Best water sources in the wilderness

Nick Oetken

One of the most crucial survival skills you should know is being able to find water sources, and then purifying the water so it’s safe to drink. Why? Well, water is the most important thing your body needs. Although you can survive without water for up to three days, you will feel the negative effects of dehydration in less than one.

While the obvious water source would be a stream, river, or lake, you might find yourself in a situation where there isn’t any of those around you. So, what to do if you get stuck in the wild and there is no lake or river around?

In this article, we will learn about different sources of water, and the ways you can purify and make it safe for drinking.

Streams, lakes, and rivers

A stream in the forest
A stream in the forest

While streams, lakes, and rivers are your best water source in the wilderness, there are still some safety concerns you should take into account before consuming it. Make sure you never drink any water that is downstream of animal faeces, excessively filthy, or water in an area close to a chemical or nuclear plant. Generally, water from streams and lakes is not safe to drink right away, so make sure you filter and purify it before consuming.


If you find yourself in a valley or muddy place, you will probably be able to find ground water. All you need to do is find a damp patch of ground, dig a hole around one foot deep and one foot wide and, after a short wait, water will surface. Lining the seep hole with flat stones will help to reduce the amount of sediment that gets stirred up. Collect the water in a canteen or soak it up in a cloth, and make sure you filter and purify it, in a case of contamination.

Snow and ice

Snow may not be as pure as it looks so melt and purify for a safe drink of water
Snow may not be as pure as it looks so melt and purify for a safe drink of water

Whatever you do, do not eat the snow or ice as it is. It will lower your body’s temperature and can actually lead you to dehydration. Snow can contain a high level of toxins and bacteria so make sure you melt the snow or ice into a cup and purify it to avoid any chance of disease. Avoid pink or green colored snow as this may contain algae which could make you sick.


Collecting dew water is probably one of the best ways to get to clean safe drinking water. The best time to collect is in early mornings. Just tie a cloth or bandanna around your legs, and walk around in dense vegetation or high grass. In just a few minutes, you will collect a good amount of water. In the end, all you need to do is ring out the water into a bottle and drink up.

Purification methods


Boil water to kill off any bacteria or parasites
Boil water to kill off any bacteria or parasites

One of the safest and most traditional methods of purifying water is boiling it. By boiling the water you make sure that you kill any dangerous chemicals or bacteria that could be in the water. All you need for boiling water is a fireproof metal container and a fire. Make sure bring the water to a rolling boil for at least one minute before drinking it. Remember that water starts to boil at a lower temperature at high altitudes, so you will need to boil your water for longer.

Purification tablets

Sanitizing natural fresh water – Author: Jorge Láscar – CC BY 2.0
Sanitizing natural fresh water – Author: Jorge Láscar – CC BY 2.0

These days, purification tablets are considered to be an essential item to have in your survival kit. Since they contain iodine, make sure you avoid them if you are allergic to it. All you need to do before consuming the water is to heat it up and add one or two tablets according to the pack directions. Make sure you wait at least half hour before drinking the purified water. While purification tablets are good for purification the water, they won’t filter it.

Water filter

Water Filter – Author: thekirbster – CC BY 2.0
Water Filter – Author: thekirbster – CC BY 2.0

There are plenty of water filters on the market that are proven to be excellent in a survival situation. They are great for removing murky or visible substances from the water, but they’re less effective for removing chemicals and bacteria. That’s why it’s a good idea to use the filter together with the purification tablets or the boiling method.

If you have any comments then please drop us a message on our Outdoor Revival Facebook page

If you have a good story to tell or blog let us know about it on our FB page, we’re also happy for article or review submissions, we’d love to hear from you.

We live in a beautiful world, get out there and enjoy it. Outdoor Revival – Reconnecting us all with the Outdoors.



nick-oetken is one of the authors writing for Outdoor Revival