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Procuring Water in a Survival Situation

Updated on July 11, 2014

You Must Have Water!

No one will survive past three days or roughly 72 hours without some form of water. We all know how important it is to stay hydrated, especially in the heat of warmer months. So let’s talk liquids- the standard recommendation is 1 gallon per day per person for consumption and up to another gallon per person per day for cooking and sanitation. Water is heavy and it simply isn’t practical to carry multiple gallons of water on your person or in your pack or bug out bag. This is why it is essential to plan for and be prepared to procure water and make it drinkable, in any survival situation.

You can go without washing, but you can not live without water to drink!


Carrying Water Versus Finding Water

I carry one 16 oz. container of water in my GET HOME BAG, as it is intended for short term travel- a 20 mile radius from my home or less. In my BUG OUT BAG, I have four 16oz. containers of water and a water purification method or filter device. On my kit, I have a 2 liter camelback. If I am hiking and have my filtration device to use for available water consumption, that is the route I will take. I would save my containers of water for a situation where there was no available water to filter or purify. If I am in a survival situation for longer than 24 hours and I drink all the water I am carrying simply because it is there and easier to get to, I could be in trouble if I find myself without a water source at some point.

Outside of the filtered water that you may carry into the situation, there are several ways to procure water- the cleanest and easiest method is of course, rain water collection. Hopefully you will have something in your pack to collect the water or be able to find something to use. Any container would work, but a metal container is your best bet for other methods of collection that will require the purification step of boiling the water. If you have no container, you must be resourceful enough to make your own means of collection. If you possess a tarp, rain poncho or a plastic bag, your home free. If you don’t have those things, look to nature. Leaves work wonderfully for this. Dig a bowl shaped hole and line the bottom and sides with clean leaves. If the dirt is moist the leaves will stay put on the dirt, if not, you may need to weight them down with a few small rocks. Allow the rain to fill your indention and use your cupped palm to retrieve the water or lay down next to the pool and lap it up.

Another way to collect rainwater is wringing it out of wet clothing or your hair, if they aren’t to dirty that is. Rain leaves puddles and refills streams, lakes and rivers so hopefully you will have the means to collect that water in a sanitary method. The problem with rain is, it might not happen. So once again, you need to have an alternative plan for water.

A pond, river or a lake, are excellent fresh water sources. Standing or stagnant water must be filtered or purified. Running or moving water may be drinkable but if possible, should also be filtered or purified to avoid ingestion of bacteria or contaminants. Salt water or brackish water should not be consumed as it will only serve to dehydrate you further and possibly make you sick. Urine is a very last resort and some experts argue it is not even an option. Desperate times call for desperate measures but my hope is that you will be prepared enough that urine is never a consideration. My advice is to simply not allow your selves to be put into a situation where that would come into play.


Tools of the Trade

A life straw or filter device can be picked up at any outdoor store or online for roughly $20 bucks. I can not stress enough the importance of having a filtration or purification device or method of some sort for water. Here’s a tip- read the instructions and become familiar with how to use your device prior to actually needing to use it. Take it out of the package and test it out. In a survival situation the last thing you need to be concentrating on is reading instructions. This goes back to being prepared. We all have a responsibility to be prepared so don’t wait until the hour of need. It’s great to have all the latest gear, but if you do not know how to use it, it is useless.

Water purification tablets are a good resource, but keep in mind they require the use of a container, where as the life straw does not. You could filter water through canvas or tightly woven material or wait and allow sediment to sink and drink ‘off the top’, but you are at a very high risk for ingesting bacteria and contracting intestinal illnesses such as dysentery. If no filter or water purification tablets are available and rain water is not an option, then we are left with heat purification. For this method, you must have fire and a container of metal or glass.

A metal or glass container filled with ‘dirty’ water can be placed directly into the coals or secured above the flame until the water boils. Once the water has boiled and cooled it should be safe enough to drink. I would recommend using this method to purify water that is the least bit questionable as far as cleanliness. If you are in a survival situation, the last thing you need to deal with is an illness that could have been avoided. The illnesses that can be caused by drinking contaminated water can be deadly and precautions should be taken seriously.

Another option with the heat method is condensation. A plastic bag or container is required for this as well. It would need to be placed away from direct contact with the heat source and it would take some time for the condensation to form and in very miniscule amounts. This would probably not be a viable option in a very dry or dessert environment.

Water is Life

If you are an experienced camper, hunter or survivalist, you already know everything I just told you. Please feel free to add constructive comments, tips or ideas below to help those less experienced than your selves. If you are a novice or just beginning to get into the survivalist mindset, I want to reiterate the three requirements for survival- Water, Shelter and Food. Get the basics, starting with a water filtration system and build your supplies from there. Water comes first-Remember, water is life.


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