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Finding a source of clean water is one of the top priorities in any survival situation. Whether you're boiling it, running it through a filter, using a chemical purifier, or simply drinking from a clean tap, it's imperative to have a steady supply of water. However, drinking nothing but water can become monotonous, and plain water doesn't provide much in the way of energy or nutrition.
This is why most domestic and foreign MREs include tea bags, instant coffee, or powdered drink mix. Some survivalists have also learned to brew bushcraft teas from foraged ingredients such as pine needles, rose hips, or mint. Whatever the case may be, it's nice to have an alternative beverage to mask unpleasant-tasting water, improve morale, and provide beneficial dietary vitamins.
The endless debate between coffee vs tea or beer vs wine goes to show that beverage choice is a strongly-contested issue. In a survival setting or emergency scenario, there will undoubtedly be less choices, but each individual still has his or her preferences. So, we decided to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each. At the end of this article, we created a poll where you can let us know your favorite water additives for survival situations.
Coffee is a frontrunner in this category, since it can provide flavor, nutrients, and energy via caffeine. One downside to coffee is that it's a limited resource which is extremely difficult to cultivate — if international shipments from Ethiopia, Colombia, and other key nations are ceased, coffee production will grind to a halt (pun intended). Coffee is high in caffeine, which has benefits and drawbacks. It provides a quick hit of helpful energy, but also acts as a diuretic, increasing the risk of dehydration. Instant coffee is easiest to transport and prepare, but ground coffee may also be carried along with a press or portable dripper.
Commercially-produced tea is another common survival beverage. Like coffee, it provides nutrition and flavor, and many varieties provide caffeine. However, tea generally contains much less caffeine than coffee due to its dilution. Depending on perspective, that can be good or bad. Tea will also be difficult to obtain if SHTF, as it's labor-intensive to cultivate and ship. Individually-bagged tea is easily transported and prepared, but a tin of loose leaf is a viable alternative.
A third commercially-available water additive is drink mix. This includes powdered sports drinks, Tang, Kool-Aid, lemonade, cocoa, and vitamin/energy supplements like Airborne or Emergen-C. Liquid mixes are also available, such as Propel or Crystal Light. Some of these mixes can be viable for survival situations, but many contain high levels of sugar and artificial ingredients. These additives mostly serve as a short-term morale-booster or flavor additive, though some may provide helpful vitamins, minerals, electrolytes, or caffeine.
Finally, there are natural substances which can be foraged and added to water. Pine needles are one of the most common natural water additives, and are very high in vitamin C. Rose hips (the fruit of the rose plant), dandelions, mint leaves, wintergreen, and various herbs also serve as potential flavor-enhancers. It's important to take care while brewing wild teas, since misidentifying a plant could lead to illness or even poisoning. The best part about natural water additives and “bushcraft teas” is that they're a renewable resource — there's no need to depend on others to produce these additives, or even to carry them in your pack ahead of time.
So, what's your favorite water additive for survival scenarios? Let us know in the poll below, or add a comment if we missed your preferred beverage.