Donít Drink The Water (Without Taking Precautions)
A lot of folks believe that finding water in the wild is an easy thing to do, and it is in most of Americaís climates.
I recently had a talk with Wallace Streete, Absolute Rightsí resident survival expert, about my trip to Cambodia a few years ago. He just got back from the same area and had a good laugh at me when I told him what I had done. I donít think Iíve ever had a conversation with Streete in which I didnít learn something. This time was no different. After we finished talking, I wrote down what I learned because I knew I had to share it with you.
Where most people make mistakes is by both underestimating their environment and the way they purify what they need to drink. I certainly did, and I hope that you can learn from what I did.
As you know, water is one of the most critical things that we need for survival. The human body needs only 2 quarts a day to survive. That number might seem low, because we consume a lot of water and liquids in general all day long, but that is the baseline that we need to stay alive.
I personally suffered from dehydration and almost had heat stroke at one point in my life. On a trip to Cambodia just a few years ago, I was suffering through 110 degree weather and 100 percent humidity. Iím from Washington, D.C. We donít get heat like that, and we have air conditioning to get relief on hot days.
But in Cambodia? Shocker! There wasnít regular A/C.
I was drinking water at what I thought was a regular pace until I came down with flu-like symptoms. I was cold ó thatís right, freezing cold in the middle of a 99-degree evening ó and then I started to get dizzy.
Before I passed out, I chugged as much water as I could get my hands on, which I was told later saved me from heat stroke.
What I didnít think about in the middle of that chugging ó because, frankly, I wasnít thinking ó were all the bacteria and bugs in the water. I woke up in the morning feeling groggy from the dehydration, followed by an immediate sharp pain in my stomach.
Over the remaining two weeks of my trip, I ran to the bathroom constantly. You can go ahead and assume what was going through my body at that point; it wasnít pretty. All in all, I lost about 12 pounds from the runs over the remainder of my trip. I wasnít cured until I returned to the United States and took a very basic, and free, antibiotic that my doctor gave me.
I wanted to share that story with you to make three very important points:
Whatís the bottom line? If you drink bad water, you can die very quickly. You really canít trust any of the sources of water in the wild that youíll have. It is critical that you purify whatever water you put into your body. And itís easy. There are kits for that. Even if you donít have a kit, you can boil your water to quickly kill any bacteria and bugs that may be in it.Always be prepared. I was not. I wasnít drinking enough water to begin with, and I didnít have a very basic antibiotic that cured what could have easily killed me. The kicker was that it was such a common antibiotic that it was literally free. If things head south, you may not have access to antibiotics like the one I was given. They certainly didnít have them in Cambodia.
Pay attention to your environment.I certainly didnít. As Americans, we take a lot of things for granted, including air conditioning, a decent climate and clean water. I stupidly assumed that I was going to have these luxuries when I went to Cambodia. Yes, now I realize how stupid I was. It is critical that you know what you are getting into and where you are going to need to go in the case of an emergency. If you donít, youíll be in trouble like I was.
Always make sure the water you drink is purified. I donít want to recount the stern lecture I got from my doctor after my trip. I also donít want to recount what I suffered through throughout my time in Southeast Asia. I literally would have died had I not had that basic prescription. I was losing 6 pounds a week. Now granted, it gave me that swimsuit body that I wanted, but I was on the way to the grave.
Did I say boil? You donít even have to do that. In actuality, most bacteria in water are killed off at lower-than-boiling temperatures. But Iíll tell you right now, after what I went through, I will always boil water before I drink it in those conditions again.
The take-away here is simple: Be safe and in the best condition you can be if a crisis occurs, even if itís self-inflicted. Donít be unprepared like I was in Cambodia. Know what the conditions are where you are headed; get your supplies in hand and your protocol in order. And be smarter than they think you are.
Managing Editor, Absolute Rights
When you're born you get a ticket to the freak show. When you're born in America , you get a front row seat. - George Carlin
Water Storage Tips
Having an ample supply of clean water is a top priority in an emergency. A normally active person needs to drink at least two quarts of water each day. Hot environments can double that amount. Children, nursing mothers and ill people will need even more.
You will also need water for food preparation and hygiene. Store a total of at least one gallon per person , per day. You should store at least a two - week supply of water for each member of your family.
If supplies run low, never ration water. Drink the amount you need today, and try to find more for tomorrow. You can minimize the amount of water your body needs by reducing activity and staying cool.
How to Store Water:
Store your water in thoroughly washed plastic, glass, fiberglass or enamel-lined metal containers. Never use a container that has held toxic substances.
Plastic containers, such as soft drink bottles, are best. You can also purchase food-grade plastic buckets or drums. Seal water containers tightly, label them and store in a cool, dark place. Rotate water every six months.
Emergency Outdoor Water Sources:
If you need to find water outside your home, you can use these sources. Be sure to purify the water according to the instructions listed below before drinking it.
Streams, rivers and other moving bodies of water
Ponds and lakes
Avoid water with floating material, an odor or dark color. Use saltwater only if you distill it first. You should not drink floodwater.
Three Ways to Purify Water:
In addition to having a bad odor and taste, contaminated water can contain microorganisms that cause diseases such as dysentery, typhoid and hepatitis. You should purify all water of uncertain purity before using it for drinking, food preparation or hygiene.
There are many ways to purify water. None is perfect. Often the best solution is a combination of methods. Two easy purification methods are outlined below. These measures will kill most microbes but will not remove other contaminants such as heavy metals, salts and most other chemicals. Before purifying, let any suspended particles settle to the bottom, or strain them through layers of paper towel or clean cloth.
Boiling is the safest method of purifying water. Bring water to a rolling boil for 3-5 minutes, keeping in mind that some water will evaporate. Let the water cool before drinking.
Boiled water will taste better if you put oxygen back into it by pouring the water back and forth between two clean containers. This will also improve the taste of stored water.
You can use household liquid bleach to kill microorganisms. Use only regular household liquid bleach that contains 5.25 percent sodium hypochlorite. Do not use scented bleaches, color-safe bleaches or bleaches with added cleaners.
Add 16 drops of bleach per gallon of water, stir and let stand for 30 minutes. If the water does not have a slight bleach odor, repeat the dosage and let stand another 15 minutes.
The only agent used to purify water should be household liquid bleach. Other chemicals, such as iodine or water treatment products sold in camping or surplus stores that do not contain 5.25 percent sodium hypochlorite as the only active ingredient, are not recommended and should not be used.
While the two methods described above will kill most microbes in water, distillation will remove microbes that resist these methods, and heavy metals, salts and most other chemicals.
Distillation involves boiling water and then collecting the vapor that condenses back to water. The condensed vapor will not include salt and other impurities. To distill, fill a pot halfway with water. Tie a cup to the handle on the pot's lid so that the cup will hang right-side-up when the lid is upside-down (make sure the cup is not dangling into the water) and boil the water for 20 minutes. The water that drips from the lid into the cup is distilled.
Hidden Water Sources in Your Home:
If a disaster catches you without a stored supply of clean water, you can use the water in your hot-water tank, pipes and ice cubes. As a last resort, you can use water in the reservoir tank of your toilet (not the bowl).
Do you know the location of your incoming water valve? You'll need to shut it off to stop contaminated water from entering your home if you hear reports of broken water or sewage lines.
To use the water in your pipes, let air into the plumbing by turning on the faucet in your house at the highest level. A small amount of water will trickle out. Then obtain water from the lowest faucet in the house.
To use the water in your hot-water tank, be sure the electricity or gas is off, and open the drain at the bottom of the tank. Start the water flowing by turning off the water intake valve and turning on a hot-water faucet. Do not turn on the gas or electricity when the tank is empty.
When you're born you get a ticket to the freak show. When you're born in America , you get a front row seat. - George Carlin
Don't forget a small hand held pump with a ceramic/carbon filter for when your on the move, like a Pur "hiker" , that's what I have. I have used that particular one for 2 complete end to end trips on the Appellation Trail, plus 12 years of working in the Lincoln Woods Wilderness Area and on the AT, as well as using for several years before and after that. I think I've had it for about 25 years now and still going strong. And I still use it occasionally. They are a great unit that never failed me once in all those years. Not even during times of extreme drought when water supplies were hard to find and generally brackish. I Never once had any health issues at all. As a matter of fact I'd even check my water that had been run through it every once and a while with a microscope just to check for any water borne micro-organisms and I never found any in all the years I'd used it.
IMO a must have for any bug out bag or other "on the move" senerio. Just be sure you have the carbon ceramic filters though, they remove everything and are washable many times over while still remaining safe before they'll need replacement. I cleaned mine out every 2-3 weeks with clear water and bleach and blew it out from the inside out with compressed air to clear any built up sediments, just to be sure. Nothing much worse than the shits or puking on the trail!! They'd last a complete hiking season , or more, and it was used 7 days a week for 8 months out of the year. I can highly recommend that brand from years and years of experience with them.
Myself I always used the iodine tabs @ 1/2 the recommended dose or bleach at 1/2,,just to be 100% safe when water supply's were really dirty and brackish, otherwise I'd just rely on just the pump when water supplies looked clear and were flowing free. It may have not been necessary, but better safe than sorry.
Heck you don't have to go to any third world country to find contaminated water. Back maybe 18 or 20 years ago Milwaukee had a cryptosperidium outbreak that was making people sick all over the city. I worked at the airport then and the water there was contaminated too. When they solved the problem and chlorinated the water heavily we ended up flushing all the hydrants on the base to try and remove any last traces of the bad water. The town I was living in then also had a cryptosperidium outbreak because somehow a hatch got left open on the water tower and bird shit was getting in the water. The problem there got fixed and the water got super chlorinated to solve the problem. In the mean time bottled water was supplied by the city from the firehouse. Cryptosperidium does nasty things to the digestive tract and diarrhea is a common effect.
In times of crisis I wouldn't even drink normally safe tap water without filtering it or boiling it.
Last edited by FyredUp; 07-30-2013 at 01:32 PM.
I carry a couple katadyn pocket/hiker filter kits in my BOB and GHB and keep a couple large Big Berkys at my BOLs just in case. I have been drinking out of high mountain streams since I was a kid but newcomers often get Giardia and get sick because they have lived off purified and treated water. Some of us who live in the high country have built up an immunity and can drink fast moving snow melt and mountain spring water but I still won't drink water once it gets into the meadows.
Sounds like someone never heard of Montezuma's Revenge...
Perge, scelus, mihi diem perficias.
lesson number taught to us in college
never drink surface water regardless how pure it looks, that includes springs right out of the ground, we have contaminated most if not all the aquifers in this country. all untreated water has the potenial to make you sick. the recommendations posted above by black blade are standard and most here should already know about this
I used to love those Coor's commericals about pure rocky mountain spring water, no such animal, the prospectors from the last century polluted every major stream out west
also the swiss water purifiers black blade mentioned are rated the best
Sprat and sprat1 are one and the same.
2 yrs ago while elk hunting we were on the side of the mogollon rim. literally where it goes from 60* to a straight up 90*. we had hiked for miles up and down the 60* slope when we spotted the elk we were to shoot. 2 of the 3 had tags and took our shots. mine was a double lung and out w/ no expansion. buddy's shot shattered the shoulder causing the bull to tumble down the boulder and old growth infested slope. we hiked a mile just getting around the canyon that separated us from the bulls. i tracked mine for 5.5 hours before we lost the trail. made bigger and bigger circles on the side of the slope at the 90* apex. finally gave up and we went to help carry out buddy's kill. by the time we got his off the slope we were all out of water and had been for awhile. one of us had treatment for water of some kind, but the first one to the water said "i can't wait!" and dove in a stream head first and started drinking. stupidly we followed suit. water tasted fine. it came out of the side of the rim, fell straight down the leveled out about 100 yrds before our chosen spot. i had the most uneasy feeling for 2 more days, but thankfully, nothing happened. now to my point. we were friggin lucky as hell none of us got sick. 2 days later we were in a small canyon following a stream that came from a spring. water looked wonderful and we splashed our heads in it a couple of times. after about 2.5 miles we had climbed to the spring, the headwater of the stream we had been following. the spring came out of a hole at the base of a small ridge, then flowed through the largest, grossest cesspool of every kind of fecal waste imaginable. elk, deer, bear, cow, javelina, crow, turkey, raccoon, squirrel, and i don't know what else. i almost threw up thinking back on how safe we felt drinking 2 days before. the 50 yrd square area was like a bog and you could not step even once in any direction w/o stepping in massive piles of something. the "spring" ran across this before funneling into a channel and down into the canyon and stream we had hiked up. never again. 2 years later when ever i'm not feeling quite right, i wonder.......
thanks for the recommendations. i have been searching them out as i have another hunt this fall in the same area.
Which filters do you guys have. I looked them up and their are a lot of them.. twa yours is a cleanable filter.. Which model is it? Is it a lifetime filter or do you still have to replace it?
We have springs here on the Saint Johns river with million of gallons a day of pure fresh water boiling directly out of the aquifer..
But as noted, you never know.. Best to purify it either way.. Person can last quite a long time without food, but without water, your going to die..
Black Blade, what model do you use.. Good idea you guys have.. Out fishing, me and my Bro brought ham and cheese sandwiches.. So were not the sharpest tacks in the box, we forgot water.. While not life or death, we almost stuck our heads in the river and drank..
"Man needs but two things to survive alone in the woods. A blow up female doll and his trusty old AK-47" - Thomas Jefferson 1781