April 24, 2015 Comments (0) Adventure, Gear, How To, Safety and Survival, Travel Hacks, Travel Tips

Travel Hack #6: How To Find Water

how to find water

Welcome to Another Travel Hacks Friday. As part of a new series, every Friday, we will be introducing new travel hacks for outdoor and urban adventures. We will scour the web for the best and most practical hacks, as well as dig into our reserves and share our own awesome moments of ingenuity!


Last week I introduced a survival hack about how, through evaporation and capture, drinking salt water was a very possible life-saving survival skill in extreme circumstances. But for most, the likelihood of being stranded on a deserted island or clinging to a rubber dingy in the middle of the ocean will be astronomically rare. A more realistic scenario is that you’ll find yourself lost in the backcountry, fresh out of water, determined to chew whatever liquid you can muster from the bark of the tree. You wouldn’t be completely mad in trying, but you have a better chance sucking the fillings out of your teeth than getting any water that way.

Even though you can’t see it, water is all around us: it’s in the ground, the trees and the air. The difficulty is knowing how to find water and then being able to extract enough potable water where your hydration is greater than your dehydration. If you’re like me and always have your LifeStraw or Iodine tablets with you, let me be the first to say – You Rock! Preparation is akin to survival and you should pat yourself on the back. But what if there isn’t any free flowing streams or lakes around you for miles? In order to be able to filter or purify water, you need a water source. Since water dowsing is an art that few of us will ever be well versed in, we’ll have to resort to more helpful techniques in finding a water source.

This is a hack that may one day save your life. And considering California just recently instituted its first-ever mandatory water restriction, you never know when finding fresh water will come in handy if the crisis creeps over to your neck of the woods.

So how to find water without having to dance half-naked around a bonfire, or drinking your own pee (yuck, don’t do this!)?  Give the below survival tips a shot.

How to Find Water In the Wild:

Transpiration Technique:

Transpiration is where moisture in plants evaporates through openings on the leaves into the atmosphere.   With a little ingenuity, it’s possible to capture the vapors and turn it into potable water once it condenses. It’s a small amount, but it is water:


  1. Clear plastic bag or similar
  2. Leafy Tree branch
  3. String, or even tree/plant fiber
  4. Rock
  5. Container

how to find water

image courtesy of HowStuffWorks

  1. Wake up early in the morning
  2. Put the rock inside the bag, so it creates a dip in the bag. This is where the condensed vapor will collect.
  3. Place the bag around the leafy tree branch
  4. Tie the bag opening tight around the branch
  5. Now wait
  6. Water will begin to collect throughout the day
  7. Open the bag and pour out the water into your container.  Unlike the image,  don’t poke a hole in the bag.  You may need to do it again

Below Ground Solar Still

Similar to the solar desalination in my post, drinking salt water, you can also create a below ground solar still to extract moisture from the soil. The idea here is that with the heat from the sun we can increase and capture the moisture in the soil as it evaporates. Similar to the transpiration technique above, the condensed water vapor will be potable.


  1. A shovel or digging tool
  2. A bowl or container to collect the water
  3. Ample amounts of green foliage
  4. Waterproof sheeting
  5. Rocks

how to find water

Image courtesy of HowStuffWorks

  1. Find an area that gets a lot of sunlight
  2. Using the shovel, dig a bowl shaped hole deep enough where the soil is moist and wide enough to place your container in
  3. Make sure the deepest part of the hole is flat enough where your container won’t fall over
  4. Throw the foliage into the hole alongside your container. Foliage will increase the amount of water collected.
  5. Cover the entire hole with the waterproof sheeting, anchoring the edges with rocks, soil or both
  6. Place a small rock right above your container. This will create a dip for the condensation to travel down and drip into your container
  7. Now wait for your soil flavored water

Collecting Dew

This water hack is a bit strange, and often overlooked by most survival tacticians. But believe it or not, dew deposits are on everything and you can collect quite a bit of water in a very short time. Dew is atmospheric moisture condensing faster than it can evaporate. Only thing is, you’ll have to do this early before the sun vaporizes your stash.


  1. Dew collection area such as grassy area, or trees with big leaves
  2. Absorbent material like a cotton t-shirt or rag
  3. Cup or container to hold the collected water

This technique also works if there was rainfall the night before. Also, be aware that even though the dew itself is clean, where it lands may be polluted or have bacteria. So, if you’re able and have the equipment, boil or filter before drinking.

how to find water

Image courtesy of Dylan Parker

  1. Wake up early morning and find an area the sun hasn’t yet reached
  2. Take absorbent material and wipe everywhere you see dew
  3. Wring it into your cup
  4. Drink and enjoy

Survival priorities are in this order:  Shelter, Water, Fire, Food.  Knowing how to find water is paramount to you living through a dangerous situation.   Know the tricks, know the hacks, and you’ll be prepared for anything.

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I'm an aspiring scuba diver, novice spelunker and avid adventurer.I have a penchant for always getting lost with an established track record for choosing the worst places to eat. With a healthy aversion to staying in one place for too long, I am the ceaseless wanderer and explorer. I recently traded in the suit for a backpack, and am now pursuing to live a life of sustained travel. I travel to learn, I travel to live and I travel in search of adventure.
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