Click for Coverage
Due to the EU’s Global Data Protection Regulation, our website is currently unavailable to visitors from most European countries. We apologize for this inconvenience and encourage you to visit for the latest on new cars, car reviews and news, concept cars and auto show coverage, awards and much more.MOTORTREND.COM
  • JP Magazine
  • Dirt Sports + Off-Road
  • 4-Wheel & Off-Road
  • Four Wheeler

September 2011 How To Survive!

Posted in Features on September 1, 2011
Share this
Photographers: Ryan Hagerty/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

You’ve heard it before a million times, so here’s one million and one: Before you head out for the trail, pack at least one gallon of water per person into your Jeep. And that’s for a day trip; if you’ll be gone overnight or longer, do the math. Yet for every time we’ve said it, we’ve heard just as many stories of people running out of water. This month, the survival theme is about thirst and hunger and what to do if you’re screwed in either capacity. Mostly, though, it’s about how to not end up in that situation.

• We’re saying it once again: Drink at least one gallon per person per day. But Parks and Recreation Specialist Peter Jones with the Hungry Valley SVRA in California pointed out, “You need more if you’ll be using that drinking water for cooking or making coffee. Better to come home with extra water than to run out.” Don’t forget Fido’s going to need water, too.

• But the experts mean you need to bring that much only if it’s hot out, right? Because, come on, if it’s freezing, that 1⁄2-liter bottle will suffice. Well, think about when you’re winching or wrenching—hot or cold, sunny or snowing, you sweat, you stress, you dehydrate. “You have to take in fluids just like when it’s hot out. You’re exerting energy, you’re still in the elements, and you can still get sun exposure,” Jones explained.

• That snow? If you do run out of water, you can boil it over fire or the camp stove (or use heat from your Jeep to melt it). Just don’t gnaw on it raw like a snow cone, because that could also cause dehydration.

• Beyond the one gallon per person per day, there are a couple of other water-related things to pack in your Jeep. A map of the area you’ll be in is important so that a) you don’t get lost and b) because it probably denotes lakes and other water sources. Also bring a tarp and baggies, and have a filtration or purification system of some kind, such as the low-buck and space-saving iodine tablets; these help kill bacteria in untreated water. Jones likes to carry a water bottle with an integrated water filter purifier.

• Now, about the tarp and baggies. Should you be unlucky enough to be without water, but lucky enough that it’s raining, the tarp can be used to catch water, “But make sure it’s clean and didn’t just have engine oil on it,” Jones noted. You can use clean containers and water bottles to catch rainwater, too.

• What about when it’s not raining? Chris Bond, a horticulturist at Case Western Reserve University Farm, suggested, “Plastic bags can be placed around leaves; the bigger, the better. As leaves respire, they give off water vapor that can condense on the inside of bags. Don’t expect much, but it can provide a few drops.” He also pointed to morning dew on the ground. “Take whatever you have that will absorb moisture—shirts, socks, and so on—and wrap them around your ankles. Walk through any vegetation to absorb the dew, then wring it out into your mouth.”

• Another Bond tip? Dew is also on rocks, and since “Many animals get a drink by licking the moisture off rocks, you can do the same if it is a smooth rock.” A Jp tip? Get a photo of that for Facebook.

• Didn’t pack a filter? What about using said shirts and socks to act as a filtration system if you find a river, creek, or stream? The problem here lies in the bacteria you’d be exposed to, such as Giardia. “A shirt won’t take out the things we’re trying to avoid, but it will take out leaves and other debris,” said Jones. So that’s a no. Stick with the filtered water bottle, tablets, or proper filtration/purification system. And just because the water you find is clear, it doesn’t mean it’s clean.

• No map and don’t spot an obvious river, creek, or stream? “Look for the type of vegetation that’s around,” explained Jones. “If you see willow or sycamore trees or tall grasses, reeds, and that kind of stuff, you know water’s going to be around. If you’re on a hill and see an area that’s really lush, there’s a pretty good chance there’s a spring or something similar.”

• He also said you can check the bottom of canyons for collected water, and keep your eyes peeled for animal tracks heading downhill; if you notice many of them, especially from deer, they might be walking to water.

• If you’re in the high desert, also look for an area that’s green. “We have some spots like that here at the park, where there’s a 20-square-foot area of plants and trees that don’t exist anywhere else, and they’ll be fed by the springs. In some of those spots you can see the water bubbling up,” said Jones.

• So thirst is now under control, but you’ve worked up an appetite from traipsing through the wilderness and are completely out of Funyuns. What’s for lunch? “All parts of the dandelion are edible,” said Bond, “as is the wild carrot, commonly known as Queen Anne’s Lace. The roots of this weed are fully edible and taste like a carrot.” Another food source is cattails. “Other than the eponymous catkin on the top, all parts of the cattail are edible—roots, stem, and flower,” Bond explained. “Added benefits are that if you can find them, you are near water. Some amount of moisture may be obtained by eating the stems. If the exterior is coarse, they can be peeled.”

• If you’ve ever wondered whether you’ve got what it takes to appear on “Survivor” or one of those shows in which they consume gross things, now’s your chance to find out. If desperate, you can eat “bugs of all kinds, except do not eat caterpillars or any kind of stinging insect. Remove legs, wings, and heads of all others,” Bond said.

• What shouldn’t you eat? “I do not advise anyone eat any kind of wild mushroom unless they are familiar with them, as there are many that are fatal if consumed,” warned Bond. And while blackberries and raspberries might hit the spot, “Never eat a white berry of any kind, as they are usually toxic to humans.”


Hungry Valley SVRA, Gorman, CA
Case Western Reserve University Farm
Hunting Valley, OH

Connect With Us

Newsletter Sign Up

Subscribe to the Magazine

Browse Articles By Vehicle

See Results