Bushcraft Skills: Water – Finding it and Purifying it

Survival skills are essential for anyone planning to venture into the wilderness. Among the most important skills is the ability to find and purify water. In this article, we will cover everything you need to know about bushcraft skills: water – finding it and purifying it. From understanding the importance of water to identifying different water sources and the methods of purification, we will equip you with the knowledge to stay safe and hydrated on your next wilderness adventure. Whether you’re out bushcrafting, camping, hiking, or in a survival situation, knowing how to locate and make safe drinking water is essential for staying hydrated and healthy. So the next time you are out practicing your survival skills, before you get thirsty, practice your water finding and purifying skills. Practice makes perfect.

Understanding the Importance of Water

  • The Role of Water in the Body
  • Effects of Dehydration
  • Importance of Hydration in the Wilderness

Understanding the Importance of Water for survival : 

Water is a crucial element that sustains all living beings on Earth. It is necessary for various bodily functions and processes, as well as for maintaining the planet’s ecosystems. Water is an essential nutrient that is required in large quantities for proper body function. Additionally, it is necessary for the production of various substances in the body, including saliva, mucus, and joint fluid. Water is also important for regulating body temperature and aiding in the digestion of food. Dehydration can directly affect your ability to concentrate so being well hydrated in a survival situation is key. 

  • The human body is 60% water and requires regular hydration to function properly.
  • Dehydration can lead to headaches, fatigue, dizziness, lap’s in concertation and even death in extreme cases.
  • In the wilderness, access to clean drinking water can be limited, making it essential to prioritise hydration.
  • We ideally need about two litres of fresh water a day to stay hydrated.

The Role of Water in the Body:

Water plays an essential role in various bodily functions, including digestion, absorption, and transportation of nutrients. It helps regulate body temperature, maintain electrolyte balance, and transport waste products out of the body. Water is essential for the proper functioning of the circulatory, respiratory, and digestive systems, as well as for maintaining healthy skin and joints. Additionally, water plays a vital role in supporting healthy brain function, including memory and concentration.

Effects of Dehydration:

Dehydration occurs when the body loses more water than it takes in. This can happen due to a lack of water intake or excessive sweating, vomiting, or diarrhea. The effects of dehydration can range from mild to severe and can include dry mouth, fatigue, dizziness, headache, and confusion. In severe cases, dehydration can lead to heat exhaustion or heatstroke, which can be life-threatening.

Importance of Hydration in the Wilderness:

Hydration is particularly crucial when spending time in the wilderness, where water sources may be limited. Proper hydration is essential for maintaining energy levels, regulating body temperature, and preventing dehydration. It is essential to carry enough water and know how to identify and treat water sources to avoid dehydration.

Identifying Water Sources

Finding Water Sources: The first step in finding water is knowing where to look. Here are some tips for identifying potential water sources in the wild:

Look for Natural Water Sources

Natural sources of water, such as rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds, are the most obvious places to look for water in the wild. However, keep in mind that not all water sources are safe to drink from, so you’ll need to take additional steps to purify the water.

Pay Attention to the Landscape

The landscape can also give you clues about where to find water. Look for signs of moisture, such as green vegetation, damp soil, or areas with a lot of insects, as these can indicate a nearby water source.

Follow Animal Trails

Animals need water just like we do, so following animal trails can lead you to a water source. Look for tracks, droppings, or areas where the ground has been disturbed by animals.

Identifying Water Sources In The Wilderness: 

  • Surface water, such as lakes, rivers, and streams, is often the easiest to access but may require purification.
  • Groundwater, found in wells and springs, is often safer to drink but can be difficult to locate.
  • Rainwater, collected in containers or tarps, can be a reliable source of drinking water but requires filtration or purification.
  • Snow and ice can be melted for drinking water, but also require purification.

Water Collection and Purification Methods

There are several methods for collecting and purifying water in the wilderness. Boiling is an effective way to kill bacteria and viruses, while chemical treatments such as iodine or chlorine can also be used. Filtration methods such as ceramic or charcoal filters can remove particles and bacteria from water. Solar disinfection involves exposing water to sunlight to kill bacteria and viruses, while distillation involves boiling water and collecting the steam to create purified water.

Purifying Water

Once you’ve found a potential water source, the next step is to purify the water to make it safe to drink. Here are some methods for purifying water in the wild:

Boiling Water

Boiling water is one of the most effective ways to purify it in the wild. Bring the water to a rolling boil for at least one minute (longer at higher elevations). This should be enough to kill most protozoan parasites and most bacteria. Although this will not neutralise chemical pollutants. Then let it cool before drinking.

Chlorine Tablets

Chlorine tablets kill bacteria, viruses and giardia, but not protozoan parasites. They are easy to use and easy to carry. Add a tablet, wait 30 minutes, then drink. Not the best flavour can be masked with juice!

Filtering Water

If boiling isn’t an option, you can filter the water to remove impurities. Use a bandana or cloth to strain out any large particles, then use a water filter or to remove smaller contaminants. Not as conclusive as boiling, but most brands promise to remove 99.99% of bacteria and protozoa, however they will not remove viruses. Use it in conjunction with boiling. 

UV Filters

Ultraviolet Light kills 99.99% of bacteria, viruses and protozoa. UV pens or water filters with built in UV are ideal.

Using Natural Purifiers

In a pinch, you can also use natural materials to purify water. Charcoal, sand, and gravel can all be used to create a makeshift filter. Simply layer the materials in a container and pour the water through it.

Tips for Safe Drinking Water in the Wilderness

  • Carry Enough Water
  • Always Purify Water
  • Keep Water Clean
  • Be Aware of Animal Waste

Tips for Safe Drinking Water in the Wilderness: To ensure safe drinking water in the wilderness, it is important to carry enough water and know how to identify and treat water sources. Always purify water before consumption using one of the methods mentioned above. Keep water clean by avoiding contamination with dirt, debris, or animal waste. 


Mastering the bushcraft skills of finding and purifying water is essential for anyone who spends time in the wilderness. By knowing where to look for water and how to make it safe to drink, you’ll be better equipped to handle any survival situation that comes your way. Remember to always purify water before drinking it, and stay hydrated to stay healthy and safe.



Q: How much water do I need to drink in the wild?

A: The amount of water you need to drink depends on a variety of factors, such as your body weight, activity level, and climate. As a general rule, aim for at least 2 liters of water per day.

Q: How do I know if water is safe to drink?

A: Even if water looks clean, it may still contain harmful bacteria or parasites. Always purify water before drinking it in the wild.



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