Written by Bernie Carr
I recently washed an area rug outside as I did not want to just toss it and buy a new one. I left it out in the sun to dry. It took two days to dry but as I was bringing it in, I got to thinking about the importance of sunlight for survival. We all know the dangers of getting sunburned or dehydrated by staying out in the sun too long. While extreme heat from too much sun can be dangerous, the power of the sun has also much to offer in terms of survival.
Staying warm is crucial in a survival situation. After a long cold night, the sustaining warmth of the sun can take the chill out of your bones and prevent hypothermia. When choosing a location for shelter, if you are in a cold area, select one that has some exposure to sunlight rather than under a tree cover. The west or south side of a hill would most likely offer the most warmth.
Sunlight also kills germs. Even if you are unable to wash your clothes, if you have a change of clothing, take off your sweaty clothes and hang them out in the sun.
Drying wet clothes
Staying in wet clothes in a cold environment can lower your body temperature and cause hypothermia. Getting into warm, dry clothes is a must. Leaving your wet clothes out to dry in the sun after you change will speed up drying time.
Make a fire
Focus direct sunlight through a magnifying glass, toward a bundle of tinder. Keep your hand steady while focusing the sunlight. When you see a glowing spot, gently blow on it to keep it going.
Lenses and sunlight: If you do not have a magnifying glass, you can use a camera lens, binoculars or even a pair of reading glasses (farsighted glasses) to focus the sunlight. Place a drop of water on the glass to increase the focus.
If you don’t have power to cook, you can use a solar cooker. Solar cooking works by trapping the sun’s heat in one spot so you can cook with it. A solar oven can typically reach around 350 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, allowing the cook to bake, boil, or steam foods and boil water. When I tried a solar oven, it really worked to cook the food. The downside is, you may need to start cooking early in the morning so the food can cook with direct sunlight as the sun moves across the sky.
Drinking unfiltered, unpurified water in the wilderness can expose you to bacteria, viruses and other pathogens that are present in fresh water. You might quench your thirst, but end up vomiting and having diarrhea, leading to life-threatening dehydration. In an emergency, you can purify water by using a clear plastic water bottle and sunlight. The water must be clear, not cloudy, and exposed to sunlight for at least six hours. In a future post, we will look at specifics about purifying water with sunlight.
Many foods such as herbs and vegetables can be sun-dried for preservation. In some areas, you simply leave food under a piece of cheesecloth to dry out in the sun. Ideally, the temperature must be around 85 degrees Fahrenheit, with around 60% humidity, so this would work in a desert climate. If you want to try drying foods, an easy way to start would be to dry herbs using a mesh drying rack.
In the last few years, portable solar chargers have become very affordable. When they first came out, they cost over $100, but now that the technology is more commonly available, many portable solar chargers are under $50.
You should keep a backup solar charger for your cell phone and other USB devices such as tablets, Nook or Kindle etc.
Features to look for: read reviews and pay attention to how fast they are said to charge, weight, portability, over-charge protection system (to prevent your device from over-charging), construction (weatherproof, waterproof), number of charging ports and types of devices it will charge.
Signal for help
A time-tested method of signaling for help is by using a signal mirror and sunlight. It is said that a reflection can be spotted as far as 50 miles across any terrain on a sunny day.
You can also use other shiny objects such as a mylar blanket, belt buckle, aluminum foil or soda to reflect sunlight. Flash the light toward your target area in the universal SOS pattern: three short flashes, three long flashes, three short flashes.
Just be careful to avoid directing the beam of light toward an airplane pilot or a driver’s front windshield as it can momentarily blind someone and possibly cause an accident.
If you don’t have your phone or a compass, you can use the sun for navigation. At the most basic, you know the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. So if you are facing the rising sun, you know you are facing east, and behind you is west.
While facing east, on your right side will be south and on your left side will be the opposite which is north.
The final word
The above list is not all-inclusive; the sun provides so much more. If you find yourself in a survival situation, don’t forget the power of the sun. Just the sight of a sunny day can help keep your spirits up and help you keep a positive outlook, helping you survive yet another day.
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About the author:
Bernie Carr is the founder of Apartment Prepper. She has written several books including the best-selling Prepper’s Pocket Guide, Jake and Miller’s Big Adventure, The Penny-Pinching Prepper and How to Prepare for Most Emergencies on a $50 a Month Budget. Her work appears in sites such as the Allstate Blog and Clark.com, as well as print magazines such as Backwoods Survival Guide and Prepper Survival Guide. She has been featured in national publications such as Fox Business and Popular Mechanics. Learn more about Bernie here.