Outside's guide to surviving everything


Flood     Photo: Christopher LaMarca

Survival Myth

Survey Says: Drinking urine can help stave off dehydration.

Science Says: While urine is sterile and 95 percent water, its rehydrating benefits are fleeting. After a couple of days without water, the afternoon glow will begin to concentrate, making it difficult for your kidneys to filter. A better option is to try digging at the outside of a dry riverbed or collecting condensation with a solar still (you'll need a tarp and a container).

The Forecast: This year, all eyes are on the Mississippi, which flooded in April. But before that came ­vicious floods in Australia in January, Pakistan last July, and Nashville last May. Don’t expect it to stop: rainfall increased roughly 5 percent over the past 50 years in the U.S., and as the planet warms, climate experts predict more precipitation in already flood-prone tropical countries such as Bangladesh. Urban expansion and increased channeling of rivers have also created a recipe for floods. FEMA is already expanding floodplain maps to include new areas that could be inundated, such as Southern California and San Antonio, Texas.

Stats: 3.6 million—acres of farmland in Arkansas, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee swamped by the April Mississippi River flood.

Worst-Case Scenario: Being trapped by floodwaters. Even six inches of moving water can knock you off your feet; 24 inches can float an SUV. Staying put and waiting for rescue in a safe area, such as a roof or the ­upper stories of a sturdy house, is the only strategy.

Smart Move: In the wilderness, avoid flash floods, which can rip down canyons and streams in an instant. If a clear stream suddenly becomes muddy, begins carrying debris, or starts rising, a flood is coming. If you hear thunder upstream, move to higher ground.

More Likely Scenario: Class V dump

What: Your raft or kayak flipped.

Strategy: Assume the whitewater swim position—feet aimed downstream, toes above water, head back. If you get caught in a recirculating hole, don’t fight to stay on top—let the current submerge and then flush you out. If you go over any drops, tuck your knees under your arms.

From Outside Magazine, Aug 2011 Get the Latest Issue

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