Saturday, April 24, 2010

Survival Bath

It’s amazing how little water is required to take a survival spit bath. While we were doing our year-long wilderness living research project, I used to joke with Becky that I could take a bath in a cup of water. That was an exaggeration, but with a little practice, you can do the job in about a quart of water. 

When you take this kind of bath, or the shower described later, it's best to stand on a flat rock surface or on a bit of tarp or some leafy ground. This will help keep your feet from getting muddy. You should use some kind of wash cloth to bathe yourself from top to toes. The process goes like this:

  • If you have it, use a small bit of biodegradable camp soap and a rag full of water to wash your hair and face first, then rinse out the cloth in the basin and rinse off those clean areas. 
  • Try to use the cloth to recapture the water and wring it back into the basin. If you have soap, go easy on it or the water in the basin will become too soapy. You can actually do this whole bath with no soap at all, and still get fairly clean. 
  • Move down to your neck, shoulders, chest and arms, and repeat the process. 
  • Continue down your body to your waist, washing small areas at a time, and then rinsing. By now, your basin of water is becoming somewhat grungy. 
  • Wash your legs and feet next, then rinse. 
  • Finish up by washing the parts that normally hide beneath your underwear. 
  • When you’re finished, dry off, get dressed and dispose of the sludgy water a comfortable distance from camp and well away from any fresh water sources. 

A solar shower makes bath time so much easier than the aforementioned spit bath technique because it delivers a flow of water from a showerhead. There are several companies that make solar showers, so do a Google search and find the one you like best. None of them are very expensive, generally costing from $10 to $25. They all consist of a flexible plastic container that holds anywhere from a couple gallons to 5 gallons of water. Keep in mind that the larger the capacity, the longer it will take for the sun to heat the water. In nearly all cases, the container is black, to aid in the capture of solar radiation to warm the water during the day. For best performance, lay the solar shower flat where it enjoys full exposure to the sun for the greatest number of hours per day. 

A plastic tube is fitted to the bottom of the bag, and a small showerhead is affixed to the end of the tube. To take a shower: 
  • Suspend the bag from an overhead support, such as a tree limb. 
  • Stand under the bag.
  • Open the valve to allow water to flow down the tube and out through the shower head. 
  • Wet yourself down and then go through the spit bath procedure described above, opening the showerhead occasionally to rinse off. 
A solar shower works pretty well if you are blessed with strong sunshine during at least part of the day. And if you're conservative, you can easily get more than one shower from the bag of water. 

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