Boiling water in a cactus pad In much of the Southwest of the USA, there are a lot of prickly pear cactuses. They’re an amazing resource in a survival situation. In this guide, I’ll be walking you through, step-by-step how to boil water in a cactus pad! If you live in this area, I highly recommend printing of this guide and putting it with your survival gear. So you always have it handy when you need it most.
These cactus pads are great for a number of purposes, one of which being food. You can eat these pads themselves, and you can also eat the prickly pears, what they call the tunas, the little fruit that grows on top. Another purpose is going to be medicinal. Inside these pads there’s a slimy, green substance that has a lot of good antibacterial properties.  If you have an open wound or something, you can use that as an antibacterial agent. You can also use it on your water. For instance, If you can’t get a fire going, for some reason, you can cut these and make a container out of them. If you put your water in there, that’s going to kill like 75% of the bacteria. It’s not going to completely purify your water, but it is going to make it much safer than drinking straight out of the creek. The third purpose, much like using the container to drink out of, can cut them, make a container, fill it full of water, and then boil water in that container. That is what we’re going to be teaching you today. We’re going to make a container from these and then boil water on the fire. STEP 1. THE CONTAINER: When it comes to making a container out of these, you want to:
  • Find kind of a younger, nice, healthy pad. – You don’t want something that has these diseased-looking areas on it, the decaying areas. You want a good, solid outer part that’s going to be nice and healthy. You want to use a younger one because a lot of times they will be healthier. Check out both sides. Make sure there’s no rotting areas.
  • Clean off the spines so you can hold it without getting splinters on your hands – clean off all big spines and little thorns here. You can save those and use them for different stuff, sewing, making fish hooks, etc.
  • You don’t want to cut it all the way at the top or the bottom, wherever it’s connected.  What I’ll do is I’ll just take my knife and starting slicing directly down the middle of this pad. You want to be careful not to go way too far to one side.
You want some integrity around there because that’s where all the heat’s going to be. You don’t want any thin spots to burn through that. Slowly work your way down deeper, being careful as you do so.
STAY CENTERED: You want to kind of stay in the middle. Slowly work your way down deeper into that pad. Now, for the most part, you want to avoid getting too close to the sides or to the bottom of it
That is our container.
STEP 3. THE PRY: Once you have a container finished, get a small stick, cut it down and pry it in the pad to hold it open.
STEP 4. SOURCE WATER: Source water into your container
Now it’s time to boil the water. STEP 5. START FIRE: You can see in the image below I’ve got a pretty good bed of coals going on now.
STEP 6. SECURE PAD: You’ll notice below, I took two decent-sized logs and placed them against a larger log. That is just a simple support system for the cactus pad.
STEP 7. TRANSFER COALS: Now what you need to do is take those coals from your fire and transfer them all around that cactus pad to get that water to boil.
You could do that directly over the coals, or you could just take two large logs and set them directly on the coals and put your cactus pad between there. You can do the same with some decent-sized rocks. You just need something to support that to keep it from falling over and spilling all your water. You don’t want to lose that water, especially after you’ve gone through all the trouble to make your container, and once you’ve got it boiled, and then it falls it over, and you lose it all.
SUPPORT SYSTEM: You just want some sort of support system that’s not going to disintegrate as it burns. By placing just the coals around there, we should be good long enough for that water to boil.
STEP 8. LET WATER BOIL: You want to get it to a good rolling boil to where that foam is coming up all the way to the top of that cactus pad, just to make sure that we get that water good and purified.
Our water’s been boiling for several minutes now. It’s good and purified. STEP 9. TAKE PAD OFF THE FIRE: Now to take this thing off, find a small branch that has another branch coming off of it. Break one of the ends and break it below that secondary branch. That gives me a little hook.
If you’ll remember earlier, we put a stick inside the pad to wedge the container open, but that has dual purpose. That gives us something to dip down hook to to take our container off the fire. You want to go slow and make sure that your container is still strong enough to support that. Slowly dip down in there, get the hook, and carefully take it off the fire. STEP 10. LET IT COOL & DRINK UP: Prop it up out of the fire and let the water cool down.
Then it’s time to see how it tastes. Now, you want to be careful drinking from this thing. It’s got a few cracks and burnt spots up at the top, so you want to make sure you don’t spill all your water.
These cactuses are readily available in the Southwest. You basically have a container ready to go. All you need is a knife.

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