Three ways to use rain water in a survival situation

You know, just in case.
A woman in orange rain poncho stands on the edge of Emen canyon in Bulgaria on a raw foggy morning in the spring vicspacewalker

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Don’t let a soggy survival situation get the best of you. As long as the rain isn’t trying to kill you with flooding, it can be a good friend. Of course it took me many years to see the silver lining in the gray clouds of rain. When I was younger, a downpour would sour my mood and ruin my outings. But now that I have a few more winters behind me, I’ve really started to appreciate the gift of free water. Here are three ways you can reap the benefits of the rain.

1. Get Free Drinking Water

You can’t deny this one. It’s a godsend in dry climates and in oceanic survival scenarios. String up a tarp to funnel the rain, or lay some plastic sheeting down in a hole to make a clean puddle, or set out your pots, pans and bottles under the open sky. The rain is ready to drink, as long as you catch it in a clean container and there’s nothing overhead to contaminate it (like a forest or jungle canopy peppered with bird droppings). If I don’t need every single drop I can catch under the trees, I will let the rain wash off the canopy for a while before I start collecting ready-to-drink water. And if every drop counts, I’ll start catching it right away and simply disinfect the water before consumption. Boil it, filter it, zap it with UV light, or add your most trusted chemical disinfectant – then you won’t have to worry about any parasites or pathogens that may have washed down from the treetops.

water bottle
If it starts to rain, use the opportunity to capture naturally purified drinking water. Tim MacWelch

2. Take A Bath

In warm weather, the rain affords a great opportunity to clean your whole body. Put on your birthday suit and grab a bar of soap. Sure, it’s a little chilly but the benefits of being clean often outweigh a little temporary discomfort. But if you do catch a chill easily, I’d suggest a rain shower next to a roaring fire. A pointed, cone-shaped fire lay will keep a fire burning in the rain, and the radiant heat will keep you warm as you wash off in your outdoor stink.

3. Wash Your Dishes and Gear

Dirty hands, dishes, and clothing don’t stand a chance when you have a little soap and a lot of rain. Rain water holds very few particles, making it “soft” water – which is excellent for washing. And if you can lay a tarp or trash bag in a shallow depression, you can actually make a basin for very effective cleansing. On a recent rainy campout, I could indulge my OCD hand washing whenever I liked and my camp dishes have never been so clean.

Tim MacWelch is the resident survival expert at Outdoor Life, and has been a survival instructor for two decades. He’s also the author of multiple New York Times bestsellers. You can sign up for classes with Tim via this link.