Saturday 11 April 2015

Are you truly going remote (bush or desert)?

Fitzgerald River National Park, Western Australia

In the perfect world, none of us would go remote without:

  • Plenty of Water 
  • Heaps of Food 
  • Spare Fuel 
  • Fully stocked first aid kit 
  • Fire extinguisher 
  • Basic tool box 
  • Recovery gear and know how to use it 
  • Spare tyre 
  • Satellite Phone 
  • EPIRB 
  • Maps and Compass 
  • Companion car 
  • Have left your destination (GPS coordinates) with family/friends 
  • Advised family/friends to raise an alert if you don't return or make contact by an agreed time. 
Sadly, we don't live in a perfect world and one day we may find ourselves stranded. “That wasn't part of the plan” is something we have all said to ourselves at least once in our lives. Murphy's Law is such, 'If it can go wrong; it will go wrong' when you forgot the thing you needed most.

You took the tool box out of the car to fix the sink; didn't put it back. Took an off-road track to see what’s up there; got seriously bogged. Car fell into ditch; you have no recovery gear. Motor caught fire; no extinguisher. Snagged a branch and lost steering. Hit a rock and punctured fuel tank. Now fuel tank is empty. Hit a kangaroo. Forgot to renew the sat phone subscription last month. EPIRB won't work because the battery is flat.

Anything can happen. Even to the most pedantic prepper, most experienced four wheel driver or bush hiker/survivalist.

So, what are you going to do now? You are stranded!

  • How much WATER do you have? Plenty! Then you will be fine. Ration everything just in case it takes a few days for someone to find you. 
  • STAY CALM. Panicking is not going to help. 
  • Make a fire, if safe to do so 
  • Make a rock sign on the ground if possible 
  • Tie something bright and flappy to the highest point on your vehicle. 
  • Make it easy for someone to find you 
  • Stay in the shade 
  • Maintain healthy body temperature. More your body struggles, the more fluids you will need. 
  • Conserve your energy 

You can live weeks without food but can only live a few days without water. One week without water would be very best scenario. After a couple of days your body and mind will truly start to struggle. After about 4 days you will likely become confused and uncoordinated. In extreme heat this could happen even faster. The Australian bush or desert is the last place you would want to be stranded without water. Do not forget water.

If you're running low on water or you didn't have any to start with.
  • Scout for a water source immediately. 
  • If you find one, then you will be fine. 
  • Go back to relaxing in the shade next to your vehicle. 
You found water but it’s not clean or healthy. Maybe you carry a few sterilizing tabs in the glove box for emergencies. If not, boil the water and it will be likely be fine to drink. Even really muddy water will purify after being boiled hard for 10 mins.

You may have some alternative water you didn't think of.

Juice from a tin of peas is fluids. So think laterally.
Don't forget you have a radiator full of water if you haven't filled it with coolant.
You also have water in your windscreen washer bucket if you remembered to top it.

Some other tips

  • Do not discard unused water until you have returned safely to civilisation. You don't want to be looking for water if you snap an axle 60 km’s before you hit the main highway.
  • Much better to carry a few smaller water containers vs. one larger (same applies to fuel and food). If one is spilled, split or contaminated, you still reserves. If you need to walk from camp to collect water from a creek, a smaller container is easier to replenish and carry. If you have collected water and it is not the cleanest, having a couple of containers will allow time for the sediment to settle in one, whilst you collect more or to put already sterilised water into another.
Ideal water levels for the average bush camping trip:

  • 2 litres per person/per day - Clean drinking water 
  • 3 litre per person/per day - Dishwashing, hand washing and having a sponge down 
= 5 litres per person/per day. If rationed, this water would last for many days. Take spare.


NB: There are numerous other water gathering techniques taught by survivalists. They are beyond the scope of this particular feature article.

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