Finding Water in the Wilderness
Finding water in the wild is not just a skill for Boy Scouts and mountaineers, but should be part of everyone’s body of knowledge. Between getting lost, separated or injured while hiking, to breaking down in a remote location, there is a real possibility that we may someday need to go hunting for water. Obtaining and purifying water can be very challenging and time-consuming and a person can typically only survive for three days without it. If you find yourself away from civilization without water it is your 3rd most important priority after clean air/emergency medical care (within 3 minutes) and adequate shelter to maintain a safe temperature (within 3 hours).
Finding surface water–
- Listen for running water.
- Smell for moisture and humidity.
- Look for greener vegetation, swarming insects, circling birds and converging animal tracks.
- Head downhill.
If you cannot find surface water, follow the above recommendations to determine the best locations to dig for water. In addition, look for muddy spots, dry river beds as well as willow trees, cattails and other plants that grow in areas of plentiful water. When you’ve chosen your spot, dig a hole at least 1’ deep and 1’ in diameter and wait for water to seep into the hole.
If you are still unable to find water, you may be able to—
Collect rainwater: Suspend a tarp or poncho horizontally and weight center with a stone to direct water. If there is no way to suspend it, spread on ground and dig a depression under center to collect water.
Collect dew: Run an absorbent cloth over dew-wet grass in the morning and wring to collect.
**With the exception of water from the solar still, any water collected in the wild should be purified before drinking. See the July 2013 issue of this newsletter for techniques.