Survival Basics

Water from Plants

Water is a constant concern when in the wild. For that matter, it’s a constant concern in any survival situation. Yet so many people talk about the need for water in a way that makes it seem like they’re planning their survival experience in the land of 1,000 lakes. Maybe it’s because I’ve lived in arid areas for years, but I tend to think differently. I’m concerned where I can find enough water to survive. 

There’s a rumor that has been around seemingly forever that you can get water out of a cactus. Based on the few times I’ve tried it, I’d have to say yes… and no. What you really get out of the cactus is sap, which can taste good or bad, depending on the cactus. Of course, getting it is tricky and can be painful. 

But cactus isn’t the only plant that has water in it, they all do; maybe not as much as a cactus, but it’s there. However, we need to be careful, as the sap from some plants can be poisonous. We’d actually have to run it through a still to make it safe to drink. Oh wait… that’s what we’re doing. 

Water from Plants

Getting Water from Trees

The first and easiest way to get water from plants is to get it from trees. While you might not get a lot of water this way, it will help. The technique involves tying a plastic bag around the ends of branches, so as to trap a large number of leaves in the bag. As the day heats up, the water will evaporate out of the leaves and condensate in the bag, producing clean water. 

The other way to get water from trees is to tap the trees, much like maple trees are tapped to get syrup for making maple syrup. While maple trees are the best known for this, they aren’t the only trees that can be used. You can also get edible sap from:

  • All types of Birch
  • Boxelder
  • Gorosoe 
  • Heartnun
  • Ironwood 
  • Sycamore
  • Various species of Walnut 

Making a Solar Still

The other way of getting water from plants is to make an in-ground solar still. This method is mostly talked about as a way of drawing water out of the ground, and it does work for that; but it will also draw water out of any plant matter that’s put in the still. 

To make the still, dig a bowl-shaped hole, about three feet in diameter and 18” deep. Place a container in the bottom and if it is available, a flexible tube or hose that will reach outside the hole. Then fill the space around the container with cut off leaves, making sure not to stack them so high that they will touch the plastic covering the hole. 

The last part is covering the hole with plastic, weighing the edges down with the dirt taken out of the hole. Set a small stone right in the middle, over the container, to cause the plastic to dip down in that spot. 

As the sun warms the area inside the hole, water will evaporate, then condensate on the bottom side of the plastic. Running down the plastic, the water will drip from the lowest point, gathering in the container. If a hose is used, it can be drunk at any time; but if not, then it’s best to wait till after sundown to pull up the plastic, get the water and replace the greenery. If you have any other liquids, such as urine, pour them in the soil at the same time. Then put the plastic back in place for the next day. 

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