Nothing is more important to survival than a good water supply. Our body is made up of about 60-80% water and cannot maintain its efficiency without a minimum of its daily water requirements. The amount of water will vary depending on the climate and the amount of physical exertion.
Part 1: Protect Your Body’s Water
In a moderate climate with low activity levels, 2 quarts of water is about the minimum amount needed for a 160 lb person. You might need double this amount or more in extremely hot or cold climates or when doing heavy aerobic work. A sign of dehydration is if your urine turns dark in color, it should be clear to a pale yellow color when you are properly hydrated. In order to maintain efficiency and increase chances of survival, the minimum fluid intake must be met. In addition to meeting a minimum fluid intake, the water must be clean and as pure as possible. When dealing with water procurement it is important to consider two important factors, quality and quantity.
The reason your body constantly needs water is because it continually releases its liquids as it maintains normal bodily functions (breathing, sweating, urination to remove toxins etc.). Some examples of how water is used by the body is; breathing/respiration, urination, excretion and sweating. On a microscopic level, proper hydration allows nutrients to be distributed through the bloodstream, toxins to be removed through cellular processes and reactions, and also provides the medium for electrical impulses to travel through the nerve and brain cells to activate muscles, thought processes and reactions. The brain is about 80% water and needs to maintain this balance to function properly. The hotter or colder the climate, the more water your body needs to survive. Remember that you your body is made up mostly of water and needs to maintain this balance in order for you to survive.
What To Do
In any survival situation where water is in short supply, the first step is to protect and conserve water already in the body.
1. Cover any areas of exposed skin as soon as you can. This protects against sunburn which would otherwise lead to more water loss from damaged cells. In a hot environment, it also helps to slow down evaporation of sweat from the body which in turn reduces the need to replace bodily fluids lost from sweating. Loose clothing is better than tighter fitting clothes in this situation since is traps a layer of relatively still air around the body, thereby insulating it from the external temperature (whether hot or cold). The air that is trapped gains humidity from evaporated perspiration and then slows the evaporation rate.
2. Regardless of climate try to breathe through the nose and cover the face with a scarf, towel, shirt or other cloth to reduce water loss through breathing and saliva evaporation. Small pebbles or grass can be chewed on to reduce thirst. Keep the mouth closed and talk only when necessary.
3. If you cannot be indoors and find yourself out in hot conditions, try to stay in the shade and minimize movement to reduce dehydration caused by direct sunlight. Sit or lay a little bit above the ground surface using anything that is available including fallen trees, rocks, wreckage, leaves or anything else that’s available. Even if it’s just a few inches it will help provide a layer of insulation and slow dehydration.
4. In hotter conditions avoid traveling or other types of strenuous work during the hottest part of the day. If you have to move, do it as slowly as possible (or even at night) to keep body heat generation to a minimum. This will help to reduce the body’s dissipation of fluid as it tries to maintain a low body temperature. In cold climates this point does not play as much of a factor, however dehydration is still a dangerous and very real problem that must be addressed.
5. In warmer conditions, drink during the cool hours of the early mornings, late afternoon, or evening. Your body uses calories to warm any water that’s ingested. In cooler conditions try to let your water warm in the sun or near the fire, drinking cold water in an already cold environment can cause chills.
6. Don’t swallow large mouth fulls of water. Drink small amounts more often. It is better to drink before you get thirsty and feel dehydrated. When you feel your mouth getting dry you are already about 4% dehydrated. Also, the body can only process so much water at a time so spacing it out will give the most efficient use of a limited water supply. Try and stay ahead of the hydration curve because it will catch you.
7. Sea water or other waste water can be used to wet your clothes and cool you down and help to reduce sweating. If you build a survival still you can use this water to make potable drinking water as well. DO NOT DRINK SALTWATER, this will bring DEATH more quickly than drinking nothing at all.
8. Be careful of Urban Water Survival Myths. Often when you are desperate you will have a greater tendency to make irrational decisions which can land you in a worse situation than where you would have been otherwise. Remember your basics and the above principles and you will be better off than trying dangerous schemes to try and rehydrate yourself.
Make It Last
You may have to ration what little water is available but if you can limit fluid loss, you can make the water you have last longer than it otherwise would. This extra time and conservation of resources will allow further opportunity to find or create another water source.
All of the above actions are short term solutions to a long term problem. Long term survival depends on a good supply of drinking water, without it, survival is impossible. Water is the first and most important component of survival. Without water, everything else in your survival cache is worth nothing.
Also See – 6 Dangerous Myths About Water
Coming Soon: Water Purification and Survival – Part 2