Mountain Men and all mammals are just “Bags of Water”. Our skin and hides hold the water within our fragile bodies. Without water, we die.
Searching for water is a learned skill. You needed a mentor, teacher, or guide to show you how. Contaminated water can also kill you. Tiny bacteria thrive in unclean water. It wasn’t until Anton Von Leeuwenhoek invented a microscope in the 1670’s, that these “Wee Beasties” were discovered.
The only way to deal with micro organisms in contaminated water was to boil the water and kill them. Mountain Men had few options. They learned to drink water near the source. Capturing the water as soon as it came out of the ground meant that there was no dead critters or waste upstream.
Whiskey and booze were often carried by Mountain Men because it was a sanitary liquid. The distilling or brewing killed the microorganisms. Few Mountain Men boiled their water except if they made coffee, soup, or tea. Some made their own spirits for personal consumption and trade. Alcohol kills most bacteria and cooties in the water. Many ended up with illnesses like the Beaver Fever which came from Beaver feces.
Finding water can be an art. Water in the desert, mountains, plains, or… is never in the same place. Each area has its unique clues on where you can locate it. Be a student of your environment to learn these skills.
Today, we have many treatment options once you find water. Iodine tablets is still an option. Modern filters can also remove 99% of most cooties from wild water. Boiling water for 5 minutes will do the trick. Once the water has cooled, it can be put into a canteen and used when needed. If you do not take advantage of these purification techniques and tools, plan on severe stomach cramps and diarrhea.
It is also important to practice proper hygiene when performing necessary bathroom needs. Wash after each session and keep your body clean. Sadly, many Mountain Men only bathed when crossing a river or every 6 months at a town or rendezvous.
For more Montana Grant, find him drinking at www.montanagrantfishing.com.