Editor’s Note: J. Wayne Fears first learned survival training from his father who was a trapper. He later received survival training from both the U.S. Army and the U.S. Air Force. He’s been responsible for running hunting operations in Alabama, Alaska, British Columbia, and Colorado. His new book “The Scouting Guide to Survival” is his 34th book on outdoor subjects and tells what Fears has learned from his decades of survival experiences.
Today there are few areas left in the backcountry or anywhere else, where one can trust the quality of the water and be safe in doing so. Therefore, it behooves every backcountry traveler to learn the skill of making water safe for drinking, especially those who might possibly face a survival emergency. The body is approximately 75 percent water, and the intake and output of liquids are necessary for normal functions of the vital organs. Daily water requirements, a minimum of two quarts, help maintain proper balance and efficiency within the system of the body.
Never trust water from an unknown source. The best way to be assured of having safe water is to carry enough with you to use for drinking. However, in an unexpected survival situation of several days, this is not always possible. It is on these types of emergencies that water treatment knowledge is a must. Here are several methods for treating questionable water:
* Boiling Water. One of the best methods for treating water is the boiling method. Boiling water for ten minutes will produce germ-free water for drinking or cooking. Since boiling leaves water with a flat taste, you should pour it back and forth between two containers several times once it has cooled. This process aerates it, giving it back its natural taste. A vessel for boiling water can be formed from the aluminum foil in your survival kit.
* Commercial Tablets. Drug stores and outfitter stores usually have halazone tablets or Potable Aqua (https://www.potableaqua.com/) tablets for the treatment of water. A bottle of the tablets fits nicely in the individual survival kit. Both do an excellent job. Halazone tablets have been used successfully for years. Add two tablets to a quart of water, and follow with a thirty-minute wait. The newer product, Potable Aqua, requires one tablet to a quart of water, capping loosely to allow a little leakage. Wait three minutes, and shake thoroughly. Wait 30 minutes before drinking. If the water is very cold or contains rotten leaves or silt, use two tablets. You can use the gallon re-sealable plastic bag in which your survival items are packed for a water container. Also, the plastic bag in which the tube tent is packed makes a good water container.
At this point, I should point out that any time you are treating water in a canteen, jug, or other type of container, you should be sure to rinse the cap, spout, screw threads, lid, etc. with some of the treated water. You do not want to miss treating any surface that may come into contact with your mouth or the water you are drinking.
* Water Filtering Devices. There are a number of compact water filtration units such as the Sawyer MINI https://sawyer.com/products/mini-filter/ and LifeStraw https://www.lifestraw.com/ that can give the backcountry traveler safe water. They have been proven to filter out Giardia and other harmful threats, and the unit fits into a pack easily.
To learn more, you can buy a copy of the new book, “The Scouting Guide to Survival” by going to – www.amazon.com/J.-Wayne-Fears/e/B001HOIFOQ.