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Backpacker Magazine – September 2012

Survival Lab: Emergency Water

Without a drink, a hiker can die in as little as a day. We tested three techniques for conjuring H20 out of thin air. Plus: 5 easy ways to stay hydrated in hot climates.

by: Ted Alvarez

PAGE 1 2 3 4
Pee Bottle (Andrew Bydlon)
Pee Bottle (Andrew Bydlon)

Don’t Run Dry
Avoid death-by-desiccation by conserving water.

>> Chill in wind-free shade and avoid exertion from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
>> Eat less, especially proteins. Metabolizing high-protein foods speeds dehydration. Exception: Fruits and veggies, which contain water.
>> Inhale/exhale through your nose. Mouth-breathing costs you water.
>> Keep your shirt on. Adults lose an average of 14 ounces of water per day through the skin. Keep it cool and covered to slow the process. Soak your clothes (see right) to prevent sweating.
>> Ration water wisely. Don’t deprive yourself; sip at regular intervals.

Best Bet: Find It
In most cases, finding water is more effective than conjuring it. Look in shady areas at the base of cliffs, pockets and depressions in rock, and undercut banks of dry streambeds. Follow birds and insects; tree hollows sometimes hold water weeks after rainfall.

Drink Your Pee?
Don’t do it. “Piss tastes like piss. It’s full of salt and much less refreshing than seawater, which you shouldn’t drink either,” says Ted, who tried both. If all you’re sipping is urine, the concentrated toxins will overwhelm your kidneys within days and kill you. Instead, collect it in a bottle and purify using a solar still. Or pee on your clothing to reduce sweat loss during the hottest parts of the day.

Survival Sipping It’s impossible to collect water into a tall bottle from a shallow puddle. No cup? Sip with a straw or hydration tube.

Video Icon
DRINKING PROBLEM Click Here Ted tested eight water-wrangling methods to find the best. Watch him at work, learn which ones failed, and yes, see our man taste-test his own pee.

PAGE 1 2 3 4

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Oct 28, 2012

I have witnessed transpiration bag method work very well. It seems a black plastic (garbage) bag draws more dew in the sunlight quicker than the clear plastic bag. Consider one caution while choosing different tree/bushes to bag. You might want to avoid black cherry (Prunus serotina) as it off-gasses hydrogen cyanide in levels that may be detrimental to humans. I do not know if there is sufficient data in this area presently. reference: TOXICOLOGICAL PROFILE FOR CYANIDE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, July 2006

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