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Survival Essentials: How to find water

April 14, 2015

If you get lost in the wilderness, the most important thing to do is to find water. The human body can only live for around three days without water, perhaps less depending on climate conditions and how much you’re exerting yourself. But, no matter where you are in the world, there is usually a way to find water. You just have to know where and how to look…

Follow the animals

The most obvious sources of water are streams, rivers and lakes. Animals and birds will know where good water sources are. Look out for them or their tracks and follow where they go. Green vegetation and swarming insects can also be a good way to pinpoint nearby water sources. While solitary animal tracks are unlikely to mean anything in themselves, if you see converging tracks, they are probably heading towards water.

Listen carefully

Even if you can’t see any water, you may be able to hear it. Try not to panic, but stand still for a few minutes listening carefully. Streams and rivers make a distinctive rushing noise and are some of the safest water sources you can find because they are constantly moving rather than remaining stagnant.

Head downhill

If there is no sign or sound signalling water, then doing the same as water and following gravity may be your best chance. Make sure you can find your way back by using your pocket knife or a rock to mark the trees you pass. Low lying areas and wooded valleys are a good place to look.

Where there’s mud, there’s water

As a last resort, you could try <a href="http://www.military-outdoor.co.uk/product-category/prepping-gear/knives-tools/shovels/">digging</a> into muddy or damp soil. Where there is mud, there is likely to be water. Unfiltered groundwater is usually very dirty and could be contaminated. But, even dirty water could keep you alive, particularly if you’re able to use your sterilisation tablets from your survival pack. Strain the water through a cloth too as an extra measure to clean it.

Capture the rain

If it rains, then find anything you can to capture the rainwater. Use any containers you have along with utilising any plastic clothing or bedding you might have with you. If you have a rain poncho or some plastic sheeting you were using as a groundsheet, then tie it a few feet of the ground, leaving a slight sag to allow the rain to collect and drain.

Snow and ice

If you’re near snow and ice, you may be facing extra survival problems as you struggle to overcome the cold. But, at least you will be able to make a fire and melt any snow or ice to drink the water. No matter how tempting it is, don’t eat it frozen as the effort your body has to put in to warm you back up again will lead to dehydration.

Morning dew

The best time to collect dew is before the sun rises. It may seem impossible to collect such small droplets of water, but the easiest way is to use a t-shirt or towel and wipe it over grass until the cloth becomes wet. Then you can squeeze it out into a container, if you have one, or directly into your mouth if not. Another option is to tie some cloth around your ankles and take a walk through high grass. Hopefully, you’ll soak up enough water for a drink.


Sometimes, Mother Nature is able to provide you with clean, drinkable water. Certain plants hold water, such as green bamboo. If you bend the top of a green bamboo plant down, cutting a few inches off the tip, and put a container underneath, you should have clean water after a night. Milk from green coconuts is also a good thirst quencher although ripe fruits can act as a laxative. Plants with large, overlapping leaves may have collected rainwater. But be careful you aren’t drinking from any poisonous plants.

By being aware of what to do in the worst case scenario, you should be prepared if you find yourself in a survival situation.

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