You know the scenario. There’s a person lost in the wilderness, somewhere out there, without any food or water. He (or she) learns how to fashion a bow and arrow, hunts and traps for food, lives off wild greens and drinks water fresh from the creek. Oh yes, it’s survival at its finest.
While hunting, gathering greens, and collecting water from the wild are all totally plausible, you’re not likely to get lost and morph into a wilderness survivor overnight. Sorry, but that only happens in the movies, and I suspect that the actors might have a wee bit of coaching.
What you do need to do if you’re lost is get sensible. It’s also very helpful to be prepared just in case you do get lost in the woods. You probably know that you can go for a number of days and even weeks without food, but that water is much more necessary for survival. If you live in a dry climate, it’s even more necessary, since any movement will have you sweating, and even sitting in the hot sun will make you lose water quickly. A few days without water, and you’ll be suffering from serious health impacts.
If you get lost or thirsty on a hike, what should you do to find water?
Be Prepared With Your Own Water
The first solution is to bring water with you. Even if you are going on a short hike, it’s prudent to bring some water with you. Most of the time, if you’re lost, it won’t be for long, and bringing water with you will prevent you from doing something silly like drinking from a puddle. If you drink from a bad water source and get ill, the resulting illness will make you lose additional water.
Drinking From Bushes? Of Course!
The second solution is to look around at the sources of water where you are. You might think of water as something that sits in ponds and flows in streams, but did you know that dew and rainfall are some of the best sources of water? If you are lost or thirsty on a hike, look around for water that’s hiding in branches and leaves off the ground. Get to know your local plants and help your child get to know them too, so you know what plants might make you itchy if you touch them. Even if you can find a few “safe” plants and get to know those, you can use them for drinking. Touch your tongue to the plant and let the water move into your mouth. If it’s evening, collect a large, clean leaf or put out a container or piece of clothing that will attract water and use this to collect condensation. Water also collects on rocks. Look for streams of water that are moving down the rocks. Avoid stagnant water.
This method is especially important for young children. Kids might want to go out and find water, but stream water can contain water borne diseases. More importantly, ponds and streams can also be deep and fast-flowing. Given that a child will likely be lost for a matter of hours rather than days, it’s better to stay away from water, since deep, fast-flowing water can be an immediate danger for small children.
Food Can be a Source of Water
Another source of water? Fresh berries. If it’s summer and you’re thirsty, eating something might be a quick water to moisten your mouth. Again, cultivate a basic berry literacy in your children so that they know what is completely safe to eat. When your children are young, encourage them to eat berries that are universally safe. In our area, anything that looks like a raspberry is edible, while some plants that look like blueberries and huckleberries are not. If my child was lost, it would be better for her to eat “raspberry-like” berries.
Winter Water Collection
If it’s winter and there is ice and snow around, you can certainly melt some of this. However, be aware that this will cool you down, since you’re using body energy to melt it. Be sparing.
While gathering water from small places in the local environment may not be as exciting as filling your canteen from a rushing river, it’s far safer for you and for your children. Can you think of a place where you could collect water? On your next hike, look around at your environment with a thirsty eye.