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Posted by Evan Hafer on

Water & Cook-Tech Peeled from a Car

by Evan Hafer

Just about every blog and message board post I’ve read on the internet sounds like this: “Oh yeah. You just need to do X, Y and Z and you’ll have survival water. Lickety-split.” Or, “Making fire is easy. Just do this, that and the other.”

If we’ve learned one thing from our field tests and ReadyMan Challenges, it’s that easy survival solutions are never easy, and they often fail altogether. Every bit of primitive survival is wrested from Mother Nature with blood, sweat and tears.

In this RMC, the guys tear apart two dead vehicles for survival implements. Specifically, they’re fabricating water catchment/storage and cooking systems. And, as with every challenge so far in this RMC, the going gets tough.

The sheer amount of time and energy expended on these tasks proves sobering. The teams weren’t told to post security, so all three guys pounded away on the challenge of catching and holding water. Plus, there was the assumption of actual water — in other words, rain was on the horizon and actually finding the water wasn’t a part of the equation. As difficult as it was to make water procurement and storage from an entire vehicle… it was still dumbed-down and not nearly as hard as it would be in an actual escape and evasion.

Team Bearcat really shined since they actually built a rainwater catchment system out of their minivan. They stomped the crap out of the roof and made a concave catcher. Then, they popped a hole at the deepest point and channeled the water into a funnel from the air filter and into a large washer/wiper reservoir. Of course, the first few gallons would be needed to thoroughly rinse all the washer/wiper fluid out of the reservoir. Even a little soap in your water can cause massive diarrhea. And, as Jeff points out, stuff like diarrhea can kill you fast in a world without hospitals to fix you and police to protect you. So, even Team Bearcat would end up very thirsty before actually having drinkable water. They would’ve been better off if they’d built a still in addition to their catchment system, so they could at least pull some distilled drinking water from their first water harvest.

Team ‘Merica didn’t even get that far. They simply pulled all the water reservoirs from their Jeep and imagined that water would magically fill them up. They had no catchment plan at all. 

If you watch real-life survival shows like I do, then you know that water is where the rubber meets the road. Figuring out a system to catch and purify water becomes the first threshold of failure among survivalists, no matter if they’re in the desert or the swamp. Drinkable water is as rare as diamonds in the wild. Every water source hides secret bacterial and chemical invaders that threaten to turn your stalwart innards into quivering gelatin. And if your plan is to “wait for rain,” then plan for the hurt locker — and maybe death.

After taking a shot at water, the boys moved on to method of cooking food. Again, questionable food will get you killed — either through infection or through defenselessness brought on by troubled guts. Survival demands punctilious attention to detail when preparing food and water.

Team ‘Merica’s setup was cleanest — they skewered the meat we provided and rotated it carefully, making sure the fowl was cooked all the way through before eating. Team Bearcat cobbled together a rock system that used stones as pans. While their system proved very slow, they accommodated it by slicing their meat thin.

Again, in this challenge we provided the meat, short circuiting a food-gathering process that would take many hours, if not days. The area of the challenge held cottontail rabbits, but it was spring and the danger of tularemia was on the rise. (Rabbit and many rodents carry disease in warmer months. They can be eaten if thoroughly cooked, but even handling them is dangerous.)

We could’ve made them snare their own food, but we would’ve needed a few more days and the boys would’ve experienced hunger like never before.

In this ReadyMan Challenge, we simplified the experiment and one might be tempted to conclude, “Oh yeah. Making fire, collecting water and cooking food from supplies torn from an abandoned vehicle — no problem.” 

If you learn one thing from this RMC, learn this; any attempt at survival will be fraught with complications and difficulties far beyond the blogs and military field manuals. Nothing will be easy and the risk of sickness and injury will be ever-present. Even with every advantage, our boys struggled to make fire, collect water and cook food. If we could show you ALL the footage, you’d see that this took them an extraordinary amount of time, energy and experimentation.

There is nothing easy about survival. To learn that for yourself, practice it.


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