Survival Basics

Finding Water in the Wild

One of the more challenging things about surviving in the wild is coming up with enough water. There are places where water is bountiful, but that’s not everywhere. Even areas of the country which aren’t considered to be arid can have water shortages, such as high up in the mountains. But without adequate water, our life expectancy drops to about three days.

It’s more or less impossible to carry enough water with us, if we are on foot. Using the commonly understood “one gallon of water per person, per day” that would mean carrying just shy of 25 pounds of water per person. Unless your bug out bag is half empty, that’s enough to put you over the reasonable weight limit for a backpack. 

Finding water as we travel and in our survival retreat is the only realistic alternative. That means, in part, selecting a location for your survival retreat which is close to water. But what about while you’re traveling? What do you do if you find yourself lost in the wilderness, without transportation? How can you find water then?

Go Downhill

As we all learned in elementary school science, water always flows downhill. So wherever you are, start by going downhill. You’ll be more likely to find water there. 

If you’re in the mountains, look for the nearest ravine and follow it downhill. During a rainfall, water will probably flow down that ravine and may be captured in pools, especially in areas with abundant shade. Following the ravine will both take you downhill and possibly lead you to hidden sources of water. 

When you get to the bottom of that ravine, continue downhill. Even if the land appears flat, as it will in many valleys, there’s always a direction that is downhill. Find it and use it. If there’s a river or stream in that valley, it will follow the lowest point. 

Look for Green

Plants need water to grow and survive as much as we do. So keep your eyes out for areas with more plant growth than the surrounding area. Those will either indicate where water is or where it flows. In some places, like the desert, there may be a line of trees along a dry riverbed. That’s because when it does rain, that’s the place where the trees will have the most water. 

Even if a watercourse is dry, it could lead to water. As I mentioned about the ravine, there can be hidden pools of water, even in a desert. Check shaded areas especially carefully, as they will hold water the longest. 

Look for Mud 

As you’re checking those watercourse, keep your eyes open for mud or dry, cracked mud. Mud will be most likely to occur where the elevation is the lowest, because water will accumulate there. Digging down into the mud and creating a hole could create a seep, where water from the surrounding soil trickles into the hole. 

Finding Water in the Wild

If there’s nothing but dry, cracked mud, there still might be water underground. Try digging down a couple of feet, to see if you encounter mud. If so, then try to dig a seep there. 

Watch the Animals

All animals need water too. Most will water early in the morning and late at night. So, keep your eyes open for any animals and watch to see where they are going. If it is early or late, they are likely either going to water or returning from it. Bees also need water and have led more than one lost person to it. 

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