One of the biggest obstacles to overcome in any survival scenario is how to secure water. People can live quite some time without food, but without water, the chances of survival dwindle to just a few days. That’s why securing water is going to be at the top of anyone’s list of survival priorities—second, maybe, only to securing shelter.

Finding water in the wilderness isn’t always easy, however. Not only does a person have to find a source of water, but they also have to ensure that it’s safe to drink. And they have to make sure they secure enough water for their needs as the human body requires approximately 2-liters of water per day to function properly.

Fortunately, if a person knows what to look for, they can likely find water in all but the aridest of environments. And that’s where we come into the picture. In this guide, we’re going to show our readers what they need to know to secure potable water if they ever find themselves in a survival situation.

When Possible, Always Filter

Before we officially start this guide, we’d like to state the importance of filtering water in the wilderness. That’s because even if water appears clean, it could have potentially hazardous organisms in it. Organisms that can include Giardia lamblia, Cholera, Cryptosporidium, E. coli, and even Salmonella typhi—the organisms that can cause Typhoid Fever. Therefore, a person needs to use a filter to remove these organisms. If you happen to have been lost in the woods with an EDC Backpack that has some kind of water filter in it such as a Life Straw, then that can be used to filter the water. If not, then you had better boil the water for at least 3-minutes to kill any organisms from the water.

Look For Obvious Waterways

Rivers, creeks, and streams are the obvious sources of water for most people, and finding them in an unfamiliar area isn’t very difficult. It’s not that difficult if a person knows the signs to look for that indicate a waterway nearby. Let’s take a look at some of the signposts that can lead a person to one of these sources of water.

Animals and birds will know where water is in their environments, so start by looking for animal tracks or by examining the morning and evening flight paths of birds. Areas that have lush vegetation and clouds of insects are also pretty good indications that water might be nearby.

A person should keep moving until they find a source of water, and whenever they rest, they should listen for sounds of water since streams make quite a bit of noise in quiet forests. It’s also a good idea for a person to look for low lying areas where water might collect as it flows downhill.

Dig For Ground Water

Muddy areas might be an indication that there’s groundwater close to the surface. One way to find out is to dig a hole about a foot deep and a foot in diameter. Once that hole has been dug, the next thing to do is to just wait. If there’s groundwater, then the hole may begin to fill up with water. Just keep in mind that this water, like all sources of natural water, needs to be properly filtered or boiled to be potable.

Melt Snow Or Ice

If you’re in a frigid environment, you might want to try to melt snow and ice. This can be done over a fire, or if it’s a dire emergency, by using your body heat. Just be sure not to reduce your body temperature in frigid environments or you’ll end up with hypothermia. It’s also not advisable to eat snow or ice, as it can lower core body temperature and lead to dehydration. All sources of water need to be purified, even water that’s been snow or ice so that it’s safe to drink.

Wrap A Branch In Plastic

Another way of obtaining water is by wrapping a plant or tree branch in plastic and allowing it to sit for 5-8 hours. Plants and tree respirate water vapor through their leaves, so some water will begin to collect in the plastic bag after a while. This works best if the plastic-covered branch is in sunlight. However, it should be mentioned that some trees and plants respirate more water than others. Willow trees and cottonwoods produce a lot of water vapor, while oaks tend to produce the least. Another thing we’d like to mention is to not tie the plastic bag too tightly around the plant or you may end up killing it. Make sure the bag is airtight but that it doesn’t pinch off the plant’s circulation.

Collect Rainwater

Collecting rainwater is also a viable option during the rainy season in some areas. This is done by using a container and tying a tarp by its three corners to some trees. The bottom of the tarp is then left to sag over the container. The large surface area will collect a decent amount of water and direct it into your container. If a tarp isn’t available, then a person can always use something else like the outer portion of a sleeping bag liner or the material from a pop-up tent.

Make A Solar Water Still

Another viable option of obtaining water is to create a solar water still. Of course, to build a useable solar still, you’re going to need a few items, a sufficiently sunny location, and plenty of time. Below are some of the tools you’ll need to complete this project.

Items Needed:

  • Plastic Sheeting
  • Something To Dig With
  • A Container
  • Some Rocks
  • A Tube That Can Be Used As A Straw


Starting with a moist area, dig a hole that’s about 2-feet deep and 3-feet in diameter. Make sure the bottom is flat and dug out enough to hold whatever cup or container you have to place in it. Place the container in it, place the drinking tube in the container, and run it up and out of the hole. Place the plastic sheeting over the hole and pin it down on its sides with rocks to hold it in place. Place a small rock in the center to cause the plastic sheeting to hang over the cup.

Over time, condensation will build-up, form on the plastic and if the still is set up correctly, it will drip into the cup. A solar still of this type should produce approximately a quart of water per day, so if possible, build several stills at one time for the best results.