A traveler may be reduced to the extremity of using stagnant or even putrid water; but this should never be done without first boiling it. Some charred wood from the camp fire should be boiled with the water; then skim off the scum, strain, and set the water aside to cool. Boiling sterilizes, and charcoal deodorizes.
I Quote The Following Incident From Johnson's Getting Gold:
" I once rede forty-rive miles with nearly beaten horses to a native well, or rock hole, to find water, the next stage being nearly fifty miles further. The well was found, but the water in it was very bad; for in it was the body of a dead kangaroo, which had apparently been there for weeks. The wretched horses, half frantic with thirst, did manage to drink a few mouthfuls, but we could not. I filled our largest billycan, holding about a gallon, slung it over the fire and added, as the wood burnt down, charcoal, till the top was covered to a depth of two inches. With the charcoal there was. of coursea a little ash containing bi-carbonate of potassium. The effect was marvellous. So soon as the horrible soup came to the boil, the impurities coagulated, and after keeping it at boiling temperature for about half an hour, it was removed from the fire, the cinders skimmed out, and the water allowed to settle, which it did very quickly. It was then decanted off into an ordinary prospector's pan, and some used to make tea (the flavor of which can be better imagined than described) ; the remainder was allowed to stand all night, a few pieces of charcoal being added. In the morning it was bright, clear, and absolutely sweet".
Filters are not to be depended upon to purify water. At best they only clarify; they do not sterilize it. A filter, to be of any use, must be cleaned out every day or two, and the sand forming the upper layer must be thoroughly washed or replaced; otherwise the filter itself becomes a breeding-place for germs.
Travelers in arid regions carry water bags of heavy canvas or linen duck. These, when filled, constantly " sweat " or exude enough moisture to cool the contents of the bag by evaporation. Wet canteens do the same. A covered pail or other vessel can be used: wrap cloths around it, keep them wet, and hang in a current of air.
In summer Camping little firewood is used, but in cold weather an abundance is required. Some kinds of wood make fine fires, others are poor fuel or worthless: they are classified in the next chapter. In any case there should be plenty of sound dead wood to cook with.
When traveling with a team where fuel is scarce, make a practice of tossing into the wagon any good chunks that you may find along the road.
Avoid low ground. Seek an open spot that is level enough for the purpose, but one that has good natural drainage. Wherever you may be, pitch your tent on a rise or slight slope instead of in a depression where water will gather if it rains. Don't trust a fair sky.
If you camp on the bank of a stream, be sure to get well above the flood-marks left by previous freshets or overflows. Observe the more or less continuous line of dead grass, leaves, twigs, mud, and other flotsam or hurrah's-nests left in bushes along the water-front.
Precautions as to elevation and drainage are especially needful in those parts of our country that are subject to cloudbursts. I have seen a ravine that had been stone-dry for months fill fifteen feet deep, in a few minutes, with a torrent that swept trees and bowlders along with it; and it is quite common in many parts of the West for wide bottoms to be flooded in a night. When I was a boy in Iowa, a " mover " camped for the night on an island in Coon River, near our place. He had a bag of gold coin, but was out of rations. A sudden flood left him marooned the next morning on a knoll scarce big enough for his team and wagon. He subsisted for a week, like his horses, on the inner bark of cotton-wood, and when a rescue party found him he wras kicking his bag of gold over the few yards of dry ground that were left of his domain.
Bottom lands, and deep woods where the sun rarely penetrates, should be avoided, when practicable, for they are damp lairs at best, and in warm weather they are infested with mosquitoes. Keep away from thickets in summer: they are stifling and " buggy.;'
A ravine or narrow valley between steep hills is a trap for fog, and the cold, heavy air from the head of the hollow pours dowrn it at night, while an undertow of warmer air drawing upward now and then makes the smoke from one's camp-fire shift most annoyingly. Besides a ravine gets too little sunlight.
New clearings in the forest are unhealthy, for the sun gets in on plants that are intolerant of strong light, they rot, and poisonous gases arise from their decay, as well as from the recently disturbed soil.
If one is obliged to camp in a malarial region he ?;hould not leave the camp-fire until the sun is up and the fog dispelled.
Sandy beaches, and low, gravelly points, are likely to swarm in summer with midges.
Sandy soil does not afford good holding-ground for the tent pegs; neither does a loamy or clayey soil after it gets soaked from rain. The best ground is gravelly earth: it holds well, and permits the rapid filtering through of surface water. A clay top-soil holds water and is soon trodden into sticky mud after a rain.
If the camp site is strewn with leaves, cut an evergreen branch, or, with some other makeshift broom or rake, clear all the ground of leaves, pile them in the bare spot, and burn them, lest a spark set the woods afire. In evergreen or cypress forests there is often a thick scurf on the ground (dead needles, etc.) that is very inflammable. Always scrape this away before building a fire. In a dry forest carpet, or in a punky log, fire may smoulder unnoticed for several days; then, when a breeze fans it into flame, it may start a conflagration. One cant be too careful about fire in the woods. Never leave a camp fire or a cooking fire to burn itself out. Drench it with water, or smother it absolutely by stamping earth upon it.