Finding Water in a Survival Situation

According to the rule of 3s, a person cannot survive without water for longer than 3 days. And since we’re supposed to drink 2-4 liters every day, finding water is a top priority in a survival situation. There are many considerations and strategies for staying hydrated to survive, but always remember that saltwater should never be drunk and freshwater should usually be filtered and purified before use. 

Filter and Purify Water

Filtering involves running water through something to strain debris while purifying means killing pathogens with either chemicals or heat. A clean handkerchief makes a great filter, and single walled metal water bottles can be easily heated over a campfire. Most springs and high-altitude streams can be safe to drink from without purification, but always be considerate of pathogens since getting sick will make survival even more difficult. 

Use a Water Container

Having a container is crucial since being able to collect, transport, and purify water is necessary to stay hydrated for the many hours that a survival situation might take. A container can be crafted in the field with a log that has a bowl burned into it, and hot rocks can be dropped into water to boil it. Finding something to collect and transport water in can require a high degree of resourcefulness and creativity.

Prevent Water Loss

Water leaves the body through sweating, urination, breathing, and speaking. Therefore, activity and conversation should be kept to an essential minimum and breath rates should be kept low. Also, sunlight should be avoided to avoid sweating, and salty foods can be eaten with water to help retain it. But remember that digestion consumes water, so over eating should be avoided. 

Finding Water in the Wilderness

Having a map can help locate streams, lakes, rivers, and glaciers, but you can also rely on the natural contours of the terrain to find water resources. Look for valleys, gorges, or any other depressed areas that water would drain into. The sounds of frogs, ducks, or other aquatic animals can also lead to water, and their tracks can register high traffic areas that might lead to a place to drink. Also be sure to keep an eye out for patches of aquatic vegetation like cattails and willow.

Methods of Water Collection

Rain water can be collected into a container using a wide sheet that has been stretched between trees with coradage. Clothing can be used to soak up the morning dew from grass before wringing it out into a container. A sheet can also be secured over something green to capture it’s moisture, and digging to find water is sometimes an option. There are many creative and resourceful methods of water collection to be learned through training.

Avoid and Treat Dehydration

It’s best to drink all the day’s water in two periods that are 4 to 6 hours apart. Do not sip water throughout the day since the body processes fluids less efficiently this way. Before consuming these two daily rations, make sure to put some salt in your mouth first since this will help retain what you drink. If you can see the color of your urine, know that dark colored means dehydration while totally clear means you could use some electrolytes to help retain fluids. 


Never go out into nature without something to purify water with, whether this means carrying a metal water bottle, steripen, or purification tablets. Staying hydrated is a top survival priority, so be sure to keep these crucial skills honed and ready.

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