Water regulates our body temperature, preventing hypothermia and hypothermia, which can mean life or death in the wilderness. The four survival priorities for anyone is shelter, water, fire, and food. You’ll notice that water is second on that list. So once you have sheltered yourself from harsh elements such as extreme cold, snow, rain, or extreme heat, water is your next priority. We need about a gallon a day when active and when outside, so for a trek of more than a day, you’ll be carrying gallons of water per person, which is not feasible. So how do you find safe water to drink instead?
Did you know that we can go longer without food than water? Human can survive for 3 weeks without food, but only 3 days without water. Keep that in mind the next time you trek out into the wilderness. Water is essential to your trip, and if you don’t take water with you, you will have to find safe and clean water sources to drink from.
Preparation goes a long way. Pack your bag with the following …
Water Bottle – heat resistant glass, unlined aluminum, uncoated and unpainted. A Klean Kanteen works best. Two 27 ounces bottles is a good number to pack.
Rubber Tubing – A few feet of 1/4 inch rubber tubing to distill water.
Hand Sanitizer – Pathogens can be a killer in the wild, so keep your hands sanitized.
Shovel: Plastic or metal. Used to bury your own feces. Make sure you are 200 feet away from your water source and bury one foot deep.
A ferro rod works best. They hardly ever break and work in all weather conditions while never running out of fuel.
Now that you’re prepared, you are ready to find a water source to keep you hydrated. A lake, stream, pond, river, or brook are the best choice as long as your water source is not crowded with people who are either swimming in it or using it as a toilet. Watch for animals that might be in the water too, as they could introduce pathogens to the water. Also, any man made things could introduce chemicals to the water.
River, Stream, Or Brook
Because the water in a river, steam, or brook is constantly moving, it is being cleansed by rocks. Stagnation does not occur, so bacteria is less abundant. This water still needs to be distilled, but it is your best choice.
Lakes And Ponds
Lakes and ponds tend to be stagnant, with higher level of bacteria present, while rivers, streams, and brooks are moving and tend to be cleaner, unless it flows from a high population center, or from any construction sites or chemical plants.
Snow And Ice
Snow and ice are two other great sources of water, as long as it’s not from a salt water source. However, both snow and ice must be liquified before drinking. Consuming the frozen ice or snow will lower your body temperature and will not hydrate you as much as it will when liquified. Always make sure the snow or ice is not yellow, brown, or black as this indicates pollution. To melt the ice or snow, place into a container and add a little water to it, then let it melt, it will taste a lot better than just drinking the melted ice or snow.
Dry River Beds or Mud
Digging for water in dry river beds or mud is another method for finding water. You can create a beach well by digging a whole until you hit water.
Sea Water Or Urine
These are two no-nos, but there are work around by boiling them and collecting the steam.
If there are no water sources readily available, you can use tree branches to collect water. For this you will need some type of plastic wrap to wrap the branches and the heat will cause the branches and leaves to sweat into the plastic, giving you water that must be distilled to filter out bacteria or other pathogens.
Animal and human feces contaminate fresh water sources. Pathogens in feces can quickly become a killer if not filtered out of your drinking water. Without medical help, health can decline quickly.
All of these water sources require some type of filtering before drinking. If you are not taking a water filtration device with you, you will need to distill the water with heat. Going back to being prepared, if you packed rubber tubing, two glass or metal receptacles, and a heat source, you can distill the water by creating steam that is captured in the tubing, which will then liquify and drip fresh water into your receptacle.
Always be prepared when heading out into the wilderness. Map out your trek, citing nearby water sources along the way, pack your bag with the necessities to filter water, as well as supplies to provide shelter. And, don’t forget food!