Survival Skills: Water Gathering

Our bodies are composed of around 60 percent water. It cannot be said enough how vital and necessary it is for us to live. Take this into reference: dehydration can kill a person in just 3 days while death from hunger can kill in upwards of 35.

If you’re stranded in the wilderness, where you’ll perspire and rapidly lose fluids, one of the most key factors for you to survive will be your ability to constantly secure drinkable water. Your skills in water gathering will be tested when you’re out there and it’ll be one of those differences between life and death.

Water Gathering: What you need, Where and How?

For you to have potable water, you will first need a container and it could be any of these:

  • Canteen
  • Cup
  • Can
  • Water Jug
  • Other similar types of containers
  • If you’ll find yourself not having any of the above, you may improvise from plastic or water-resistant cloth. Through pleating plastic or cloth and holding it up with pins, your hands or the like, you’ll be able to shape it into a bowl.

Different environments and climates will lead to different sources for water gathering:

In frigid areas, your primary source of water will come from snow and ice. You’ll have to melt and purify the water first before you eat or drink it as it can otherwise reduce body temperature and lead to you feeling more dehydrated.

At sea, you’ll either have seawater, rain or sea ice as sources for gathering water. For seawater, you must use a desalinator else your body will take in too much salt from the type of water and eventually fail (kidneys), For rain, you may gather it by catching it in a tarp or in other types of containers (refer to the aforementioned list); make sure the containers you’ll use will be free from salt. For sea ice, the process is similar as with the ice from frigid areas. Sea ice that has the color gray or is opaque contains salt and should be desalinated.

In beach type areas, you’ll have the ground and freshwater as sources. For the ground, dig a hole deep enough to allow water to enter; get rocks, build a fire and then heat said rocks; drop those rocks in the water; hold a piece of cloth over the hole to absorb the steam; then wring the water from the cloth. Another method would be if a container or bark pot is available: Fill the container or pot up with seawater; build a fire and then boil the water to make steam; hold a piece of cloth over the container to absorb the steam; then wring the water from the cloth. For freshwater, try to dig behind a group of sand dunes. You may find water for gathering.

In the desert, water can be found in the ground, cacti, depressions or holes in rocks, fissures in rocks, porous rock and surfaces that are metal where and when condensation takes place. Water in the ground can usually be found in valleys and low areas, at the foot ends of the concave banks of dry rivers, at the foot of cliffs or rock outcrops, at the depressions behind sand dunes of dry lakes, wherever you find damp surface sand and wherever you can find green vegetation. You’ll have to dig deep enough for water to seep in. For cacti, you’ll have to cut off the top of a barrel cactus and then squeeze its pulp; do not eat the pulp instead place the pulp in your mouth, suck out its juice and then discard it. This will be hard without a machete. For depressions or holes in rocks, periodic rainfall may collect rainwater in pools, seep into fissures or collect into the holes in rocks. For fissures in rock, you’ll want to insert flexible tubing and siphon the water. If the fissure is large enough, you can try to lower a container into it; water gathering from porous rock is done the same. For condensations on metal, use a piece of cloth to absorb water and then wring the water from the cloth. The extreme temperature variations between night and day can lead to condensation on metal surfaces. The signs to watch out for in the desert to help you find water are trails, signs of camps, campfire ashes, animal droppings and trampled terrain may signal trails, and flocks of birds circling over water holes.

In forest or jungle type areas, you can usually find water in streams, lakes, ponds and rivers; common-sense really. You can also collect from rainwater.

Alcoholic beverages, urine, blood or seawater should not be substitutes for actual drinkable water. Make sure you purify the water you get from your water gathering trips before drinking it. You can find water that’s already clean and purified inside of plants. Sap can also be collected by tapping broad-leaved trees. You can also build a still and use that to draw moisture to collect but it will require some time, effort and resources.

There are more, other places and ways for water gathering so don’t be limited by what’s been listed here in this article. Remember, water will be key to your survival.


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