8 Ways to Find Water in Outdoor Survival Situations

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If I ever get lost or have to Bug Out in the wilderness, I hope that it will be near a stream, lake or other water source.

Since I know how to purify water and also have a camping filter (the Sawyer mini) in my survival bag, I’d be fine.

But what if you were to find yourself stranded somewhere without an obvious water source — What would you do?

Don’t worry – there is plenty of water around you. Even in desert survival situations, there is still lots of water available. It is all about knowing how to find and access it. Here are some great hacks for doing just that.

Solar Still

I’ve talked about solar stills before in my post about survival uses for a plastic tarp, and how to purify water. A solar still is one of the most amazing inventions because it allows you to collect water evaporated out of grass clippings, cacti, leaves… You can even urinate into the pit and the water from your urine will evaporate, collect on the tarp as condensation, and then drip into the collection bucket.

To make a solar still, you need a plastic tarp (you could make a small solar still out of a rain poncho) and a water collection vessel. Dig a pit and put some grass or other things which contain moisture into the bottom. Put your vessel in the middle of the pit. Then cover the pit with the plastic tarp, and secure it in place. You’ll need to put a rock in the middle of the tarp so it angles downwards. As the sun beats down through the plastic tarp, it will cause moisture from the grass to evaporate. When the water vapor touches the tarp, it will cool and turn into condensation. The condensation will drip downwards into the water collection vessel.

solar still

Dew Collecting

You can simply press a piece of absorbent material onto the ground in the morning or at night when there is lots of dew present. Then wring the cloth into your water filter bottle.

Another option is to wrap towels or other absorbent materials around your legs. Then walk through tall grasses which are covered with dew. Once they are saturated, you wring them out.

Drag a Piece of Cloth

There is a lot of moisture on plants in the woods, especially in the early morning and at night when dew is present. One way to collect this water is to drag a cloth (such as from a torn shirt) behind you as you walk. The cloth will absorb the water and then you can wring it out into your water filter.

Plant Condensation Bags

This is a good option for very dry climates where there isn’t any dew in the morning. Tie a plastic bag around a tree branch with leaves. Leave the plastic bag there all day. It works in the same way as the solar still, and the leaves from the tree will release their water into the bag. Collect the water at night.

Follow Ants

Have you ever seen a train of ants going up and down a tree trunk? The likely reason is because there is a water source in the tree.   You will notice that the train of ants goes to a crotch in the tree trunk. Climb up there and put a straw inside (or dip a piece of cloth). You will find water!

ants finding water

Fish Flesh

If you are ever lost at sea, you will have the misery of being surrounded by water while being tortured with thirst. But, if you can catch a fish, you can probably get some water from their flesh. Chop up the fish into small pieces, put the pieces onto a cloth, and then squeeze the cloth. Water will drip out from the cloth.

Dig for Water (Seep)

If you dig deep enough, you will hit water. But, if you are thirsty and in a survival situation, it isn’t exactly the smartest idea to sweat up a storm while digging a well 😉   Only dig for water if there is a good sign that ample water is under the ground.

Where should you dig? If you are on a snow-capped mountain with a lot of vegetation, then there is probably water. The same goes for forests with thick vegetation. Look for areas where there are large clusters of green plants and dig there. Dry riverbeds and streambeds are also good places to dig a seep.

Start by digging a hole about 3 feet wide and ½ foot deep. Is the dirt turning into wet mud? If so, then this is a good place. Continue digging, pulling out the mud. Keep digging until the hole is a couple feet deep (or until you get too tired to dig further). Scoop out more of the dirty mud. Line the outside of the hole with rocks, as you would with a well. Congratulations, now you have a seep!

Water will flow into the seep. The rocks that you used to line the seep will keep out most of the dirt so you actually get water instead of mud. You will still need to filter the water though.

Its a good idea to carry a survival shovel for jobs like this.

Find Water

There are a bunch of tricks you can use to find water sources in nature. Here are some of them:

  • Bring a map: Duh! Then just navigate to the nearest water source.
  • Travel parallel to a mountainside: Mountains typically have some streams going down them. If you continue to travel parallel to the mountain, you will eventually hit water or even a pond.
  • Look for bees: Bees never go far from water. If you see bees, that means that there is a water source within a 3-5 mile radius.   If you can locate the bee hive, then sit for a while and watch the bees. See which direction most are going and head there.
  • Look for finches: Finches are another animal which won’t go far from water. If you see finches, then you are near water.

Do you know any other tricks for finding water in the wild? Let us know in the comments section.


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  1. When travelling through the wilderness watch for game trails. Follow any game trail until it intersects with another, this intersection will form an “arrow” pointing toward a water source. Follow the more heavily used trail, if obvious, in the direction the arrow is pointing. (Example: If the intersection of the trails were represented with the letter “y” you’d follow the long leg of the “y”)

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