover a source.
Walk along the dry bed and look for darker areas in the rock or sand, which could indicate leaks. If there are none, look for the bends in the stream: the outsides of these bends will be where water would have been most recently.

Start digging. If you dig one meter down and find nothing, move on. You can always circle back later and see if any water has seeped in.


If you’ve found water, don’t get hasty: you’ll need to filter it first. There are many different ways of doing this- like boiling it, using rocks and charcoal, or adding chemicals-but if you’re stranded in the middle of the desert, you can let the sun do it for you.

Place your water in a clear container- a plastic bottle, a ziplock bag, or even a piece of plastic. Try and only filter ten centimeters of water at a time (that’s about half the size of a grown man’s hand), as anything more than that will make it harder for the UV rays to penetrate.

Leave it in the sun for as long as possible- the hotter it gets, and the longest exposure to the sun, the better.
Only drink what you treat, as bacteria will build back up and you’ll have to start over.

If the elements don’t get you first, the desert wildlife just might. Your three main concerns in the desert should be snakes, scorpions, and coyotes. The latter tend to be more fearful than ferocious, but make sure to steer clear from these desert dogs.

In many cases, there is a limit to what you can do if stung by a scorpion, or bitten by a snake in the wild; especially if you’re left to your own devices. You won’t know if it’s a dry bite or a venomous bite – so to be safe, always treat any bite as a venomous bite.

Dry bites, whereby no venom is released, are painful and cause redness and swelling.
If the bite is venomous, other symptoms may include a stinging or burning sensation on the skin and feelings of nausea, dizziness, anxiousness and confusion. In severe cases, the bite may result in paralysis, coma, or, you guessed it, death.
Snake venom is carried in the lymphatic system and not in the bloodstream, contrary to what you might think. That’s why the first response is to reduce lymphatic flow by applying continuous firm pressure over the affected limb. This is known as the Pressure Immobilisation Technique (PIT).

Lay down and move as little as possible. Using a piece of (clean) cloth, wrap the entire affected limb very firmly to restrict (but not constrict) blood flow. Create a splint to further immobilize the limb by strapping a piece of wood, or another inflexible material to the body with another bandage. Get help, because from here, there is little else that can be done.

If getting lost, starving, and bitten wasn’t enough for you, as a very last resort, you may need to amputate the limb. To do so, apply a tourniquet about 5cm above where you need to cut. Don’t do this too high either- try and save as much of the limb as possible. Start slicing. Good luck!

Once that’s done, if you’re still with us, treat it like any wound. Stop the bleeding and keep it clean.

We hope you learned something, and you’ll never have to do any of the above.