Category Archives: water

aide memoire: drinking water management

Water. The stuff of life. If oil is gold. Then water is diamond. Three days without it can result in organ damage and ultimately failure. Keeping the stuff fresh and uncontaminated is nearly as important as getting hold of the stuff. In this ‘aide memoire series’ we, at The WildernessGuide, seek to give snippets of advice and wisdom. In this post it is about water management.


  • Don’t assume ANY water source is pure – even if it is clear. Chemical, Bacterial, Viral contamination cannot be seen.
  • All turbid water will need filtering before purification – not only for visual appeal and taste but for subsequent safe purification. Turbid water shields bacteria and viruses from effective treatment and can clog filters making them less effective.
  • Keep your cup, water bottle and threads on the bottle clean with purified water (flush/flood and over-fill them). This is important. Flushing threads and caps with purifed water should become habitual. One of the ways I do this on my ‘purified’ bottle is to (once the water inside is pure) invert it and unscrew the lid partially so the thread and lid floods and washes clean.)
  • Use separate bottles for collecting and storing filtered water and one for purified water. Do not confuse. Don’t share your water bottle. Keep their lids on. If you are going to flavour the water then flavour it in the cup and not the canteen.
  • Boiling is the best method, then followed by chlorine dioxide (despite residual chlorites)
  • Ensure that water, food and sanitation facilities are located separately with clean procedures between them. For instance never wash hands at the spout of a drinking water container. Take a look at the camp hygiene article for further information.
  • Ensure you have at least one other back-up method of purification. Ideally you should have three if you are working in a high risk/critical environment.
  • If you are storing water for any amount of time (drop sites, RV points, base camps etc) then consider using preservatives in your water such as silver ions (Micropur Forte for instance has silver in it and keeps water potable for up to 6 months.). Always boil ‘old’ water before use.
  • Old ’empty’ water containers often have little amounts of water in them. These can be a breeding ground for legionella. Enure that either your containers are dry before storage or you properly flush them before use.

This article will be amended and added to over time. It does not aim to be complete but as a useful ‘aide memoire

crossing water

River or water crossings are notoriously dangerous but often an unavoidable necessity when travelling in the wilderness.

The excellent Frontier Bushcraft have some rather useful blogs on river crossing here, here, here, here, here but not here.

If however you are presented with something more substantial to cross (calm and deep) then you might want to learn how to make a raft out of nothing more than a tarp, some string, and just sticks and debris.

  • You start by placing sticks in the ground as stakes.


  • Next start wrapping sticks and branches around the pegs to create a doughnut. Weave them as they are placed around the stakes.  It doesn’t have to be very big but the bigger it is, the more people you can add. You will need to have the woven sides at least 8 to 12 inches or even higher depending on conditions. You can lash branches together with withies, vines or cordage (ie: shoelaces).
  • Place the doughnut on top of a tarp and fold the edges over your so that the edges end up inside.
  • Tie edges of the tarp to the inside branches and you have a simple raft. Don’t overload it. The thing may sink to near the top of the outler ‘wall’ but you should try and avoid it spilling over!

If its a raging torrent then if you have to cross then learning how to rig a tyrolean traverse may be your only option. Good mountain instructors and guides will be able to teach you this technique although it may have to be adapted for river crossings slightly.

Having these skills will improve your ability to tackle one of the most difficult wilderness obstacles.

embercombe feedback: water

“Thank you for a gorgeous day yesterday – very appreciative of the time you give so generously”. Moon

Last week I spent a glorious day with some of the apprentices, associates and volunteers at Embercombe. We talked about water sourcing and preparation in the wilderness ahead of the 2012 wildraft programme. I’d like to thank Kate, Mel, Jane and Dan who were my last year’s wildcraft trainee instructors who delivered much of this session.

We covered:

  • The importance of water.
  • Sourcing water.
  • Unsafe water.
  • Making water safe.
  • During the day we made natural filters, tripod filters and used filter socks. During the day we sourced our water from natural sources  – including digging a gypsy well and collecting morning dew. We boiled up a fair few litres and had cups of tea from the results. Organic water from the organic land beneath our feet.
  • We talked about using and storing water.

The volunteers had built an arctic lean-to shelter overnight and slept out with a ‘long-log fire’ to keep warm. In the afternoon they learned how to hang a tarp and rig a hammock.

Below is a gypsy well that filled with water and settled clear overnight. It was dug about 12 inches deep and was about 7 inches across and holding 8-10 litres of water. Dig a few of these and they could provide a viable water source for a small group.

This post should be read in conjunction with this one

wildcraft perspectives: water

Copied directly from the Embercombe blog

For more details on the Wildcraft programme then click here

Life is made from and sustained by water. Without it we would last just days. Clean water would seem like a human right but in reality it is a luxury that over a billion people struggle to gain access to with over a quarter of the world population with inadequate sanitation: leaving them fighting for life itself. We have gone, and will go, to war over water. It quenches us and our lands. Without it there would be just a barrenness from which no seed could sprout. Water has shaped our landscape from the tallest mountains to the deepest valleys.

Knowing how to find water in the landscape, to make it drinkable and safe from pathogens and contaminants and to transport it enables us to travel further in the wilderness. Water lubricates our joints, aids our thought processes, helps our sight, keeps us cool, enables us to digest and release energy from our food to keep warm. Water not only shapes the landscape but it shapes us.

We teach ‘water’ on Wildcraft because such an important commodity should never be taken for granted – even what is hidden in the smallest drop. It is important to understand how dehydration can cut short more than just your enjoyment in hot aswell as cold climates, how unclean water can limit your ability to exist and how the animals, insects, plants and even the shape of the land can give you important clues as to the location of this precious life-giver – even underground.

For us on Wildcraft we drink water, wash with it, shelter from it, cook with it, stand among the trees that grow in it and rejoice it: we spend time listening to the rushing brook, marvelling at the primordial soup that forms a sluggish pool and give thanks to the trickle of rain that drops from leaf into cupped hand.

water, water everywhere….

Sourcing water on the move in wilderness travel is a major consideration. When crossing lesser known lands the ability to read the land is paramount – looking for key-lines or geological strata, folds or kinks in the land, low points, vegetation, lees of rocks or dune, banks and so on. It will be important to develop a sixth sense for these features and when siting the camp  you will focus in on these features and head for those in order to locate your camp near a water source. In order to develop this water ‘sense’ then it is useful to practice sourcing water from unusual places. When you travel or walk around spot the different places you see water either seeping from or collecting, looking out for saturated land or geological features. You never know when this animal sense will come in very useful.