TACHACK: Hydration Part 1 – on Bottles, Bladders and Water Processing

You got to stay hydrated. No matter what you do, you will need water to do it. Experts say that you can survive up to five days without any water. But this is under moderate conditions, without any physical activity. So in any kind of “tactical” scenario we talk about hours not days. I’ve experienced soldiers in Afghanistan that collapsed after some hours without drinking.

So every second and third line needs a reliable water source.

There are many ways to carry water.

There are many ways to carry water. Starting with simple one way Plastic Bottles, to classic canteens up to hydration bladders And all have their place.

I personally carry at least a Nalgene 1l drinking bottle and a Camelbak 1,5 litre Reservoir. Sometimes I put the bottle in my leg pocket, sometimes in my ruck. The camelbak is usually placed in my platecarrier or, depending on what I do, in my assault pack. I prefer canteen shaped bottles because they are easy to carry in your thigh pouch.

1,5l Hydration Bladders work great with platecarriers.

When patrolling it looks different. I carry a large bladder in my ruck, as well as some PET bottles. On my kit I have 2 canteens. I first use the canteens during breaks. The camelbak is for small sips on the run, as it is a PITA to refill. I refill my canteens with the PET bottles I carry in my backpack. Another great way to carry bigger amounts of water are waterproof stuffsacks. They can be filled easily and take less space than a bottle and almost no space when empty. Prepacked water rations are also a thing if you are lucky enough to get them issued.

This is fucking simple and not worth an article, I generally agree. But when you ask some guys that only know the flat range or even some active duty guys how their hydration cycle looks, you often see big question marks in their eyes.

I usually tape a blister of three iodine tablets to my canteens.

Water should be readily available, everywhere. But when it comes to bad supply chains or prolongued patrolling you sooner or later have to collect water. Either from rivers, seas, lakes or even from swamps, dew and rain.

You should always prefer rivers as your primary source of water . If there are no rivers you can take lakes or even swamps. When you are on the run you take what you get.

Shemagh for prefiltering, iodine tablets, mess kit for cooking and the Lifestraw.

You will have to process the water that you get. As inside any water, there lurk threads, threads in form of viruses, bacteria, microorganisms, chemical agents and suspended particles.

First off, all the time you drink water you have to do assessment how many methods of purification you apply. Do is just filter the water? Do I use iodine tablets? Will I even cook the water. I simply differentiate between what I call visible and invisible threads. Visible threads are all pollutions I can see and smell. I have two ways to defeat them: Prefiltering and/or denial of this particular watersource based of my senses. Denial is the only way to defeat many chemical agents. So if the water source is beneath a big city, agricultural areas or near a chemical plant I won’t drink it. But this is always a risk assessment based decision. When you are dehydrated to the bone, you will drink everything.

Would you like to drink from this lake?

So besides denial I have two tools to quickly defeat visual threads: Makeshift filters in form of e.g. a cotton cloth or my Lifestraw, which is by the way a great product.

The invisible threads are more hideous. We speak about bacteria that feel well in clear water and viruses. We can counter them with two other options. Iodine tablets as the chemical way or boiling the water. There are also UV based options on the market on which I have no experiences. You can also try to use transparent bottles that you put in the sunlight for some hours. But this is a very time consuming process.

Drinking from a river just with a Lifestraw. Sometimes there is no other option available.

So as we see, we should always care of the visual and the invisible threads. Even if you drink water directly from a river that you did a visual assessment on, you are endangered of catching a virus, because you just cared for the visual side of things. And trust me, I experienced heavy diarrhea after drinking water just with my Lifestraw a year ago. Lesson learned.

My favorite way is quick and pragmatic. Catch some water. Put some iodine tablets inside the bottle and after 45 to 60 minutes simply drink it with my Lifestraw. Talking about life straws. I advise to prefilter the water before you use the Lifestraw. Not because it improves the quality of the Lifestraws filtering, but because the prefiltering saves some work for the straw, so the drinking process becomes much easier for you.

Rivers are not always clean water sources. Use your senses.

This article is the first part of a multi article series based around hydration. Follow up articles include different climate zones and more details on different canteens.

So how does your hydration cycle look like? Did you ever drink foul water? Tell us in the comments or on Instagram.

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