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Survival Basics

Outdoor Tips
Expedition Tips
How to Find Water

With luck, you are close to a lake or stream. If you can't find a source of fresh water, there are several possible strategies. First, don't be overly stingy with the water you do have: Many have died with carefully hoarded water still in their canteens. Better to drink when you're thirsty. If you must search or work for water, beware of exerting yourself unproductively. ("Conserve sweat, not water" is the maxim to remember.)

You can try digging in the dry streambeds or looking for rainwater in hollow stumps or pockets in rocks. You can even use a bandanna to blot the dew from plants at dawn and then wring it into your mouth.

The solar still pictured here is a last resort. To make one, choose the dampest sunny spot you can find. Dig a hole about three feet [0.9 meter] across and two feet [0.6 meter] deep, with a deeper indentation at the bottom to hold your water container. Cover the hole with a piece of your plastic drop sheet (See Survival in a Bag) and place a small rock at the center to depress the plastic. Anchor and seal the edges with rocks. (Adding crushed plant leaves will slightly boost the output.)

Water from the ground and vegetation will condense on the sheet, roll down to the center, and drip into the container. But don't get your hopes up. Stills often produce only a few swallows of water a day. You'll need more than one.

Learn More:

The U.S. Army Survival Manual (Dorset Press, 1991, U.S. $15) has detailed information on solar-still construction and other survival techniques.

—Laurence Gonzales

Next Tip: How to Build Shelter >>


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Illustration by Gregory Nemec




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