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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Water Discipline

How Much Water do You Need?

With strenuous effort in the outdoors the amount of water you drink must of necessity increase. You will be losing body water due to sweating, heavy breathing, the possessing and elimination of food, and desiccation from wind and dry air. Without replacing all the water you lose you run the risk of dehydration and decreased efficiency.

The water requirements of the human body dictate at least two quarts of clean drinkable water every day in order to replace that which is lost. That is, a human body at rest. According to your level of activity and your surrounding environment you may need far more water than that. One to two gallons of water per person per day is a common requirement for those active in the outdoors. In hot dry regions you may require more than double that amount.

Conserve Your Water Supply

Where does water discipline come in? When water is not always readily available you must do your best to insure you always have more than enough to function at peak efficiency. It is important that you keep your water reserves (both within your body and in your canteens) as fully stocked as possible and that you limit the ways in which your body is losing water. The strategies you employ to insure you always stay as hydrated as possible are what this article is all about.

In the mountainous and well-watered area where I live there is usually plenty of water to be had if you are careful. However there are often certain areas where there is no water to be found. While on foot over difficult terrain on a hot day it is possible to run out of water and not be able to locate more in a timely manner. This can lead to dehydration, reduced efficiency, and in the worst case scenario death.

Start Out Fully Hydrated

It is a mistake to set out on a trip while not fully hydrated to begin with. Even minor dehydration will reduce your physical and mental abilities and increase your susceptibility to injury. For at least 24-hours before heading out, drink plenty of fluids so that your urine is running clear. This will serve to flush wastes from your body and ensure you are fully hydrated. This will insure optimum performance.

The next thing you can do is tank up the water reserves of your body just prior to setting out on your adventure. At the trail head grab a quart of water and drink it down. You know that your increased level of activity is going to require more water intake, so you may as well start now while there is plenty to be had from your vehicle.

Depending upon the environment and your mode of travel, you may be carrying anywhere from a quart of water (in areas where there usually is plenty of fresh water to be found) to several gallons (in dry or cold environments where water is non-existent or locked up in the form of snow and ice). This is your immediate water reserve, to be called upon at intervals to replace that which your body has lost.

Have the Ability to Make Water Safe to Drink

Of course there is a limit to the amount of water you can carry, especially if you are on foot. Water is bulky and heavy, weighing in at about 2-pounds per quart or 8-pounds per gallon. For this reason on an extended trip you most likely will need to draw additional water from your environment. This means you must plan your trip so that you intersect reliable water sources such as streams, springs, and lakes.

Because water from untested sources is considered to be contaminated, you will need to have the ability to make this water safe to drink. Of all the water purification methods that remove or destroy harmful organisms, boiling your water is the most reliable, readily available, and foolproof.

One of the best survival investments you can make is a means to boil water in the field. I highly recommend the use of Kelly Kettles for quick efficient boiling of water. A 1-pint Kelly Kettle can utilize just about any fuel, from sticks and pine cones to camel dung and bring your water up to a boil within just a few minutes.

Practicing Water Discipline

Let us consider the scenario where there are water sources available at intervals during your trip on foot. You have followed my recommendation of becoming fully hydrated by drinking plenty of water for at least a full day prior to your outing. At the beginning of your trip you drank a quick quart and your urine is running gin clear (not clear gin!). Congratulations. You are now completely hydrated and ready to function at your peak level of performance.

Try to estimate how much water you will need to carry between available sources of water. Then double it. The amount of water in your estimate will depend upon a number of factors unique to yourself and your environment. It is a skill acquired only through experience.

As you hike, your extra efforts are going to cause your body to use up water at an increased rate. At regular intervals you drink some of the water you are carrying, keeping in mind that you want to reach the next supply of water before you run out.

But how much should you drink? Ideally I plan on drinking a maximum of 1/2 of my available water by the time I reach the half-way mark between planned water sources. Then ¾ of my water at three-quarters of the way. Because I am carrying double the amount of water in my initial estimate, I should have plenty to see me through. Even if I should have underestimated the amount of water I needed, having carried double that amount has saved me on more than one occasion.

Experience has taught me that staying hydrated is more important than totally conserving my water. Men have been found dead from dehydration with water still in their canteens! When you stay hydrated you can move faster, think better, and are less injury prone. Water is best stored in the stomach.

If you come upon a water source and your reserves are diminished by a half or more, now is the time to stop and replenish your supplies. Purify a fresh batch of water and top off your water containers. Take advantage of the abundant water to eat a meal, the processing of which will require water. Be sure to take the time to completely re-hydrate yourself so that you urinate frequently and it is gin clear once again.

Upon leaving the water source you should be fully hydrated and with full canteens, ready to face the next portion or your journey. The hour or more you spent at this source of water was time well-spent.

Water Discipline Comes Naturally

Following water discipline is not all that difficult once you understand the mechanics of water loss and water acquisition. You will find yourself naturally very motivated to stay hydrated after only once experiencing the discomfort of going without sufficient water for any length of time. When away from the home tap, survivors quickly come to understand the value of water in maintaining life itself.

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