Tips For Finding Water in the Wild

tips to find water in the wild

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One of the most important things that I take when I go hiking or spend time in the woods is water. Water is something that you should never be without when outdoors.

Dehydration is something that can happen in a matter of a short time, so even if you are only going to be spending a few hours in the wild, it is still crucial to take enough water with you.

Some may wonder why water is so important when outdoors. I have heard people say they can survive without water out in the woods when they are out there for only a few hours. And many argue that they can survive a full day without having access to H2O. Sure, this may be true. But did you know that when you are dehydrated, your physical and mental strength decline greatly? And if you are without water for 3 days, the body will shut down.


Research the Area Before Heading Into the Wild

It is imperative that when planning a hiking trip in the wild, you research the area first. Ask others who have been to the area where nearby sources of water are. Google Earth can also point out where some nearby watering holes are.

You can also ask park rangers and another other people that take care of that area where you should look or go for water sources. These rangers will also be able to tell you when the water is available, as it may not be full of water every season.


Signs of Dehydration

There are many different signs of dehydration that you should be aware of. These include the following:

  • extreme thirst
  • muscle cramps with extreme pain
  • confusion
  • dizziness
  • weakness
  • an increase in the heart rate
  • dry mouth
  • chapped lips
  • dark urine
  • a decrease in urine output
  • vomiting or nausea


Never Substitute Anything For Water

If you are in an emergency, it may seem like a good idea to use other forms of liquids so you do not get dehydrated. Never, under any circumstances, use any of the following in place of water as they can make your health worse.

These include:

  • Alcohol- Not only will this cause dehydration, but your thinking will be clouded, causing you to make decisions that are not the best.
  • Urine- This contains 2% salt. It is full of body waste that is harmful to your body.
  • Blood- Blood can have many diseases in it and is also full of salt.
  • Seawater- This type of water contains 4% of salt. It will deplete your body very fast of any water it has in it.


Filtering Water

Water from any source in the woods should always be filtered if possible. Water that is not purified before consuming it could be full of bacteria. While this is very risky on your part, it could be a matter of life or death. In some cases, you may need to drink the water unfiltered, as it is not always possible to have a method of filtering the H2O.

Carrying a water filter is a great idea if you are going to be hiking or in the woods. Stainless steel bottles are also something I recommend carrying so you can boil water if needed. And if you have a small amount of room in your backpack, consider tossing in iodine or liquid bleach tablets.


Lakes, Rivers, and Streams

If you are not certain where water is in the wild, use your sense of listening. Many times you can hear water that is flowing if you just stop and concentrate on listening for it. I also look for animal tracks. Watching for any signs of animals in the wild may mean water is close by.

When looking for water in the wild, you should look for water that is moving. Moving water will not allow any bacteria to form. The water should be clear. The best bet is to look for streams that are smaller in nature. Rivers can be ok as well, but do note that many have pollution in them, even if you can not see it. Ponds and lakes will do in a pinch, but you should know that since they are stagnant, they will have the most bacteria.



One of my favorite ways to collect water in the wild is rainwater. Granted, you are not guaranteed that it will rain every time you are out in the woods, but rainwater collection is very safe as you do not need to worry about bacteria. In order to collect water, you will need some containers. Use whatever you have on hand. You can also use a tarp or another piece of thicker material. Tie it around a tree, then place a heavy object, such as a stone, in the center to create a well.


Heavy Morning Dew

One method that many may not think about is collecting the heavy morning dew. This is quite simple to do. Tie some material around your ankles and then go for a walk. Walk in areas that do not have any poisonous plants. Then simply wring the water out into a container. Repeat as needed for water.


Dig a Still

Stills are reliable when it comes to seeing how much water you have. This makes it easy to ration it out. Underground versions will collect more water than above-ground versions. However, if you can not dig due to having any energy, then above ground versions will be your best bet.

Using an underground still, you can expect to gather between half to one full liter of water per day. You should find an area in the wild that gets sunlight a great portion of the day.

Dig a 3 feet wide by a 2-feet deep hole. Dig a hole for the container in this as well. Place a drinking tube in the container and then cover the hole with plastic, allowing the tubing to be exposed. Cover with rocks or soil to keep the plastic in place. A small stone should be placed in the center to form an inverted cone over the container. You will be able to drink right out of the straw with this method.


Snow and Icy Areas

If you are hiking in areas that have snow or ice, you can easily use either of these to make water to drink. Snow and ice should always be melted and purified first before consuming. While it may be tempting to eat snow or ice in one of these forms, it will lower your body temperature. Your metabolic rate will then speed up, which will force you to become dehydrated faster.

One fast method I like to use to melt snow easily is to add a bit of freshwater to it. Then swish it around to make a slushy. You can also add a bit of water and heat up the snow and ice. Do not add the heat directly to the snow or ice as this can make it taste scorched.

If you are boating in saltwater, you can use this to freeze for freshwater. Simply fill up a container with the saltwater and let it freeze. The salt will all be drawn to the center which will be slushy. The rest of the water will freeze normally. Remove the slush and then the water can be drunk.

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