Finding water in the wild can be critical. If you get lost or end up in an emergency situation, then finding water could be the difference between life and death. On the other hand, if you go camping for a long time, the last thing you want to be doing is hauling large bottles of water along with you if there is a long walk first, so knowing how to find your own water is a fantastic skill to have.
To stay healthy, the body needs around 2 litres of water a day; this is without the exertion you will be putting yourself through when walking and hiking. Whether it is hot or cold, you should drink over the minimum amount suggested when walking, even though you may think in the cold you don’t sweat, you will still lose water through your skin due to the dry air.
Find a Source of Water
The first thing you need to do is find a source of water that is drinkable. The first options would be streams, lakes and rivers. A great thing to remember is that animals use these water sources to drink at, so they can always lead you to one – just find some animal tracks on the ground to follow. Any fresh green vegetation is also a good sign that water will be nearby, as are swarming insects (even though they can be a pain to be near!).
Use your ears because when the area is quiet, you may be able to hear the trickling of a stream of even the gushing of a river nearby. Remember that water flows with gravity downhill, so it is a better idea to look in that direction if you don’t know where to start.
If you cannot find a source of water, but the ground you are walking on is fairly muddy, dig a hole that is approximately one foot deep and one foot wide, and you will most likely be surprised to see the hole fill with water. The water will almost definitely be muddy, but there are ways to help clean it as we will get to later on.
Rain, Snow and Ice
If you are in need of water and it starts to rain, don’t waste this opportunity. Use any containers you have to hand to collect water and if you still need more, then dig a hole and line it with a bin bag. If you have a large poncho or tarp, then tie the ends to trees a few feet of the ground to make a rain catcher (make sure you leave a slight sag in the material so the rain doesn’t just run straight off it).
If you are in a cold area surrounded by snow and ice, be sure to melt it before consuming. Don’t eat the snow and ice, they will make your body temperature drop dramatically and result in dehydration. Although snow and ice looks clean, if you can purify it, then you should.
There are two very nasty diseases called Giardiasis and Cryptosporidiosis that are both waterborne diseases. They are developed from parasites found in soil and vegetation that can be transferred into local bodies of water such a rivers and lakes. If you drink infected water, you are likely to suffer symptoms such as cramping, nausea and diarrhoea for 2 weeks or more!
The best way to purify water is using purification tablets. They are quite easy to find in stores and online and are an essential for a survival kit. They tend to use either chlorine or iodine to purify the water, so check you aren’t allergic to either of these before using. The tablets need at least 30 minutes in the water to work, and you may need more than one tablet if the water you have is particularly murky.
If you don’t have any purification tablets, then boiling the water is the most natural way to purify it. Boil the water for ten minutes and then use a clean cloth or item of clothing to filter the water for any sediment.
Before you go, try and mark water sources on the map so they are easier to find. Take some light containers with you in case you need to fill them up – you can find some great foldable water pouches that take up very little room in your bag.
Take purifying tablets with you in your survival kit but also take a container that can be used for boiling water, should you need a back up plan.