Finding oneself stranded in open water is a terrifying scenario and among the most challenging to survive. How do you navigate when distances are vast and landmarks are few? How do you withstand the tests of scarce resources and a finite timeline when you can’t walk more than a few steps in every direction? These questions are exactly what make preparation even more crucial. Below you’ll learn about prepping for open water survival; if you live near a body of water, pay especially close attention.
Evaluate Immediate Risks
First, you need to determine which factors pose the most immediate threat so you can prioritize what limited time you have. If you’re stranded without a vessel, the first and most critical threat is hypothermia. If the water is less than 50 degrees Fahrenheit (which is common in North America), the average person has a 30-60 minute window before becoming hypothermic and only 1-3 hours before the condition turns fatal.
If you have a vessel–whether a boat or makeshift flotation device–there are still several other life threatening obstacles to prepare for, but hypothermia is not imminent. The most immediate risks are exposure and dehydration. A human can only survive 3-4 days without water and that timeline is reduced significantly when exposed to the sun and wind in an open water environment. Your first priority is to find shelter, especially in the daytime. If your vessel on doesn’t have a covering, try and make one out of garments or materials you may have on board.
Your next priority is hydration. Assuming you have a supply of water available as part of your prepping, it goes without saying that you must conserve as much as possible. If you run out of drinking water, there are methods of making lake and sea water suitable for consumption.
If You Have a Boat
While it is necessary to prepare for anything, extensive boating knowledge is more important for some than it is for others in a SHTF scenario (if you live in Wisconsin, you’re more likely to find yourself on open water than you are in Arizona). No matter where you live, you need to prepare for at least the most basic practices of boating safety and proper survival preparation. You must have: at least three days of emergency food and water rations, basic medical equipment, a functional marine radio to call for help in an emergency, enough life preservers for all passengers aboard and a flare or signaling kit.
If you’re boarding a boat or aircraft that was not prepped by you, find out what survival equipment is kept on board and where. Next, figure out how long the group can get by on what’s available. Tell everyone to take mental pictures of everything they see; familiarizing yourself with as many navigational features as possible so you’ll know at least which direction to head to give yourself the best chance of being rescued.
The open water presents unique survival challenges, but with a little forethought one can greatly increase their chances of survival in an emergency. Proper planning is key in any survival situation, and open water survival is no exception.