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.
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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.

Dew Harvesting

RESULTS Sopping up dew yielded the most water for the least effort. Using a Buff ($20; buffheadwear.com), we got a cup from a shaded, saturated bush in a few minutes. Expect good results
on cool nights in humid, wind-free climates, in areas with moist soil, and along damp depressions and stream channels.

DO IT Ignore advice about tying T-shirts to your feet: It’s easier to wipe your cloth-covered hand on dense, broad-leafed vegetation and grass. You’ll also sop up bugs, dirt,
bird poop, and plant toxins; if possible, treat before drinking.

TIP In arid environments (high altitude, deserts), work fast when dew is present: Wind, dry air, and sudden temperature increases can evaporate it quickly.

Solar Still

RESULTS Best for wringing pure water from a plentiful but questionable supply (salty, muddy, choked with dead possums). In four hours of partial sunlight, our still condensed 1/4
cup of water from a motley source of moist earth, a handful of greens, and a sprinkle of urine.

DO IT Best bet: Find a hole in a sunny area. Next best: Dig a 2-by-2-foot one with a flat bottom, or several smaller holes if the ground is hard. Add green vegetation,
nonpotable water, or urine, then place a cup in the center. Spread a watertight material (rainfly, plastic) over the opening, pull taut, and seal the edges using rocks and soil. Use a stone to weight
the sheet above the cup so the water drips into it.

TIP Save sweat: Dig at night in soft soil.

Transpiration Bag

RESULTS This set-it-and-forget-it method can supplement your survival needs, but don’t count on it as your sole supply–unless you have two dozen plastic bags. Our test produced only
a few teaspoons of water in four hours.

DO IT Place a smooth rock in the bottom corner of a plastic bag (the clearer and larger, the better). Pull the bag over a leafy branch. Tie it so air can’t escape. Wait a few hours,
until water collects in the bag’s weighted corner. Untie the bag and pour the water into a container to drink. Works best with succulents and bright green, broad-leafed plants.

TIP Because heat will cause the plant’s pores to close, you’ll get the best results in the morning and evening.


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.



DRINKING PROBLEMClick 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.

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