Natural Mountain Spring

Survival Skills – Finding Water

The ability to find water in the wilderness is a critical skill that you must learn if you ever venture into true wilderness.  It’s a good survival skill to know any way; you never know when you might need it.  You can learn how to find water in all environments, even in the desert.  This is a survival skill that I will elaborate on over time, but this post is a good start.

Obviously the first place to look is for surface water; streams, rivers, and lakes.  Any water you take from these sources will need to be boiled or treated.  The one exception I would consider in a desperate situation would be a high mountain stream.  But however appealing this water may look, it can still carry bacteria, especially if it is water from a melting glacier or snow pack, or if there is a dead elk carcass lying in the water twenty feet upstream.

If you are in the mountains, you will come across many fresh water springs.  These are places where water comes directly out of the ground,


Spring Water Filtered Through a Tube

usually in a very small amount at the base of a slope.  This is rain and snowpack that at one time fell much higher on the terrain and has seepeddeep down through the mountain and found a way out into a valley.  I have used natural springs like this for years on elk hunting trips, usingonly a short piece of garden hose with a piece of cloth taped over one end to filter out pieces of sediment.  This water is very pure, the cleanest water you may ever drink.  A spring does not have the same risks as a flowing stream or a lake, and I am confident drinking this water.  However, if you are not confident, it’s always a good idea to boil it or treat it with water purification tablets, which you should always keep in your survival gear.If there is no surface water available, look for signs that indicate water is under the soil. Look for these things:

  •  Valleys and low areas are places where water naturally drains.
  • A sharp bend in a dry stream bed with a tall bank on the north side.
  • Muddy or damp ground.
  • Rock crevices where rain water may have collected.
  • Patches of green vegetation indicate water of some sort.
  • Places where animal tracks converge indicate a water source nearby.
  • Insects, as they often stay close to water.
  • Birds, as they will often circle above or fly to a watering hole.

If you find an area where you suspect water may be under the surface, dig into the soil until water starts to fill the hole.  Let enough water fill up that you can use, then allow this muddy water to settle and become clear.  In a later post I will teach you how to make a water filter, but this process will at least get you something that you can boil.