How To: Find Water in the Wild

Posted: 9th January 2014 by Michael Levanduski in How To, Water Storage, Water Survival
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finding waterWhether you get lost while on a nature hike, or you’re forced to go out into the wild because of a disaster or other emergency situation, you’ll want to know how to get your hands (or mouth) on some water.  Water is far more important than food, or even shelter in most cases.  In order to stay healthy, humans need at least two quarts of water per day.  If you’re out in the wild, you may need quite a bit more than that due to exposure to heat, cold or lots of strenuous activity.

Having the ability to find water in the wild is an excellent survival skill that may save your life someday.  The exact techniques used to find water in the wild will vary dramatically depending on the type of environment you’re in, and even the time of year.  With that in mind, this post will cover a diverse set of different methods for finding the water you’ll need.  With all of these methods, it is best to purify and filter the water before drinking it.

Locating Bodies of Water

One of the easiest ways to locate water is to find a pond, lake or river.  These will not only get you the water you need today, but will provide a good source of water for as long as you need it.  The following tips will help you to locate bodies of water while you’re out in the wild:

  • Learn from Animals – Just like humans, all animals need water to survive.  With that in mind, keep an eye out for wildlife and follow them.  Before long, they will lead you to their source of water, which you can use as well.  Following animal tracks is another excellent option.
  • Insects – Just like the other animals, many insects typically (especially the flying variety) stay fairly close to water.  They use it to breed and a variety of other things as well.  If you see swarms of insects, try traveling in that direction.
  • Birds – Birds typically fly to their water source in the morning, and then again in the evening.  See if you can tell where the birds are flying during these times of the day, and they will lead you right to their water source.
  • Listen – Rivers are quite noisy, and if you are quiet and still, you can hear them from a long distance away.  Follow your ears and you can often find a river with moving water, which is one of the healthiest options when out in the wild.
  • Get Down – Water will always flow downhill, so whenever possible, find the lowest laying land around.  Look in valleys and other dips in the terrain and there may be water there waiting for you.

Hidden Water Sources

If you are unable to find a lake, river, pond or other body of water, it is still very possible to get the water you need.  There is water hidden all over the place in the wild, as long as you know how to find it.  Keep these tips in mind, and see which opportunities present themselves.  You’ll be enjoying a nice drink of water before you know it.

  • Damp or Muddy Ground – If the ground feels moist, there is likely ground water just under the surface.  Dig a hole at least 1 foot deep and 1 foot around (deeper is better).  If you wait a few minutes, the water will start to fill up the hole.  This will be very dirty water, but you can filter it through cloth or other options to remove the majority of the dirt.  It might not taste the best, but it will get you through until you find another source.
  • Snow & Ice – Snow and ice should be obvious sources of water when you’re in the wild.  It is important to remember, however, that you should always melt it before drinking.  Consuming frozen snow or ice will lower your body temperature, causing it to work harder.   Never consume ice from salt water, as that will actually dehydrate you very quickly.
  • Collect Rainwater – Even a light sprinkling of rain can be enough to get you through for a period of time.  Collect the rain in buckets or other containers.  If that is not an option, spread out a sheet of plastic or other waterproof material by tying the corners to trees.  The water will collect in the plastic, which can be used as a water bag for quite some time.
  • Morning Due – Grass, leaves and other plants are often covered in due in the morning.  Get up before the sun evaporates it away, and you can typically get enough water to survive.  Bend the leaves up so the due forms larger drops, or even lick the water right off the leaves.
  • Plants – Plants are excellent at finding the water (with their roots) and storing it for later use.  The most famous example of this is the cactus.  You can cut open a cactus and find a significant amount of water to drink.  Most plants will have some water stored in the stems or roots.  Finding a green plant, and cutting the stem open will typically reveal a moist, fibrous area.  See if you are able to suck any water out.  Just make sure the plant is not poisonous.

Whenever drinking water found in the wild, make sure you purify it as much as possible.  Even just running it through fabric will help remove some contaminants.  Boiling the water is another excellent option.  Of course, if you have an actual water purification device, that would be ideal.

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