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Five ways to find water in the wilderness

It does you little good to have all the purifying equipment in the world if you can’t find water to purify. There’s a variety of methods that you’ll want to be able to employ depending on the demands of your situation.

Basic awareness

Start with the basics. Slow down and listen. Running water has a distinctive sound and you can usually hear it a long ways off. Clear running water is your best bet, but it will largely depend on what filtration and purification methods you have available to you at the time.

If you’re unfamiliar with the area, look for green vegetation and go towards it. The greener the better, and you’ll quickly find the plant types change as you get closer to a creek, stream, or other body of water. If it’s sizable, you’ll be able to feel the humidity as well.

Observe animal behavior

Watching animal behavior: is one of the best methods around. Where there are animals there’s bound to be water, since they need it to survive just as much as we do. Of course, following a doe to the nearest watering hole isn’t exactly going to help much, so instead you’ll have to learn some other tricks.

Insects, for instance, can often lead you to sources of water you’d never see otherwise.

  • Bees, for instance, require freshwater at regular intervals and this means that they’ll need to build their nests within a couple of miles of a source of it. They’re not the best indicator, but they will definitely let you know that there’s water somewhere within reach.
  • Ants, on the other hand, can lead you directly to it. Seeing a line of ants going up a tree and into a hollow may indicate a source of water which has soaked through the wood.
  • ​Likewise, birds can be one of the best indicators. Birds will tend to guide their flocks towards water, which means that seeing a group of them there’s usually water nearby. They’ll tend to be flying close to the ground and quickly on their way to water, and they’ll often be slow and almost meandering their way through the tree tops while leaving it. 
  • Not all birds are good indicators, however. Carnivorous birds, for instance, have a huge range and get most of their moisture from their prey. This means that just seeing a hawk isn’t going to mean there’s water around.
  • ​Oddly enough, water-dwelling birds like geese and duck are not a particularly good indicator. These birds often fly high and for rather large distances between bodies of water.
  • Mammals are an iffy bet. Looking for well-worn animal trails can be a good idea. One thing to keep in mind here, however, is that pigs and some other mammals are never too far from a source of water so following their tracks can be a good start.

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