Acquiring Food and Water

I won't be getting into great detail here on this page because there is so much that can be written on this subject. 

You can also continue your research using the links below as a starting point as well as read good books for more information.

The purpose of this page and website for that matter, is to provide basic information to help you see what is available and to encourage you to continue learning about the skills and preparations needed for emergencies.

After addressing the priorities of protecting yourself from the elements, building a fire and putting out your signals, water then becomes very high on the list of priorities to do. Having said that however, remember to take into consideration your circumstances and apply the survival priorities accordingly, even if it is different from what I wrote in the previous sentence.

They say that you can survive for only 3 to 4 days without water, and 3 to 4 weeks without food. Depending on what sort of environment you find yourself in you need to know what options are available to you. Don't wait to long to get some water, and you will need food to keep up your energy to accomplish the survival tasks at hand.

Before I continue, if you really need to drink, then drink especially if water is freely available to you such as from a stream, river, lake and rainwater. It is important to ALWAYS render water potable to avoid sickness, however, if you are becoming degraded through dehydration due to a lack of water, but you KNOW that you are within a day or so from civilization, drink from the cleanest water source available to avoid more serious problems with dehydration. This is only IF you cannot for a reason or other boil, chemically treat or filter your water before consumption.

If you get sick, it will most likely occur AFTER you get back to civilization, where hospitals are available with the appropriate treatments. It still requires a certain amount of time for the parasites to accomplish their design. There is a gestation period before the onset of symptoms.

Be certain to render it potable before drinking to avoid the possibility of becoming infected with Giardia or Cryptosporidium.

Rainwater can be drunk directly. After you have your drink continue on with your signals etc.

Avoid dehydration which will impair your ability to function properly and make good judgments.

The design of your shelter can also provide other purposes such as rain gathering if you have tarp and a container(s).

I'll make a list here of some methods of where to procure water and there are others. The method may depend on the environment and resources available etc. Make the decision according to your circumstances. Do some further research as well. As for shelter building, making water potable is an essential skill that you cannot pass up.

1. Rainwater.

2. Streams, lakes, rivers, ponds.

3. Water from trees and vegetation using the transpiration bag method.

4. Sea water when distilled. Or by using a reverse-osmosis filter (desalination) if available, or a desalination kit.

Rendering water potable is possible through many different methods. I'll make a list here of some of them. Filtering does not remove chemical contamination or viruses. If a manufacturer claims otherwise, be certain to see if it is EPA certified to do so, and under what conditions and for what types of pollutants or viruses.

The methods below all have their pros and cons and are not always equally effective for rendering water potable.

1. Microfilter, usually around 0.3 micron rating. Be careful of straw filters, do your research.

2. Boiling. You'll hear all kinds of information on this one concerning how long to boil it. Bring it to a rolling boil, let it cool off and drink. If you are not certain, boil it a little longer but remember that it takes fuel to boil the water and resources may be limited. Also, the longer you boil the water the more water you will lose through evaporation. If you have a pot with a lid or can make a lid, cover the pot to avoid losing whatever water you have to evaporation. It will also boil faster and you will conserve fuel. You also will preserve energy by not having to collect or use up as much fuel, like the firewood you'll have to fetch for your fire.

3. Snow or ice. Go for the ice which his more dense than snow and you'll get much more water per volume. If you have a little water already, place it at the bottom of the pot, then add snow or ice to avoid burning the pot.

4. U.V. Rays from the sun. Have a look at SODIS (Solar Water Disinfection Project) which is used in developing countries.

5. Pasteurization.

6. Chemical, such as bleach (sodium hypochlorite), MP1 Micropur by Katadyn, Iodine,  Tincture of Iodine etc.

7. Electrolysis such as the MSR MIOX Purifier.

8. Desalination or reverse osmosis filtering. This filter is very effective but it has some drawbacks.

9. Fish eyes and water along the spine. A joke, perhaps but a serious one. There is an aqueous fluid that can be drunk. Do a research for more info.

If you are short on your water supply avoid eating because the body requires water to metabolize the nutrients such as fats and proteins. Avoid alcohol and cigarette smoking as well, not good things anyway to take into your body.

Remember that even though you can go 3 to 4 weeks without food under the right conditions, you must not wait that long before you start addressing the need to eat.

Going without food for that amount of time will cause you to be extremely weak, and you'll be prone to fatigue very quickly after doing the simplest of chores.

Preparing traps and snares, going out and setting them, checking them regularly, collecting firewood and doing everything else required to stay alive will tax you to the limit. This includes going fishing if you have that option.

If you have food but little to no water, then fast (abstain from eating). This is because your body will require your body's water to metabolize the food, water which at present cannot be replenished. Foods high in salt, protein and fat content require more water to digest. Don't worry, you will die of starvation for such a short period of time. However, find some water!

You do need to eat at some point, and if you have very young children, or elderly among you, or someone with particular dietary needs such as someone who is diabetic, or someone who lost a lot of blood, this becomes urgent! People who have bled much become dehydrated, and the very young and elderly have less tolerance for the effects of early dehydration that a healthy young adult as an example.

It isn't always as evident as they make it out to be at times in survival books and on some internet sites. The fact is that you might not catch anything or it'll take a long time before you do. You may wound up expending more energy than you'll get back from hunting and fishing.

This does not mean you shouldn't try!

You may be successful but it is important to not be overly confident, otherwise you will set yourself up for a major disappointment if you do not catch anything.  Have a look at the Hunting and Fishing page for more information.

You can eat wild edibles, insects and other things. Just be certain that you don't eat something that is poisonous. Do your research so that you can positively identify and know how to prepare if necessary, anything you would consider eating in an emergency. Ok, the pizza in the photo is obviously a joke, but it would be great to have in an emergency :)

Wild edibles can supplement nutrition that lacks in our diet. An example is that of eating a lot of rabbit if you are successful at trapping them. Did you know that if your diet consists of rabbit only, that you can die of malnutrition with a full stomach?

Its lean meat lacks essential fat and vitamins so the body uses up its own supply which then passes as you defecate.

If you do not replace this lost fat and vitamins, you will eventually die of malnutrition due to vitamin deficiency.

Have a varied diet as much as possible such as proteins, carbohydrates, fats, minerals etc. You can also eat bird eggs for extra nutrition.

Here are some links to help you learn more about acquiring food and water. Remember to do your research and that you should compare information found on the internet and elsewhere to be certain to get the best information available.

1. Discovery Channel - What can you drink when stranded at sea?

2. Crisis Times - Finding drinking water at sea.

3. Caske20 - Survival at sea.

4. Survival Topics (water)

5. Aircav®

6. Wildwood Survival - Food and Cooking

7. Wilderness Survival - Wilderness Survival Food

8. Survival Topics (Food)

Have a look at the Videos page as well for more information on the subject.


Native American fish trap, Wilderness Survival
Part of what I said in an email with someone who contacted me about a water filter and a bottle:

"I would always recommend to have a backup for any primary water system you may have, be it filtration, chemical, boiling or other system you may have, no exceptions. Anything can go wrong in the wilderness and having a backup to make water potable is a must. I would suggest that the backup be a different method than used in whatever primary method that is used, but it isn't obligatory, but perhaps practical in some scenarios.
An example is that if you use a filter as a primary method to make water potable, you can have something like Katadyn Micropur MP1 Purification Tablets as a backup, and they can be useful if you think that there may be viruses in the water as well. Of course, if the water is chemically contaminated the tablets will not work for that any more than with a filter which cannot remove chemicals. Overall the taste using these tablets I'd say is fair, but that is only my opinion.
To make a long story short, I had filtered water in a CamelBak hydration bladder, but because of something that had occurred while using my filter, I needed to add tablets just to be certain that no Giardia or Cryptosporidium would be present in the water. Even if I would have had a total failure for my filter, which thankfully wasn't the case but close, my backcountry trip was not in jeopardy because of the tablets. The tablets don't require much space in a pack and are lightweight."