How to find fresh water when camping

Water ensures that our body functions efficiently and gives you a chance to survive. It’s no wonder that one of the first things you need to learn when you go camping is how to find freshwater!

If that’s the first thing you need to learn, then one of the first questions you need to ask is: when is water suitable for drinking?

Water is suitable for consumption if it does not contain microbes and bacteria that are dangerous to our body. This means. only water obtained through evaporation and rainwater (provided that it is collected from clean surfaces and does not contain air pollution) is directly suitable for drinking.

All other water should be boiled for a minimum of 10 minutes to ensure that it is potable. Remember that water does not boil at the same temperature everywhere. In high mountain areas, water can boil already at 90 degrees – this will not kill most bacteria and could mean you might get sick.

How can animals help you find water?

If you don’t know how to find freshwater, then a common trick is that wild animals will often help you. If you follow the footsteps of animals you may find a water source.


You can find out where the water is by following the birds. Those that fly low, such as ducks or loons, most likely go to a water source. Do not forget that birds usually drink after sunrise and just before sunset. Observing them at this time makes the most sense and can give the best results.

Insects and frogs

The presence of small flies or mosquitoes in the air indicates that there is a water source nearby. The same applies to frogs. A common strategy is to hike through the woods and listen for the distinctive “buzz” sound you hear with flying mosquitos. If you hear this sound, then the odds are good you’ll find water.

How to collect water from the surroundings

It is best to collect water during rain (rainwater) or just after sunrise. At this time of day, you often won’t have to contend with animals who are also looking for water.

Rainwater harvesting

Rainwater is easy to harvest, however, it is not practical to take more than a few large buckets with you. If you collect rainwater for the bucket or a bowl and you have some waterproof material – use it! Spread it in such a way that the water that falls on it flows into the bucket. Besides, you can put your shirt on the ground and wait until it’s wet. Then squeeze it so that the freshwater will fall into the bucket.

Dew harvesting

Let’s start with the simplest way to obtain dew. The easiest way to collect dew is to put on long pants and get into the highest grass. Then you squeeze your pants or suck water out of them. This method of collecting dew can be modified in many ways. You can also collect dew harvest it by wiping the plants with a piece of cloth or simply drink the dew straight from the leaves. Dew harvesting is a good option – as long as you have enough plants around you. It is usually safe to drink. However, remember that each case must be considered individually – e.g. collecting dew from the surface of poisonous plants seems like a bad idea.

Underground water

If all other methods have failed you can try the following to help you locate fresh water. You will need to find an area surrounded by lush vegetation and start digging where the plants grow to a depth of about 30 cm. If you’re lucky you’ll find shallow groundwater. This method also works in the case of a dry riverbed.

Evaporation of water from soil and plants.

With this method, you evaporate water from plants, soil, and clothing – but it requires specific materials that you need to take from home. The simplest method of evaporation is to dig a hole in the ground, put a bowl or a bucket in it, cover the hole with a piece of waterproof material, and put a stone on the material. If the soil is dry, you can put wet clothes or freshly picked grass or leaves around the bucket. To evaporate water from plants you need a fairly large sack. You lay it on branches that are rich in leaves. Due to the evaporation process, water condenses on the bottom of the bag. It is best to put a transparent bag on the branches of birch. Birch evaporates about 60 liters of water through its leaves!

How do you find water in winter?

In winter, the easiest way to collect water is by melting ice – you get the most water from it. If there is no ice, start melting snow that lies deeper in the ground – you will get more water from it than from fresh snow. Remember to never eat snow. This can lead to frostbite of the mouth or cooling down the body. If you want to melt snow it is best to put it as much as possible to a water bottle and hide it under your jacket. The heat emitted by your body will melt the ice.

Of course: not all water you will find is potable

In some places, the water is exceptionally clean and delicious at the same time. In others, it can be drunk although it is contaminated to some extent. Let’s remember, however, that our stomachs may react differently to water from streams or from underground. People with more sensitive stomachs may have some health problems even if the water is clean.

Just because the water you found seems to be fresh does not mean that it is not polluted. You will not see any bacteria with your eyes nor you will taste them. Filter the water or boil it whenever it is possible. After all, high temperature kills germs. When drawing water in the field, remember to do it with common sense.

Use your knowledge and do not depend only on your instincts. Otherwise, you will be quickly taught by the nature that not every water that seems fresh is fresh indeed. In rare cases a pleasant trip can change into a horror.

See you at the campsite!

Article Author
Sean's an avid camper, kayaker, and RVer. He loves spending time finding new trails and campsites to take his family and friends.