Maybe you’ll be one of the unlucky victims, and find yourself surrounded by a sea of muddy, polluted water that isn’t safe to drink. If that’s the case, let’s hope you have a supply of drinking water available! In some wetlands areas, the only safe drinking water might come from vines.
By Peter Kummerfeldt
The knowledge of where to look for pure water under different circumstances, and in different areas and climates is an important part of any survival kit. If you live in the southeastern United States, or in any jungle-like tropical area, here is a tip for finding a drinking water source. Like any survival tip, experiment and check this out before you need it!
Water can be obtained from vines. Water-producing vines varying in size from pencil thickness up to the thickness of an adult man’s forearm can be found throughout much of the southeastern United States.
When selecting a vine as a water source, look for those with a larger diameter. The greater the thickness of the vine, the more water it is capable of producing. A sharp knife, or better still, a machete, will be needed to sever the tough, woody vine. Start by cutting into the vine.
Vines that exude a white latex sap, or those that produce a colored or foul smelling sap, should be avoided.
If no sap is noticed, or if the sap that is observed is clear and without aroma, remove a 24-inch inch section by severing the higher end first and then the lower end. If the lower end is cut first, the water contained within the vine is drawn up by capillary action and far less water will drain out by the time that the upper end is severed.
Once removed, the section of vine is held vertically and the water contained within it will drain into a container
(perhaps a cupped hand) where it should be further evaluated.
Liquid that is colored should not be consumed. Liquid that has an unpleasant aroma, other that a faint “woody” smell, should also be discarded. This water could be used to satisfy any hygiene needs.
Taste a small amount of the water. Water that has a disagreeable flavor, other than a slightly “earthy” or “woody” taste, should not be utilized for drinking. Hold a small amount of water in your mouth for a few moments to determine if there is any burning or other disagreeable sensation. If any irritating sensation occurs, the water should be discarded.
Ultimately, liquid that looks like water, smells like water and tastes like water, is water and can be safely consumed in large quantities without further purification. Preventing dehydration and maintaining your ability to function safely and survive depends on your ability to locate and gather water efficiently and safely.
“…I believe dehydration is the number-one factor that causes accidents-and thereby survival situations,” Peter said in a 1999 “Field and Stream” interview.
“When you’re dehydrated, your ability to function efficiently degrades rapidly. Then you make mistakes. We should all drink 3 to 5 quarts of water each day when we are outdoors,” he added. “A lot of hunters don’t even carry water, much less drink that much. It’s sheer foolishness.”
Another editor’s note: A recent trip to the great state of Mississippi gave me the chance to test this survival technique for finding water in vines. Walking through a beautiful deciduous forest near the Big Black River wetlands, I noticed many vines hanging from trees. They’re called “wild grape” vines by the Warren County locals, even though the vines don’t bear any fruit.
My first reaction was to grab one and see if a person can really swing through the trees. Instead, I took out my Leatherman, locked in the saw blade and followed Peter’s instructions. The vines produced beautiful, clear water that tasted great!
Peter Kummerfeldt taught wilderness survival for 50 years.
Peter grew up in Kenya, East Africa and came to America in 1965 and joined the U.S. Air Force. He is a graduate of the Air Force Survival Instructor Training School and has
served as an instructor at the Basic Survival School, Spokane, Washington; the Arctic Survival School, Fairbanks, Alaska, and the Jungle Survival School, Republic of the Philippines. For twelve years, Peter was the Survival Training Director at the United States Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colorado. He retired from the Air Force in 1995 after 30 years of service.
In 1992, concerned with the number of accidents that were occurring in the outdoors annually and the number of tourists traveling overseas who were involved in unpleasant and sometimes life-threatening incidents Peter created OutdoorSafe.com
He is the author of Surviving a Wilderness Emergency and has addressed over 20,000 people as the featured speaker at numerous seminars, conferences and national conventions.
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