How to find WATER in survival situations

Guide to outdoor camping, bushcraft and survival situations : Collecting, Finding, Filtering, Distilling Water…
Equipment, Videos, Pdf’s, Links



1. Meaning of water
2. Read the land
3. Water from plants
4. Water safe do drink?
5. Water filtration
6. Water distillation
7. Other Methods
8. Equipment
7. Links & Resources


Information’s provided on this website are not complete and are for information purposes and to use at own risk only!


1. Meaning of water in survival situations and human dependency

Water is probably the most important resource of all for all life on the planet. It is an resource with many secrets to us.
A resource that might soon be reason for more conflict on the planet. We haven’t really taken care of it as with so many other things too. We have forgotten about our total dependence on water, partly because it seems to be universally available and since most of us have never experienced disappointment when turning on the water tab.

Rule of thumb says that man can survive up to 30 days without food and up to three days without water!
In extreme climates of utmost heat or cold it might even be difficult to survive for one day…
So water is crucial for our survival hence we should all take great care of our water. In any situation water availability, accessibility and quality will define the feasibility to stay at a place as well as our well being.

There are many different ways to obtain water in a survival situation or a in a voluntary outdoor camping situation.
Some of them are by reading the land – seeing landforms that have been shaped by water, seeing valleys and ravines, seeing where the vegetation is greenest, from rock cliffs and faces, by digging in dried river beds, from plant roots, morning dew, rain water collection, creeks and rivers, salt-water desalination, caves and puddles your own urine …

In an emergency situation water is second priority after shelter. I explain reasons for that in the Page about SHELTER!
If possible the place for shelter should be near a water source most obvious to stop water loss trough sweating.
2. Read and understand the land

No matter if in a survival situation or recreational camping situation the most important method and skill for finding water is to be able to read the land.
As you travel trough the landscape you should go to points with higher altitude to see what surrounds you.
Generally speaking valleys and deep slopes, big ditches can be an indicator for water, since water is of course always going down. Even in dried riverbeds water can be found. Again look for deep points. Shady places, under rocks etc. can have water stored under the ground. Try to dig at these places, if the sand is moist you are at the right spot.
Areas with thick and extensive vegetation especially if they stick out against the rest of the landscape can be a sign of water. Outside of the forest or along the edges morning dew will fall which can be collected with a piece of cloth(your shirt) wrapped around your shins. Observe the weather prepare yourself for rain to collect and store it.
Where there is forest, there will be rain. Forest are better suitable for humans than other environments for many reasons. Cliffs, high rocks etc. can also indicate water. Rocks are a huge rain water storage and water, partly ancient water can seep through. It might only be a minor source of water but it even if it is just a small seepage it can be collected by channelling water into your container by using any sort of string or laces.

3. Water from Plants

Plants can be source of water as much as they can be a sign of water.
Bamboo for instance holds water in its trunk and is a great water source. Some of the sections are hollow others are filled with drinking water. Knock a hole in the once that aren’t hollow if the water is clear it is drinkable.

Jungle vines transport large quantities of water. You can cut them and water will drip out. If the fluid is clear it should be safe to drink. Don’t drink it, if the water is milky or white and not clear in colour!
Coconuts obvious are a great source of water. Coconut water is clean and sanitary enough for infusions.

Banana trees are stacked full with water no part is poisonous and all the plants water can be consumed.
You can chew on every part of it to get to the water. The flower, fruits and heart of the stem are edible.
If you cut the tree 30cm above the ground and hollow it out it will continue to draw up water for two to three days.

  IMG_2852 IMG_2853

4. What water can I drink?

To know whether or not water is drinkable can almost never be said for 100% certain. Water becomes unfit for consumption due to the pollution and contamination primarily trough human activity and interference with a water source. That includes pollution trough chemicals, sewage and also livestock.
Water not polluted by humans can also be non drinkable, due to pathogen contamination and chemical contamination caused by volcanic activity for instance. There are some guidelines to rule out the safeness of water.
Water that is in flow and the place you want to use water from is above any human settlements is likely to be safe.
Especially in warm climates this water should still be boiled due to dangerous pathogens that could be living in the water. If you find a water source water straight from the earth and you collected at its very start should be safe to drink. In remote areas in the colder climates like Scandinavia or north America even the water from many lakes are clean drinking water. Rainwater collected in a healthy environment without air pollution is always great drinking water.

5. Filtering water with improvised filter methods
Wet sand can be put in a sock and squeezed to collect water trapped in sand. A dirty source of water can be pre filtered or even made drinkable by simply digging a hole next to the water source. Water will drain into the hole and after a while particles will sink to the bottom so the water will be cleaner to drink. This method doesn’t replace a proper filter but it will be good enough in an emergency situation or as prefiltration method.

Another simple way to prefilter water is to simply pour it through a piece of cloth or a shirt the more layers the better the filter.

To boil water is of course the safest way to make water drinkable. To be very sure 10 minutes of boiling will kill everything in the water. If no pot is available there are also several alternative methods to bring water to the boil. One is to fill water in anything that can hold water like a big shell, a hollowed tree trunk or what ever you can think of. Putting hot rocks heated in the fire into the water will also bring it to the boil. Bamboo is another excellent natural cooking utensil in which water can be cooked! With great afford and skill your own pottery could be made from clay burned in the fire. If worst comes to worst water can be boiled in plastic bottle filled with water to the top an hang over a fire. The water will contain toxins from the plastic. This should be considered only in emergencies!

Improvised water filter

IMG_0581 IMG_0592 IMG_0616 IMG_0627 IMG_0654 IMG_0668

1. Cut a piece of bamboo (or any container at hand) bottom side closed top side open. 2. Cut a pinhole in the bottom.
3. Source your ingredients. Gravel, fine sand, charcoal! (most important component), fine straw or moss, piece of cloth
4. Fill your container with ingredients and compress every layer a little bit. In that order: Piece of cloth, gravel, charcoal, cloth or straw, sand, gravel, straw or moss and a piece of cloth(the cloth is not essential for the filter but will improve water quality) 5. Filter ready 6. Hang up filter and pour in dirty water slowly and collect it at the bottom.

The water should be coming out slowly drop by drop so it can remain in the filter and in the charcoal long enough to clean properly! It will take a while to get a drink out of it. The bigger the amount of each layer the better the result with the charcoal being the most important layer as it kills bacteria so there should be plenty in your filter fine powder and bigger chunks too. Amounts for the layers on the picture are not suitable as a guideline!
Once the job is done the water should be clean and safe to drink.

6. How to make saltwater drinkable – Water distillation and sun stills

Salt water is of course non drinkable water. Every consumption of salt water will increase and exhilarate dehydration.
Salt water should never be drunken! In a life-or-death situation drinking salt water could be fatal.
However salt water can be turned back into fresh water suitable for drinking through the process of distillation using the sun or fire. Distilled water will drain minerals and salt from the body and can be deadly if consumed for a long period of time. Lack of minerals can be balanced out by adding small amounts of salt and maybe even sand to the water after distilling it. Desalination requires materials not to be found in nature.
Other distillation methods are by means of using the sun called sun stills. Wrapping a big sheet of plastic airtight around branches with many green leafs will collect some water through transpiration. Similarly a hole can be dug and filled with leafs and other greenery and covered with a big sheet of plastic airtight with a container placed under the sheet in the middle. A weight like a small stone is put in the centre so transpiring water collecting at the sheet will run off and drip into the container. Almost any water including your own urine can be used for this process to provide you with clean drinking water.
All distillation methods whether to desalinate water or to obtain water by using sun stills require additional equipment  which is unlikely to be at hand in an survival situation or when camping nor do most of these methods show much efficiency. Only when many of these set ups are in place in combination with the conservation of body fluids through could shelter etc. these methods can provide enough water for survival.

7. Other methods

Outside of forest morning dew can be collected by simply tying pieces of fabric to your shines and taking a walk trough the high grass. Rinsing your cloth into a container from time to time will collect quite a bit of water.

Rain water collecting is essential. Rain water collection is all about preparation. Making containers, building a roof from which water can be easily collected, digging a ditch where water can collect and so forth.
To collect water is a priority if there is a remote chance for rain! Collecting and storing rain water can make all the difference.

Water conservation. Don’t move in the heat of the day travel at night. Keep your mouth closed and all activities to minimum. Food can further dehydrate you as water is required for digestion.

8. Equipment

It’s good to learn and practise how to live and survive with out gear for proper self-reliance though it is not smart to put yourself and others into unnecessary risk. The gear I am recommending is the gear that I am travelling with and that I take for most of my outdoor survival activities.


  • a water bottle

Klean Kanteen water bottleI recommend not to buy or bring plastic bottles. Plastics are unhealthy, unsustainable and not very long lasting.
KLEAN KANTEEN is a sustainable long lasting product but any comparable product will do.



  • Pot and or Cup – at least one item for cooking

Billycan & crusader cup I travel with a Crusader cup (right) but any stainless steel product will do.
Also I use an approximately 1.5 l billycan with a lid (left).
I don’t use aluminium as there are also health concerns around aluminium products
and stainless steel is a long lasting robust material.



  • Mini Water Filter

waterfilter katadyn I travel with a filter from KATADYN. I haven’t used it very often but it is a tool that gives you the confidence to stay outdoors for very long without any need to carry much water. Only of course if you know how to find water!

water container

These are extremely practical for every traveller, adventurer or any outdoor enthusiast. These pouches are light and very small when empty. They can be used multifunctional as a pillow or a float.
Try to find a product of high quality and high commitment of the producer
as with cheaper products the water gets a plastic taste.





There are infinite systems and products and combination that one can buy. I believe for survival – self-reliance and deep nature experiences it is of importance to try to minimize your gear as much as possible and rather focus on self-reliance skills without compromising the safety of you and others. A minimum amount of high quality gear from sustainable resources with good long lasting quality will provide safety and comfort to enjoy any outdoor camping adventure.

More about Gear on the Page about EQUIPMENT

Conclusions – Links & Resources

This article is not complete! There are many more ways to obtain water. I hope though that you have learned some new insides on survival and self-reliance so you can feel more comfortable going out there exploring life and nature.


I appreciate any advice,criticism, feedback, questions or additional information! Feel free to add and share your experience and knowledge – This PAGE is for sharing and inspiration! – Participate!


Share the content of this Blog with others and forward the link.


This page will continue to grow in quality and quantity as I go and experiment with new tricks and techniques.
Come back from time to time If you like to



                                                     SURVIVAL TV SHOWS

                                                                        MY OUTDOOR SURVIVAL TRIPS

                                                                                                   HOW TO BUILD AN OUTDOOR SURVIVAL SHELTER

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