So what’s the first thing you should pack before heading into the outback? Your camera? iPad? Spare undies?
No. Not by a long shot. What you need to be thinking about is carrying enough safe drinking water. After all, among its many unique features, Australia is also the driest inhabited continent on earth, with the least amount of water in its rivers. One third of the land produces almost no runoff at all and our rainfall is one of the most variable in the world.
How much water should you consume?
Water is essential for us all, even though it provides no calories or organic nutrients. While your water consumption will vary based on your fitness level, diet and metabolism, consider these figures as general guiding principles for an adult’s average necessary fluid intake:
- 1.2L per day to maintain vital organ function.
- 2 to 4L per day for normal body function.
- 4 to 6L per day for temperate climates.
- 6 to 8L per day in the desert.
- Up to 15 to 20L per day for arduous or heavy work, depending on the conditions.
How much water should you carry?
If you use the figures above as a guiding principle and you’re travelling with a family of four through the outback, you should be planning on consuming around 24L of water per day between you.
And while you’ll inevitably meet some of these water requirements simply by eating fruit and consuming meals, you’ll need to offset these “savings” against your other uses of water for washing up, dousing a camp fire, wiping down tables, etc.
If your camper has a 100L water tank, you’ve only got enough liquid for four days before you’ll need a refill.
What happens if you become dehydrated?
Failure to address the body’s basic requirement for water means that dehydration is almost assured. Dehydration is a condition that occurs when the loss of body fluids (mostly water) exceeds the amount that is taken in. Medically, dehydration usually means a person has lost enough fluid so that the body begins to lose its ability to function normally, and begins to produce symptoms related to the fluid loss.
Mild and often even moderate dehydration can be reversed, or put back in balance, by oral intake of fluids that contain electrolytes. On the flipside, if unrecognised and untreated, some instances of severe and even moderate dehydration can lead to permanent damage to your vital organs, or even death.
Basic water rules
- Drink 500ml of water in the morning and again at night, especially if you’ve been drinking alcohol.
- Continue to drink small amounts of water throughout the day (about 200ml each time).
- When thirsty, drink your fill. By the time you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated!
- Lukewarm water will be absorbed into your body with less effort than cold water. Drinking room/body temperature water will save energy, time and help prevent illness.
The Rule of Threes
There’s a commonly known set of water-related survival principles referred to as The Rule of Threes.
- You can last up to three minutes without proper first aid.
- You can last up to three hours in an extreme environment without protection.
- You can last up to three days without water.
- You can last up to three weeks without food.