Bushcrafting: How to Find Water in the Wild (Without Killing Yourself!)

Guest post by Dan Patrick*

Picture yourself on a fun, afternoon hike with your friends. You’re so looking forward to this and have been planning this for months. Fresh, mountain air fills your lungs. The summer sun warms your back as you start your ascent. You head towards a progressively steeper face. After taking an unfamiliar fork in the trail, you decide to press on. Feeling exhausted and dehydrated, you’re hopelessly lost. And dusk is approaching fast. Even worse, your friends are nowhere to be seen.

This is by no means a unique scenario. In fact, from 1992 to 2007, there were 78,488 people involved in Search and Rescue incidents in US National Parks. These resulted in 2,659 fatalities and 24,288 ill or injured individuals. Unfortunately, many of these people lose their way and are never seen from again. Yes, being out in the wilderness with no water or food can be a frightening experience. Depending on the amount of time you’re stranded, you could face dehydration, or even starvation. Read on to find out how you can keep yourself hydrated and fueled, if the worst ever happens…

How Long Could You Survive Without Water?

The overall consensus is that a normal healthy adult can survive between two days to a week without water. But many survivalists will tell you that 3 days is a good rule of thumb when it comes to going without water. While this isn’t an exact science, it’s a good idea to find clean water as soon as possible when you’re trying to survive in the wild.

Why Is Water So Important?

Some things you can’t control. Doesn’t matter how experienced you are, you could end up lost and alone. With no backup plan and miles away from help you’ll soon be at your wits end. To maintain normal bodily functions, as a bare minimum, each day you’ll need to find 2 liters of water. Even in colder environments, you might think you’ll need less water as you sweat less. However, you’ll still lose water through your skin due to the dry air.

The average adult human body consists of about sixty percent water. It regulates the body’s internal functions like the processing of food and blood circulation. Even after just 1 day, the human body will start becoming dehydrated. And after 3 days, your body stops functioning.

We know how important water is. So, finding a source of drinking water is one of the first things to do, when stranded in the wild. If you know where to look, drinking water can be found in almost any place on Earth. We’ll now take a look at a few different ways to find safe drinking water in the wild.

The 6 Best Ways to Find Water in the Wild


In rural areas, you can drink rainwater without risking illness, unlike urban areas, where there is pollution. Find a (clean) container, e.g. jug, can, bag, bottle, carton, etc. Or improvise with a makeshift receptacle. For example, spread out a sheet of plastic, then tie it’s 4 corners to  trees, so it’s raised about 1 meter above the ground, and sags in the center. If it rains, collect and drain. Note that rainwater may taste slightly different to what your used to. This is because it doesn’t contain minerals usually found in streams.


Wake before sunrise, and find some nearby high grass that’s heavily laden with dew. Tie rags or clothes round your ankles. By walking through it, your clothes will absorb a considerable amount of water.


Good sources of a natural water supply include cacti, vines, coconuts, bamboo and fruits. To collect drinking water from a green bamboo tree, tie the top down to the ground. Cut off a few centimeters from the top, and leave a container underneath for 24 hours.

Condensation from Metal

Put your metal items in the open desert. Condensation can form on metal surfaces when there are large temperature variations between day and night. Before sunrise, collect any moisture with absorbent cloths, that is before it evaporates.


Tie a bag around a leafy (non-poisonous) tree branch, shrub or other vegetation (usually in the early morning is best). Use a rock to  weigh down the inside of the bag. During the day, the plant will transpire and this water will collect at the lowest point of the bag.

Beach Wells

Locate a spot around 100 meters away from the coastline. Dig a 1 meter deep well. Line the sides with wood (to support the weight of the sand) and the bottom with rocks. You can collect up to 10 to 20 liters of drinkable water within a few hours.

Water Purification Methods

  1. Boil the collected water for 10 minutes minimum.
  2. Using tablets (read the instructions)
  3. Treating with iodine (for cloudy water use 10 drops, and 5 drops for clear water; assuming you’re using a 2% solution)

Portable Purification and Filtration Devices

You can also buy compact purification/filtering devices, that you can pack away. Purifiers have the ability to remove harmful viruses as well as bacteria. Filters only deal with bacteria.

Both are functionally almost alike. Water goes into the top, then passes into a sequence of treatments/filters, and finally passes out the bottom.

They work in various ways. From gravity fed bags (that you can hang up, using e.g. a tree branch), to being battery or hand powered. Some ingenious bottles even have the handy device built into them.

*Dan Patrick loves being active outdoors. He’s been involved in the world of survival and prepping from an early age. Even at five years old, he looked forward to hiking trips on wilderness trails with his father. Dan now takes a keen interest in sharing his survival skills knowledge by helping others. You can read more at


Nikki is an author and writer specializing in green living ideas and tips, adventure travel, upcycling, and all things eco-friendly. She's traveled the globe, swum with sharks and been bitten by a lion (fact). She lives in a tiny town with a fat cat and a very bad dog.

Check out our Books!