I’ve been trying to find a way to squeeze in some survival tactics into the blog, and haven’t had a chance. After chasing around stockers and small browns, I figure this week was a good time.
I never thought the subject of water was controversial. Until now. Allow me to begin this with a…
Disclaimer: I am not a physician, nor do I claim to be one. Medical science is a silly matter. Because of this, I must portray both sides and take no responsibility for actions the reader may take after reading this article. If you have a question of concern, CONSULT YOUR DOCTOR!
This is a general overview. I will probably have another post in the future on how to properly clean water and different ways to do so. That will more than likely contain a better list of water contaminants and ways to destroy them.
Easy stuff first. Water quality. There are a ton of hurtful things in groundwater, mostly coliforms and giardia lamblia, with some parasites and fungus tossed in there. For a full list of things (which I do not really consider complete but sufficient) look here. One very common problem in a wilderness setting is Giardiasis. It affects approximately 2,000,000 people per year in the United States (estimated). For the sake of this post and the reader, I’m going to attempt to keep the “nerdery” to a minimum.
Giardia lamblia is a tank. It is transfered through animal waste, including humans (I hope you aren’t drinking coffee right about now and if you are, I’m sorry). Beavers, in the case of the wilderness, are the main source of transfer so take extreme caution against it where you know there are beavers. Also, take that same precaution in places where you aren’t sure. It only takes around 5 of these little parasites to keep you running off into the woods to spread more of them. Giardiasis (infection of Giardia lamblia) is dangerous in a few ways, in most cases it isn’t deadly unless (as with all intestinal issues) you are immunocompromised. It has the ability to resist chlorine. Most purification tablets use chlorine to kill bacteria and it is a good idea to always check your labels. They usually mention what they do not do, and more often mention that they are for emergency use only. There are 2 ways to destroy the parasite, boiling or filtering. Quite frankly, boiling unfiltered water doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. Remember, if you are at higher elevations, water needs to boil longer or under pressure to effectively kill what it needs to kill.
The real danger of Giardiasis does not come from the parasite, rather your body’s reaction to it. (put down your coffee) It causes you to have diarrhea, which makes you dehydrated and leads us to our controversial subject, hydration (resume coffee). There is a rule of 8×8. drinking 8 glasses of 8 ounces of water per day, totaling 64 ounces. There is also a simple equation to follow which is half of your body weight in ounces, for example, I weigh 165 pounds, 165x.5=82.5 ounces per day. Some say 3 liters (101.4 ounces) for men, 2.2 liters (74.4 ounces) for women. As far as I have read, none of these account for the amount of water you get from food, which is about 20%. Some people drink more water than others and each person is different, therefore kidney function is also different. My advice to you to find out how much water you should drink is to actually log the amount of water you drink on a normal day and add 30% for a camping trip. The problem here comes down to dehydration and over-hydration. Articles on the subject make it seem like you will die instantly if you drink too much, or you will die instantly if you do not drink enough. These can’t be further from the truth. Hypovolemia is low blood pressure due to low blood volume and sits on the extreme side of dehydration, it takes approximately 2 days with no water to set in (shorter time if you have an open wound). Hyponatremia is the loss of sodium and other electrolytes (potassium, magnesium, etc…) from the cells. Without that protection on the cell, your cells (especially brain cells) swell causing high blood pressure and when this is tied into brain cells, you can have a stroke or other brain issues. In order for this to happen, you must have too much water for your kidneys to process, around a gallon per hour for a couple hours. This is also known as water intoxication. Giadriasis can cause either of these. If you have (coffee down) vomiting tied in with diarrhea (continue coffee), you become dehydrated and electrolytes are low. If you overcompensate with too much water, it is possible to give yourself hyponatremia.
If you are out in the back country, it is a good idea to calculate the amount of water you will need for the trip. I’ll use myself as an example here 165(weight)x.5=82.5 oz Then 20% from food 82.5x.8=66 When you plan to hike into high elevations you will notice that you urinate more often. Yes, it is triggered by high elevation. There is nothing wrong with you. You also breathe at a faster rate, thus losing a bit more water through the lungs and just standing in the New Mexico sun can wear you down. Plus you are working your body harder than normal. So, add around 30% to compensate. 66x.3=19.8 19.8+66=85.8 ounces; That should be your total water input per day of hiking. How much water would you need for a trip? I would need to pack 2 gallons of water for a 3 day trip. 3(days)x85.8(oz per day)/128(oz in a gallon)=2.01 Drink when you are thirsty and don’t overdo it. Instead of slamming down water, drink it slowly through the course of a day. Nuts, dried bananas, and other assorted dried fruits are great to have to keep your electrolytes up, they play a key role in hydration. Keep an eye out on your urine, if it is slightly yellow or clear, you are good. If it is darker or very odorous, drink a bit more water. Always keep a sports drink or Pedialyte in the case of Giardiasis. If you do catch a case of the beaver fever, go home. Aren’t you glad I didn’t explain electrolyte transfer?
If you have any kidney issues, heart problems that have you on a low sodium diet, AIDS, or any other medical issue involving a prescription medication, talk to a doctor before long trips into the wild.
Lesson #6: The better your food and water, the better your trip. Everyone is different, maybe leave the liver and onions at home this time.