Water Purification Habits

Posted by Kevin Estela on Mar 29th 2023

A while back, at Ready Gunner in Orem, UT, Fieldcraft Survival worked with Christian Craighead (the British SAS operator who rescued hundreds in a Nairobi hotel back in 2019) to film his initial impression of the first custom pistol made by ZEV Technologies. After he ran his pistol for some drills, he passed it off to Mike Glover who shot a strict B8 target at 25 yards. Mike wasn’t satisfied with his first attempt and Christian noticed and commented, “you know what would help?” We all were waiting to hear one SF guy joke with another but instead, Craighead said, “you should drink some water.” No friendly joking? No insults? Nothing? Bollocks! Next thing you know, Christian leaves the range area and comes back with a tray of water for all of us. He knew one of the first things to go with dehydration is the ability to focus and in proper British form, he took care of those present by helping us get the fluids we needed. I bring up this story because drinking water is underrated. Plenty of times during shooting classes, I’ve seen students succumb to heat-related illnesses. Instead of discussing the methods of purifying water, I want to use this blog to expand on some water-related topics often overshadowed by the gear used to treat water.

Sip Water

If you look at the indigenous tribes of North Africa, they drink water in small quantities instead of downing large volumes at once. Think of drinking water as studying for an exam. It is better to study for shorter durations over time than to cram all at once. Your mind cannot absorb all of the information at once in short-term memory the way it can process it into long-term memory over time. The same is true of water. Your body cannot hydrate properly and it will pass the water you attempt to fill it with if you don’t give it time. The best way to hydrate is to stay ahead of the dehydration power curve. Drink one 8-12 ounce glass of water in the morning and one at night. Keep a Nalgene bottle filled throughout the day and sip from it. A good habit is to tie a lanyard around your bottle with 3-4 knots. Untie a knot each time you finish a bottle. Track your fluid intake and make sure you have at least half your body weight in liquid ounces each day. If you have a very salty diet, your body will retain more water and you’ll have to sip more. Recognizing proper hydration is going to vary from one climate and condition to the next. Keep sippin’ until your urine is clear and you are emptying your bladder with regularity.

Caffeine and Alcohol

Spend enough time around a camp and someone will surely either brew a pot of coffee or they will pass around a bottle of brown liquor. Both alcohol and caffeine will dehydrate you. They are excellent for building bonds in moderation with friends but that bond building is often the excuse to consume more than you should. So many outdoorsmen confuse the fact these drinks are liquid and they don’t recognize they remove water from your body faster than water alone. Too much alcohol also impairs your awareness and too much caffeine can give you jitters that will throw off your long-range accuracy behind a rifle. It is important to consume more water than usual if you decide to drink coffee or imbibe alcohol. There is simply no substitute and you must know your caffeine or alcohol fix has to be countered. A good rule of thumb is to double or triple the quantity of water to the amount of coffee you drink. If you’re consuming alcohol, have at least 8-12 ounces of water for every drink you have whether it is a serving of beer, wine, or hard liquor.

Water Additives

A common complaint about water consumption is that it tastes flat and has little flavor. Water treated with chemical tablets may have a slight aftertaste once the iodine or chlorine runs its course. Hydration additives can be useful to counter the taste and some are actually designed to multiply the effects of the water and what it does for your body. These tablets and powders help your body regain the electrolytes it has lost through exertion and sweat. Some additives provide nutrition and they can be used at scheduled times of the day like morning, midday, and evening. If you need an incentive to drink water, a little flavor will definitely help. Keep in mind, that “a little” is not “a lot” and you can just as easily overdo these electrolyte mixes and get yourself sick in different ways. Regular water is still the best and perhaps you can learn to use ½ a tablet or half a drink mix pack. If you find boiled water flat, you can also aerate it with a straw by blowing bubbles.

Follow the Instructions

Overconfidence can kill you. Assuming you know how to use the water purification product you choose is a recipe for disaster. The instructions on the packet and the advice of reliable outdoor sages should be trusted and not used as a haphazard guideline for how you think water should be treated. If a mechanical pump suggests flushing the filter after each use, it doesn’t mean once a year after a half dozen trips. If chemical tablets are meant to be left for 30 minutes to activate and work, don’t short-change their effectiveness by doubling the dose and assuming 15 minutes will do. These ideas may sound crazy to you but there are absolutely stories that will blow your mind that involve people who assumed they knew more than the engineers that designed and tested the product. The great outdoors is not the place where you want to volunteer as a test dummy for a new method. Cutting corners is never good when it comes to your health and safety. Just imagine if you decided to put your seatbelt in your car over your lap only and not lap and shoulder. Imagine if you inspected 29 out of 30 rounds for your AR to make sure they were all .223 and one .300 BLK didn’t sneak in there. I could go on and on with examples but I trust you get the idea.

The Consequences

At the onset of this article, I commented about the joking that I thought was going to happen when Christian offered a solution to Mike. There’s no joking when you come down with a water-borne parasite. Now, you may have some joking around if someone doesn’t take your advice about using a particular product for their water or not drinking from a water source without treating it. Not following good water treatment habits is a sure-fire way to invite jokes and comments from the peanut gallery. Those will hurt your pride and you’ll never hear the end of them. The bottom line, is you don’t want to become the story others use as an example of a bad time. Physically, not following good water-treatment habits will get you exploding from one side of your digestive tract, the other, or both at the same time. When you get a bug, it can ruin your day and that day will turn into many more as your body fights it off with the help of some strong meds. These consequences, if not addressed, can become life-threatening and the worldwide stats of death from dehydration/diarrhea. Equally as bad as becoming a story is becoming a statistic.

Postscript: If you were wondering, the ZEV Craighead pistol is a pretty incredible flat-shooting pistol and the recoil is almost non-existent. Christian is also one of the coolest guys you’ll ever meet. He is a true British gentleman and hero who was in the right place at the right time.