Safe Drinking Water is a Basic Survival Skill
In the city we get used to believing that clean, safe drinking water is an easy to find and even free resource. In the wilderness there are no faucets and water stations, yet you can stay alive for several days without food but you can last only three days without water. As you quickly lose body fluids through sweat and urine and end up dehydrated you impair your mobility and if you have companions, you slow their movements as well.
If you aren’t able to find and treat water in the wilderness you won’t be able to replenish yourself, cook food, wash clothes and clean your wounds.
Securing an ample supply of safe and purified water is the foremost priority if you’re on a camping trip or find yourself lost in the woods. One basic rule is to store 1 gallon of water per person. Double the amount if you are traveling in a hot and humid area.
Even if your water supply runs low, never ration water. Drink the amount you need for today and find more tomorrow. If you’re camping out in the woods, look for rainwater streams and rivers that appear clear and transparent as much as possible.
Do not procure water that has floating material, a dark color and foul odor. Look out for biologically contaminated water that contains microorganisms such as Giardia which causes intestinal disorders. If you’ve ever had diarrhea while on a hiking trip, you might have ingested this kind of water.
Toxic water is chemically contaminated from direct garbage dumping, indirect leaching, mine tailings and pesticide runoffs. Boiling, filtering and chemical treatment of water can kill microorganisms but these methods will not remove chemical toxins.
Portable carbon and ceramic filters may be expensive, but if the water contains visible particles such as dirt, insect and leaves then it is necessary to filter it. If you are in a survival situation that requires you to improvise, you can also use a shirt, small sock or paper coffee filter to strain out gunky and gross matter.
After all the small matter has been strained from the found water, you should it in a metal pot or kettle as it is a quick and easy way to make water safe and purified for drinking if it is safe to assume that there are only bacteria and microorganisms present. Just put a full container of found water over a fire then wait for it to come to a 60 second rolling boil.
In tapping from rivers and other water sources that may have been leached into by factories, mines and other industrial entities it is imperative to treat the water chemically as it is also the safest, most convenient and even affordable method of purifying water.
Use two drops of Tincture of Iodine 2% on your water bottle to clear it of impurities.
Water purification tablets are also available in pharmacies and outdoor supply shops. If you are in a group and you need to treat larger amounts of water, leave it in transparent bottles for a full day to kill bacteria and viruses that may reside in it.
If the water is cloudy and still retains sediment, another way to treat water chemically is to add about 8 drops of bleach for every gallon of water. Use only regular household bleach that has only sodium hypochlorite with no added soap, dyes and perfumes.
Mix it thoroughly then leave it be for 30 minutes. The water should smell slightly chlorinated if this works and if it doesn’t, add 8 more drops of bleach and stir. If you still cannot smell the chlorine, it means that the water is still contaminated and you will have to replace it.
Remember not to eat when your mouth is dry and drink first. Be sure to store the water in clear, non-corrosive containers and keep them in a cool and dark place as much as possible when you set camp.
Food-grade plastic or glass is the ideal container material. Finding the right source to tap water and being able to treat it will insure you and your group against dehydration, fickle changes in weather, sickness and general health decline.
Next up we look at How To Find And Use Wood To Make A Fire