Where do I find water when lost in the woods?

A typical survival scenario that people may find themselves in is getting lost in the woods. This is something that can happen to anyone, even a seasoned hiker.

In most cases, people are found within a short time after not returning home, however, it is essential to know how to stay alive in these situations. After taking care of the most critical issue (maintaining your core body temperature), water will be the next item you will want to take action to fix. Chances are, if you are hiking, you may have a water bottle/bladder with you and may have water in this. But if you do not or have run out of water, here are a few things that may just save your life and help you become a better survivor. 

Streams & Lakes 

Streams and lakes seem like an obvious choice for finding water when you are lost, but they may cause more harm than good unless you can purify the water. Bacteria or animal waste can cause issues if ingested, which may lead to diarrhea. Moving water like rivers and streams are much safer than standing water in these situations, and getting as close to the source of the water will lessen your chances of any issues. Any standing water such as lakes should be purified or filtered before consuming. You can read more about how to purify water here. (Link to purification article) 

Rock outcroppings & wet ground

Often rock outcroppings can contain small pools of water. These small pools can still contain bacteria and algae, so it is essential to purify the water before drinking. If the puddle in the outcropping is too shallow to dip your container into, you can always soak up the water by using a shirt or bandanna, then wringing it out into the bottle or container. 

If you find damp or wet ground, there is a good chance that there is water underneath. To find water, dig a hole about a foot deep and wait a short time. There is a good chance that your patience will pay off, and you will soon have some water in the hole. This water will be dirty but drinkable. You will need to filter out the sediment, but you should be good to go once filtered. 

Rainwater and dew

If you have a raincoat or a poncho, you can use this to catch water if it rains. While rain is unreliable (depending on your climate), it is one of the cleaner water sources to drink when stranded in the woods. 

Morning dew is a great way to find water. It may be a lot of work to fill a bottle, but it may be just enough to get you through till you find more. Again the best way to collect this is by using a shirt or bandanna to soak up the dew and then wring it out into your container. 

Solar still

For a solar still, you will need patience and time. To build this, you will dig a hole. The hole needs to be deep enough to fit your container and have room for the covering to dip. Once you have the hole, you can place some vegetation around your container to help with the condensation buildup. Cover this hole with a tarp, poncho, or even the rain cover to your tent (if you have one). Secure the edges using rocks and/or dirt. Once secure, find a small stone, and place it in the middle of the tarp and lightly push it down so that the tarp is angled down. Remember to keep the tarp above the container so that the water that forms from condensation can drip into the container. Distillation will take 24-48 hours to make enough water to drink, so avoid opening the sides to check as you will let out all the moisture. (If you have a tube from a water bladder, you can run this tube into the container, then up the sides and out of the hole under the tarp. This way, you can drink without releasing the moisture that is building up.)

Finally, no matter what, remember that while the rule of 3’s states that you can go three days without water, there are some issues with this. Most people are already dehydrated; if you have been exerting yourself, you may become even more dehydrated. But just know that you have time to find water before it gets bad. Stay calm and remember the above steps, and in turn, you can survive getting lost in the woods. 

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