How to purify water in the wilderness
Picture yourself meandering around in the wilderness: the Rockies, the forests of Alaska, the Amazon Jungle or any other place on Earth isolated from human civilisation. Now, imagine you have a little rucksack containing some food: a triple sandwich, a few packets of crisps, some nuts and, perhaps a chocolate bar. If you’re careful and make it last, you can survive for weeks on that.
However, the body simply cannot survive without water. Most people can stay alive for 3 days without water, 5 at the absolute max or 7 if they have a particularly robust physiology. If you are in the desert then give yourself about three hours. If you find yourself in this position, then you need to find a source of water, quick!
If you’ve managed to find some water, the next question is: how do you know if you can drink it? Purification is the key. You can purchase purification bottles for this purpose. Simply stick the water in one end and as it passes through a charcoal filter, it will become drinkable. Such products can be rather pricey, so they aren’t always an option. Although if you’re planning on a prolonged excursion into the wilderness (such as for camping or hiking holidays), you would do best to fork out for your own benefit!
As a cheaper alternative, you may wish to consider purchasing some water purification tablets (either iodine or chlorine). Simply pop a tablet into a container of untreated water, wait for 20 minutes and then start swigging away.
If you have a cauldron with you, simply pour untreated water into it and then boil it for purification.The trick is to let the water bubble for approximately five minutes, then allow the water to cool before drinking. If you don’t have a cauldron, the same process can be accomplished using a metal bowl or mug. A metal flask is also ideal for this procedure.
In order to boil water, you need a fire. However, this can be difficult to acquire if you don’t have any flammable materials or even a lighter. There are a number of inventive ways to create fire without the standard materials, as described in this comprehensive article (certainly worth a read, as it might just save your life).
The water source itself is also worth discussing. If you’re in a forest, aim to find fast running water, preferably from the hills or mountains. Water running downstream is likely to be clean and drinkable, as opposed to water from lakes which can often be stagnant and full of bacteria.
If it’s snowing, do not eat the snow. As tempting as it may be, eating snow can actually make you more dehydrated and snow found on the ground may contain harmful bacteria. Always boil the snow before you consume it, as you would with any other type of water you find in the wild.
By the time the St Bernard dogs come to rescue you, hopefully you’ll have managed to stay hydrated with these handy tips. Now, it’s time to have a sip of brandy and warm yourself up before you return to civilisation!
[Photo by Mariamichelle]