Where can you find water that’s safe for drinking in the wilderness?
This question has been asked countless times by unprepared adventurers from around the world who suddenly find themselves with little or no water left due to poor planning.
Before we explore the various potential sources of potable water in the wilderness, it’s important that we first discuss what you shouldn’t try to drink even if you’ve been thirsty for many, many hours already.
Don’t Drink These
1. Seawater – Seawater is packed with so much salt that you will most likely vomit from drinking a few tablespoons of the stuff. If you try to drink a whole glass’ worth of seawater, you will be placing a terrible strain on your kidneys and heart.
Seawater will not quench your thirst nor will the body be able to separate the salt content from the H2O. Seawater is only useful for cooling down the skin and nothing else.
2. Animal blood – In some cultures, people drink small quantities of fresh cattle blood for its salt and protein content. However if you are in a survival situation and are already dehydrated, animal blood is as bad as sea water precisely because it contains salt.
There is also the risk of contracting pathogens such as parasites (e.g. flatworms) and bacteria from drinking animal blood. This type of fluid is also naturally rich in fat and protein which requires even more water to metabolize. So you may be consuming a fluid but your body is not really being hydrated properly.
3. Human urine – I know that the world of survival training is divided when it comes to drinking urine. Human urine is sterile when it first comes out of the body so it doesn’t pose the same risk as animal blood or contaminated water.
However, urine does contain salt and other byproducts of the body.
If you drink urine, the water that comes into the body again will only be expelled in a thicker and more toxic form. With this in mind, it is my belief that drinking urine will not be beneficial to someone who is already dehydrated.
Searching For Water
Now that you are aware of what you shouldn’t try to drink out in the wilderness, it’s time to explore your various options for locating potable water.
Take note that in a wilderness setting, it is not reasonable at all to expect the same level of water purity found at home.
Here are some ways that you can get water in the wilderness:
1. Rainwater Drainages – Rainwater follows natural paths throughout the land. Try to find the path where fresh rainwater flows. If all you can find are dry depressions and hollow areas where water used to be, it’s possible that the water has seeped underneath. Dig a little to see if there’s still water underneath the soil.
2. Dense Vegetation – If you see a part of the land where there is an unusually large patch of vegetation, it’s possible that there is plenty of water underneath the plants. Again, you would have to dig to discover if you can find the “elixir of life” underneath all the leaves and roots.
3. Wet Spots – A “wet spot” is a characteristically moist area in an otherwise dry landscape. Wet spots usually mean that there is available water underneath the surface of the soil. Start digging and get some, fast!
4. Large, Cracked Rocks – Cracked rocks are like pitchers and jars. They’re excellent in holding water and they’re relatively easy to explore. See if Mother Nature hid some water in the rocks nearby.
5. Animal Trails – The beaten path that animals follow either lead to food or water. If you find a well-treaded animal trail and have exhausted all possible locations nearby, you may want to follow the trail as it may lead you straight to a freshwater supply.
6. Birds in Flight – Birds that are flying high are often looking for prey or heading back to their nests. When birds suddenly fly low, it’s possible that they have found water and they’re preparing to drink. You can orient yourself using the general direction of low-flying birds.
7. Flying Insects – Flying insect are almost always searching for easy sources of moisture. If you find a large swathe of flying bugs travelling in a particular direction, these critters just might lead you to a full drink of water. Try to follow them and see where they’re headed. The same principle applies to crawling insects such as ants.