Thirst can drive a person to drink just about anything, however it should be noted well that many things in the wild should not be consumed without proper preparation; water is one of those things!
Water is a necessity no matter where you are.
With other conditions being favorable, you can live for a month or more without food,
but you’d be lucky to stay alive much more than a week without water.
– Bradford Angier (The Master Backwoodsman)
Bradford Angier, that great well of outdoor wisdom couldn’t be more correct in the previous quote. I don’t think that there is a person more qualified to share some tips on making water potable than Mr. Angier, so below are some different ways on locating and purifying water adapted from his book How to Stay Alive in the Woods.
Water can be found in many different places, but here are the top five places to look for water. Before you drink the water, always be sure to purify it.
- Woodlands: Typically water can easily be found in the woodland areas. There are sure to be ample streams, creeks, lakes, and springs.
- Seacoast: Here is one time that you should have paid attention in science class. Fresh water, being less dense that salt water, will float on salt water. Upon low tide, dig a hole below the high tide mark below the point when water begins to seep. The water at the top of the hole will be fresh water.
- Desert: Water will settle toward the lowest point. If you are in a desert environment look for those low points, especially stream beds. Though the stream bed is dry, there still may be water once you dig under the stream bed. Also, game trails in the desert typically lead to water, but often the journey can be quite long. If you happen upon a palm, then water is typically within several feet of the base of the tree; the same is true with reed grass.
- Rain Water: Often you can find rain water trapped in leaves of large plants or caught in the basins of rocky areas.
- Snow and Ice: These two forms of water are often present during the winter months. You must be careful when eating snow, though it is the purest distilled water provided by our atmosphere, it still can chill the body. So it must be warmed before eating so as to not drop the body’s core temperature too quickly. Some people will claim that snow is as pure as any distilled water, but it is wise practice to also make sure it is properly purified before consumption.
Even though water may look clean, your dog drinks it, or natives drink by no means indicates that the water is indeed safe for consumption. Many animals and natives have developed tolerances to the bacteria and protozoa that reside in their water sources; many of us have never had need to develop there resistances and therefore will fall subject to their side effects. To prevent this, here are some methods of purification.
- Boiling: Boiling water is a great way to make sure that the germs in water are killed. How long you need to boil the water is dependent on many factors such as altitude and location. Here is the rule on length of boiling water: 5 Minutes at sea level, and an additional minute for each 1,000 ft above sea level.
- Iodine Tabs: These tabs, when placed, in water are able to purify it. The downfall is that it also makes the water taste horrible, and can be ineffective if left in the heat for too long.
- Water Filtration Units: In the last couple of decades, handheld water purification units have become abundant and affordable. There are many different levels of purification from these units, so be sure to do some research and find the right model based on your need.
- UV Light: UV Light (Ultraviolet Light) is a new way to purify water. It works by using UV Light to kill germs in the water. Its effectiveness is dependent on the clarity of the water and relies on the water being absent of as many particles as possible. It is often a better supplement to a Water Filtration unit than a stand alone method.
These are just a few suggestions on how to make sure your thirst doesn’t turn worse when you are Surviving the Wilds. Please feel free to add any comments and suggestions that you might have.