One of the most important wilderness survival skills is knowing how to find water in the wild, even if there are no visible sources. What will you do, when turning on the tap to get a nice cold drink is not an option?
How to Find Water in the Wild
Failing to find water when in a wilderness survival situation has massive effects on your body as well as mind. Not having enough water can be detrimental to ones survival. Your body is constantly using water for things such as digestion and body heat regulation, therefore it is essential you find water when in a wilderness survival situation. Looking for water should be your top priority. I have complied a list of ways you can find water when in the wilderness, be it for survival, or boiling that rice you brought camping.
Tips and Tricks
Before I get into the 7 ways to find water in the wild, I am going to cover a few tips and tricks I have found useful in the wild when searching for water.
Firstly, look for the obvious, rivers, streams, lakes… if you see none, there are a few other places you can look.
- Valleys and low areas are where water naturally drains, you may find water by digging a hole into the ground in these areas.
- Rock crevices – Rain water may have collected in these
- Muddy or damp ground – Compacting muddy or damp ground sometimes results in water coming to the surface
- Patches of green vegetation indicates water – Dig a hole, and wait for water to seep into it from the surrounding ground
- Places where animal tracks converge – May indicate a water source nearby
- Insects often stay close to water, such as flies
- Birds circling – They often circle watering holes
If you manage to find water in any of these places, you are going to want to filter and purify it before drinking, as it may contain bacteria or viruses.
Rain is the easiest way to collect clean water, quickly. It is also the least predictable. Rain water is the safest source of water in the wild as it has the lowest risk of containing bacteria, though by no means do this mean it is perfectly safe to drink. You should always boil water from the wilderness before drinking to ensure all bacteria and viruses are killed.
There are endless ways to collect rain water, you could use a tarp, bin bag, rain coat…. the list goes on.
Rivers, Streams and Lakes
Probably the most obvious way to find water in the wild is in a river, lake or stream. Look for water that is fast flowing, and clear to ensure bacteria hasn’t built up. Look for birds circling around low in the air in early morning, and early evening as they typically fly over bodies of water and pick up insects.
If it is not possible to find fast flowing, clear water, you can always filter and purify water from dirtier sources, though I recommend boiling water from any water source in the wild.
Tree Forks or Rock Crevices
When trying to find water in the wild, tree forks, or rock crevices might not be the first place you would think to check when looking for water, nor are they the most plentiful source of water, though when in a survival situation, any water is better than no water. Due to the concave shape of a tree fork, it collects small amounts of water when it rains, and the same can be said about rock crevices.
To collect this water, use a clean piece of cloth, and soak the water into it, then ring it out into a pot for drinking.
A Solar Still
Like I mentioned above, look for ground with green vegetation, you can nearly be sure that there will be water underground, but it takes time to collect. Digging a solar still is a great way to collect water from the ground. You can gather around 5 litres per day with a still measuring 3ft by 2ft.
To do this, dig a hole 3ft by 2ft, then insert you water collection bottle, along with some green vegetation for extra water, and finally place a plastic sheet over the top with a stone in the middle, directly over the water bottle, just as the diagram below shows.
Transpiration in plants happens when water is carried from the roots of the plant, to the underside of it’s leaves. In order to capture this moisture, you can tie a plastic bag around a branch of leaves, and it will trap the water falling off the underside of the leaves. The heat in the bag will also help to encourage evaporation of water in the plant. The water will be trapped in the bag, and can be used for drinking. Before removing the bag, give it a hard shake, and ensure you have collected all the water possible. This is another great way to find water in the wild, without putting in too much hard work.
Avoid collecting water from poisonous plants, such as oak, poison ivy or sumac.
You can collect morning dew water quite easily by tying a clean cloth around your ankles and walking around in the vegetation in the morning before sunrise. You must avoid poisonous plants along the way, as these can make your water unsafe for drinking. You should also avoid areas like farms, and crop fields as these can be treated with chemicals.
To collect the water from the cloth, ring it out over a pot. To collect any amount worth talking about, you will have to walk around for a few hours, and keep ringing the cloth out every so often. This is a great way to collect water when there is no rain fall.
Vegetation and Fruits
Vegetation, fruits and plants all contain water, as it is essential for them to sustain life. For example, coconut is an excellent source of hydration, just split it open, and drink the liquid inside. You can use this method of water collection when in a tropical environment as you don’t find coconuts everywhere.
You can also extract water from tree roots by removing the outer layer, then pulping the roots with a stone, and squeezing them into a container to collect the water. You may only get a very small quantity of water, and this method requires a little more effort than the others, therefore may not be your number one choice when in a survival situation,
There are many different ways to collect water in the wild, these are just a few of them. Knowing how to find water in the wilderness is one of the most important survival skills you can learn. Knowing how to purify the water and make it safe for drinking is the second most important! Remember to always boil or treat any water you collect in the wild before drinking it.