Category Archives: Hiking

Hiking: How To Find Water in the Wilderness

By Scott Thompson

Let’s say you are on a hike.

Thirsty? Uh oh, out of water!

You have a method to purify your water — but there doesn’t seem to be any water around. What do do?

This can really suck. I know because I’ve been there a few times. Luckily I’ve never had to go too long without water because I know a few tricks for finding it.

On the east coast of the U.S. we have many creeks, streams, and lakes and finding water is often as easy as going to the lowest ground or continuing on the trail for another mile or two.

If you’re west of the Mississippi River it can be more difficult to find water and even dangerous if you’re far from a source.

Here are a few tips for finding water – no matter where you are.

  • Check your map or GPS map for blue lines (water)
  • Go to low ground where water drains
  • Look for clumps of bushes and/or trees
  • Follow dry creek beds. They may not be dry farther down
  • Check rock piles. Water sometimes pools in shaded areas
  • Look for old human habitations. An old farm had to have water, and there may still be water
  • Dig a few feet down in gravel washes and under vegetation, especially if the ground is already damp


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You may have noticed that these ideas seem pretty obvious after reading them. The biggest point is to remain calm and think clearly when in a wilderness survival situation. Often you can find what you need and survive if you remain calm, and use your common sense and the outdoor knowledge you already have.

Scott Thompson

On his hiking website,, Scott Thompson shares his favorite trails, gear reviews, hiking tips, outdoor news, and adventures, as well as suggestions from his readers.

Adapted from Hiking Trip Reports


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