Being stranded or lost in the wild is something that could happen to anyone from day hikers, tourists, experienced outdoorsmen, to Sunday drivers. If you ever find yourself in such a situation, water is one of the things that you need to find fast to survive. Knowing where to look for this essential commodity will determine if you will make it alive out of the wilderness. Our bodies are engineered to operate with two quarts of water per day. Lack of enough water can lead to dehydration and other secondary health complications such as cell shrinking and insufficient circulation of blood to the various organs.
Today, I will teach you how to find water and purify it in the wild using basic items that you should remember to pack in your backpack.
List of Items Needed for this Tutorial
- Aluminum can
- Water bottle
- Digging tool
- Plastic sheeting
- Clear plastic bag
- Portable stove
- Square plastic material
- Drinking tube
- UV devices such as Steripen SideWinder
- Survival straws
- Disinfecting Tablets
- Plastic Containers
- Portable water filter
How to Find Water in the Wild
As mentioned earlier, knowing how and where to find the water will help you to stay hydrated as you try to find your way out of the forest. The most obvious sources of water that you can find in the wild are lakes, streams, and rivers. However, locate them can be an uphill task especially if this is your first time in the wild on your own. If you are rest, listen for water sounds as rivers can be heard from miles away in quiet woods.
Over the years, wild animals have mastered the art of finding water sources on their own. Therefore, be on the lookout for animal tracks. Lush green vegetation is also a likely sign of a water source nearby as well as swarming insects. Just like us human beings, the birds’ body also needs water to function optimally. Bird flight paths in the evening and morning can also direct you to a water source. It is also important to note that waters always flows downhill, so you are more likely to find water in lowlands and valleys than in high grounds.
How to Collect the Water in the Wild
Once you find a water source, the next thing that you need to do is collect it. One of the basic techniques of collecting water is by digging a hole on the ground. Place an aluminum can at the bottom then cover it with the plastic sheeting. Use some stones to keep the sheet in position as the water trickles down into the can. The amount of time it will take to fill the can with water is dependent on the water’s flow rate.
Another method of collecting water is the transpiration technique. You will need a clear plastic bag for this method to work. Early in the morning or before retiring to bed, tie the plastic bag around a bunch of tree leaves using your shoelace or string then place a rock inside the plastic bag to keep it in position. During the day, the plant will transpire and produce moisture that will condense and collect at the lowest point in the plastic bag as liquid water. Note that the taste may be different due to the natural scents produced by the tree, but hey, it is better than nothing right!
The 7 Best Ways to Purify Water in the Wild
Let us shift gears now and look at the best ways of purifying water in the wild.
Technique 1: Boiling
Stream or fresh water fetched from a water body in the wild most likely contains a multitude of parasites and other disease-causing pathogens that could comprise your health and wellness. You do not want to fall sick while in the wild as that could reduce your chances of making it out of the terrain alive.
Boiling the water before drinking will help kill all these disease-causing pathogens as well as evaporate all forms of chemicals that may have dissolved in it. Five minutes of roll boiling has been proven to be effective in killing most microorganisms, but boiling the water ten minutes is ideal. You can use a portable stove or campfire to boil the water.
If you do not have a fireproof container at hand, find some solid rocks in the vicinity and heat them for 30 minutes then place them inside the container. Never use river or quartz rocks, as they can explode when exposed to heat. It is also important to note that at high altitude, the atmospheric pressure can affect boiling time, and so will need to boil the water for longer before drinking it in such environments.
Technique 2: Distillation
In a situation where you cannot find running water, distillation can help purify the water. This method is useful in getting rid of lead, salt, radiation, and all other forms of contaminants. A solar still can help distil the water quickly and efficiently. To construct one, place a plastic material over a three feet deep hole with a clean container at the bottom. Put a rock inside the plastic to keep in position and at an angle of approximately 45-degree cone over the clean container. The hole should be dug in an area that is well exposed to the sun or in the sand. Go an extra mile and add green vegetation to the hole to increase water production. Use a drinking tube to drink the distilled water without dismantling the solar still.
Technique 3: Use UV Light Devices
The reason why virtually all modern water purification systems use UV light is that it has a superior capability of killing small organisms that cannot be eliminated using other water purification methods. Before departure, make sure that you carry several UV light devices such as the popular Steripen Side Winder. This battery-free device can produce enough UV light that can destroy the DNA of virtually any waterborne bacteria and viruses in seconds. The only downside of using these devices is that they are not effective in purifying water that contains large floating rock or soil particles, as disease-causing pathogens can hide under these particles.
Technique 4: Survival Straws
Survival straws are the smallest and lightest water purification products ever to hit the market. The straw has an activated carbon filter element that eliminates bacteria, pathogens, and odors from water. All you need to do is dip the straw into the water bottle containing the unpurified water and drink.
Technique 5: Disinfecting Tablets
As the name suggests, these are tablets that contain compounds that kill waterborne disease-causing pathogens. When shopping for these tablets, it is important to consider the lifespan as it varies from one product to another. The reviews posted online by other customers can also help you make an informed decision as you scout for the tablets.
Most of the tablets contain iodine, a compound that is not ideal for pregnant women, and anyone who has thyroid issues or shellfish allergies. The iodine flavor may also discourage fussy children from drinking the water. The best disinfecting tablets are chlorine based, as they dissipate within four hours and do not set back the water taste.
Technique 6: Solar Water Disinfection
Solar water disinfection is another excellent water purification method that you can use in the wild. It relies on sun’s energy, and so you can only use it during the day. Put the contaminated water in clear plastic containers and expose them to the sun for 24 hours. The science behind this technique is that the sun’s UV light rays will kill all the viruses and bacteria thereby making the water safe for human consumption.
One of the main benefits of using this technique is that it is easy to apply, inexpensive, and does not use any dangerous chemicals. The only downside is that you need sunny weather conditions or at least two days of an overcast sky to get rid of all the contaminants effectively. Some parasites can also withstand the UV rays in their cyst stages.
Technique 7: Portable Water Filter
The portable drip/suction and pump action filters will come in handy when in the wild. The latter uses a pump to push the contaminated water through a cartridge that contains a filter while the suction filter uses gravity to forced raw water through the filter. Despite the differences in their functionalism, both are useful in purifying raw water. Be sure to study how each functions to get the best results.
These are seven most valuable techniques that you can use to purify water in the wild. Fight the urge to drink the water in its raw form as that could expose you to waterborne diseases. Without water, your body will slowly start to shut down making it impossible for you to walk or do various survival activities such as hunting or making a shelter.
Feel free to share with us other techniques of purifying water in the wild in the comment section. We look forward to interacting with you on this and other survival topics.