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Wilderness Survival 101: The Ultimate Guide to Procuring Safe Water while Hiking

Wilderness Survival 101: The Ultimate Guide to Procuring Safe Water while Hiking

Heading out into the wilderness for a trek or a hike can be an exhilarating experience, but it’s important to be prepared for anything that might come your way, including potential issues with water procurement. In this guide, we’ll go over some of the most important tips and tricks for procuring safe water while hiking, including where to find it and how to treat it.

1. Know Your Sources

When it comes to procuring water in the wilderness, one of the most important things you can do is be familiar with the different potential sources. These can include:

  • Streams
  • Lakes
  • Ponds
  • Rivers
  • Springs

Each of these sources has its own unique challenges and opportunities, so it’s important to do your research ahead of time to figure out what you might be dealing with.

2. Treat Your Water

Even if you think you’ve found a safe source of water in the wilderness, it’s always important to treat it before drinking it. There are a few different ways you can do this, including:

  • Boiling: Boil water for at least one minute to kill any potential harmful bacteria or viruses.
  • Chemical treatment: Use iodine tablets or drops, chlorine dioxide tablets, or other chemical treatments to purify water.
  • Filtration: Use a water filter to remove impurities and potential harmful agents.

3. Bring Your Own Water

One of the easiest ways to ensure that you have safe water while hiking is to simply bring your own. This might mean carrying a water bottle with you, or using a water bladder that fits directly into your backpack. Whatever method you choose, make sure you have enough water to last you for the duration of your hike, and then some.

4. Check the Weather

The weather can play a huge role in your ability to find safe water while hiking. It’s important to check the local forecasts ahead of time, and to know what to do if unexpected weather hits. For example, if there’s been a lot of rain recently, you might have an easier time finding safe water sources. On the other hand, if there’s been a drought, you may need to be more careful about the water sources you choose.

5. Know When to Ask for Help

Finally, it’s important to know when to ask for help. If you’re lost, dehydrated, or have run out of water, it’s important to stay calm and to try to find help as soon as possible. This might mean signaling for rescue, or simply finding other hikers to help you out. Whatever the case, don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.


When it comes to procuring safe water while hiking, there are a lot of factors to consider. By being prepared, knowing your sources, treating your water, bringing your own water, checking the weather, and knowing when to ask for help, you’ll be able to make sure that you have safe and clean water throughout your adventure. With a little bit of planning and preparation, you can stay healthy and hydrated even in the most challenging of conditions.

FAQ: Water Procurement in Wilderness

Q: Is it safe to drink untreated water in the wilderness?

It is generally not safe to drink untreated water in the wilderness. Though some sources of water may appear clear and clean, there can be harmful bacteria, viruses, and parasites that can cause illness.

Q: What are some methods of treating water in the wilderness?

There are several methods of treating water in the wilderness, including boiling, filtering, and using chemicals such as chlorine or iodine. Boiling water for at least one minute is the most effective method of killing harmful organisms. Filtration systems, such as pump filters or gravity-fed filters, can remove many contaminants. Chemical treatments, such as chlorine dioxide or iodine tablets, can also be effective.

Q: How can I find sources of water in the wilderness?

The best sources of water in the wilderness are natural sources such as streams, rivers, and springs. Look for areas where water is flowing or pooling. Use caution when collecting water from stagnant sources, as they may contain higher concentrations of harmful organisms.

Q: How much water should I carry while hiking in the wilderness?

The amount of water you should carry depends on several factors, including your activity level, the temperature and humidity, and the availability of water sources along your route. A general guideline is to carry at least two liters of water per day, and more if you are exerting yourself in hot conditions.

Q: How can I carry water while hiking?

There are several options for carrying water while hiking, including hydration packs, water bottles, and collapsible water containers. Choose a method that is comfortable and convenient for you, and that allows you to easily access your water throughout your hike.

Q: What are some signs of dehydration?

Signs of dehydration include thirst, dry mouth, dark urine, fatigue, and dizziness. Severe dehydration can lead to confusion, rapid heartbeat, and fainting. If you experience symptoms of dehydration, it is important to stop and rest, and to drink fluids immediately.

Q: What should I do if I run out of water while hiking?

If you run out of water while hiking, it is important to find a source of water as soon as possible. Look for natural sources of water such as streams or springs, and if necessary, use a water treatment method to make the water safe to drink. In an emergency, it is possible to drink water from unlikely sources such as cactus or tree sap, but these should only be used as a last resort, as they may not be safe or nutritious.

Q: How can I prevent water contamination while hiking in the wilderness?

To prevent water contamination while hiking, avoid contaminating water sources with human waste, food, or other pollutants. Always use proper hygiene practices, such as washing your hands with soap and water or using hand sanitizer before handling water or preparing food. Be sure to properly dispose of all waste, and follow Leave No Trace principles to minimize your impact on the environment.

Q: What should I do if I become ill after drinking water in the wilderness?

If you become ill after drinking water in the wilderness, seek medical assistance as soon as possible. Symptoms such as fever, vomiting, or diarrhea may indicate a serious infection, and prompt treatment is essential. In the meantime, be sure to stay hydrated, and rest as much as possible.

Related Products

  • Water Filtration System
    A water filtration system is an essential tool for procuring safe drinking water while hiking in the wilderness. Look for a lightweight and portable option that can effectively filter out bacteria, protozoa, and other contaminants. Some popular brands include Sawyer, LifeStraw, and Katadyn.
  • Water Purification Tablets
    Water purification tablets are a convenient and easy-to-use option for purifying water on the go. They typically contain chlorine dioxide, which kills bacteria, viruses, and protozoa. Be sure to follow the instructions carefully and allow sufficient time for the tablets to work.
  • CamelBak Hydration Pack
    A CamelBak hydration pack is a great way to stay hydrated while hiking, as it allows you to carry a large amount of water on your back. Look for a pack with a capacity of at least two liters and a comfortable fit. CamelBak also offers insulated options to keep your water cool in hot temperatures.
  • Collapsible Water Bottle
    A collapsible water bottle is a lightweight and space-saving option for carrying water on a hiking trip. Look for a bottle made of durable materials such as silicone or nylon that can handle multiple uses. Some popular brands include Vapur, Platypus, and Hydrapak.
  • Water Bladder
    A water bladder is similar to a hydration pack but can be used as a standalone system. It consists of a bag that can hold several liters of water and a drink tube that allows you to sip water on the go. Look for a durable and leak-proof option, such as those made by Platypus and CamelBak.
  • Camp Shower
    A camp shower can be a lifesaver on a long hiking trip, as it allows you to wash off sweat and dirt. Look for a solar-powered option that heats water naturally or a portable option that can be heated over a campfire. Some popular brands include Nemo Helio, Sea to Summit, and Advanced Elements.
  • Waterproof Dry Bag
    A waterproof dry bag can be used to keep your water procurement tools and other gear safe and dry while hiking. Look for a bag made of durable materials such as PVC or nylon and one with a roll-top closure to prevent water from seeping in. Some popular brands include Sea to Summit, DryCASE, and Aqua Quest.
  • Waterproof Backpack Cover
    A waterproof backpack cover is a must-have on any hiking trip, especially when rain is in the forecast. Look for a cover that fits your backpack snugly and is made of waterproof materials such as nylon or Gore-Tex. Some popular brands include Sea to Summit, Osprey, and Deuter.

Pros & Cons: Wilderness Survival 101 – The Ultimate Guide to Procuring Safe Water while Hiking


  • Increases independence and self-sufficiency: Knowing how to procure safe water in the wilderness can give you a sense of empowerment and confidence in your ability to survive on your own.
  • Emergency preparedness: Learning how to procure safe water in the wilderness is an important skill to have in case of natural disasters or other emergencies where access to clean water is limited.
  • Cost-effective: Procuring your own water is often cheaper than purchasing bottled water or water filtration systems.
  • Environmental awareness: By procuring your own water in the wilderness, you’re reducing your impact on the environment by not relying on single-use plastic bottles or other disposable water treatment methods.
  • Increases knowledge of the natural world: Learning how to identify and procure safe water sources in the wilderness requires an understanding of the natural world and the different water sources available.


  • Risk of waterborne illness: Without proper knowledge and techniques, procuring water in the wilderness can lead to the consumption of contaminated water, which can cause serious illness.
  • Physical effort required: Procuring water in the wilderness can be physically demanding and time-consuming, especially if there are limited water sources available in the area.
  • Knowledge and skill required: Knowing how to properly identify, treat, and store safe water in the wilderness requires specific knowledge and skills that may take time to learn.
  • Dependency on weather and terrain: The availability and quality of water sources in the wilderness are dependent on weather conditions and the terrain, which can be unpredictable.
  • Legal restrictions: In some areas, there may be legal restrictions on procuring water from natural sources, which could lead to fines or other consequences.

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