By Staff Reports
(DGIwire) — Most of us with access to clean, safe water take it for granted. We take long showers, brush our teeth and cook with tap water, and, in some places, have no concerns about drinking water straight from the faucet in the kitchen sink. However, if you run out of water on a long hike or camping trip, or if you find yourself stranded in the wild, no such luxury exists. Even if you are camping next to a pond, stream or other body of water, there is no guarantee that the water is safe to drink. Water found in the wild is seldom pure, so it is essential to know how to purify water in an emergency for outdoor survival. In fact, you should purify water any time you are not absolutely certain that the water is safe. Water that is even slightly polluted may contain microorganisms that can cause serious illness.
According to HitTheTrail.com, a website that offers resources for hikers and campers, Giardiasis and Cryptosporidium are the two most common waterborne viruses contracted while in the wilderness, and both have crippling symptoms including diarrhea, headache, vomiting, cramping, fever and loss of appetite. These symptoms would be devastating in the comfort of one’s own home, so can you imagine trying to tackle them when in the wild?
Chemical pollutants, such as herbicides or pesticides from farming industries, are also a concern in some areas. Often we can’t see evidence of these chemicals, so it is always important to test water you are not sure about. The first step in finding safe water to drink in the wild is to seek out water that appears the clearest. You should also look for moving surface water whenever available because stagnant water tends to draw dirt, bacterial growth and insects.
Once you’ve located your main water source, there are three main ways to purify water. The first is filtration, which removes larger, visible particles in the water. Coffee filters are perfect to remove dirt and debris, and they’re perfect to pack since they’re lightweight and can fold up into your survival kit. In a pinch, your sock or t-shirt will work too—as long as that sock or t-shirt is clean. Some water bottles specifically for camping come equipped with a small filter, which can be a very useful and compact tool also. It is important to remember, though, that merely filtering water is not the same as purifying.
If you have access to fire, boiling is an easy way to remove harmful microorganisms that might not be visible to the naked eye, and that might have slipped through the cracks during filtration. Water must boil rapidly for just a few minutes to be safe, but if you don’t have access to heat or fire, this method is not practical. Plus, boiling water does not remove chemical pollutants from the water.
Another way to purify water, which you can also easily pack in an outdoor survival kit, is to use iodine or purification tablets. While this is a great way to kill any bacteria, it will make the water taste like iodine and chemicals. To improve the taste of your drinking water, it is a good idea to combine filtering and purification methods.
Getting stranded without a reliable water source can be a real cause for concern, but with some foresight, a little knowledge and a well-stocked emergency survival kit, you’ll be well equipped to tackle the wild like a pro.