Introduction: How to Get Fresh Water in the Wild

Picture of How to Get Fresh Water in the Wild

When you're in the wild with no immediate source of water you might wanna try this method. Of course if you want to live. Dehydration will kill you if you don't have a good water source. You may survive without food for a while but, if you are dehydrated you will surely die soon. In this Instructable you will learn how to collect water through evaporation. This method is easy and can be done fast.

You'll need a few things:

  • a shovel ( if you don't have one and you're in the wild you can always use something else. e.g. Your hand)
  • a cup
  • vegetation
  • a tarp/some sort of plastic covering
  • rocks/can also use the soil you've dug up

Step 1: Diggin' a Hole

Picture of Diggin' a Hole

Dig a hole about the size of the one in the picture. It doesn't have to be big. The depth of the hole should be about 1 1/2 feet deep. Do this in the morning because the more water you lose by sweating the more you need to replace.

Once you've dug a hole take your cup and put it in the center of the hole. The cup should be pretty shallow, not like 2 inches high, 'cause you won't collect enough water and it will overspill.

As you see in the picture I used a tin can. I cut in the middle about 2 inches deep so that it will not be level with the surface above the hole. You will see why later.

Step 2: Vegetation

Picture of Vegetation

Find really green leaves around your surroundings. Put them in your hole around the cup that you've placed in the middle. Make sure that you fill the hole with a lot of vegetation. When the sun rises in the morning and all the way until sun set the sun will make that water inside the plants to evaporate and collect at the top of the covering.

Step 3: Covering

Picture of Covering

Make sure that you're covering will stretch over the hole and cover everything. Place rocks or dirt on the side of the covering so that the covering will stay in its place. Carefully place a small pebble in the middle of the covering above the cup. The pebble will channel the water that evaporated on the inside of the covering into the cup.

Over tidewater will be sucked out of the vegetation and into the cup.


Sorry was I too loud?

I just had a fresh, clean drink from my cup.

You should try this if you have no source of water around. This method is easy, cheap, fast, and reliable, so use it!


JpsManCave (author)2016-10-24

Great Instructable!

PaulS28 (author)2016-10-06

Clear plastic is absolutely critical as it allows the infrared rays
to enter and warm the soil/vegetation rather than being converted to
heat on the plastic which escapes to the surrounding air.

the hole doesn't have to be deep, the deeper it is the greater the
surface area from which water can be extracted and the more moist will
be the soil. A hole four feet in diameter is preferable to one that is
two feet in diameter for the same reason but would have to be deeper to
maintain the slope of the plastic down to the can.

Seal the edges of the plastic with a mound of soil to prevent as much vapor from escaping as possible.

rubber tube from the cup/can up and out of the hole at the edge of the
plastic sheeting allows you to drink without destroying your setup.

Always recycle your urine and this works with salt water also (deserted island scenario :) )

RobertP231 (author)PaulS282016-10-20

It will work better with clear plastic, yes, but it is NOT "absolutely critical." It will work with opaque plastic as well. In the Army, we learned to use dark green plastic ground cloths for this as well as both green rubber and camouflage nylon ponchos as well. All will work. The key is to trap heat and moisture beneath a smooth covering that will funnel condensation to the low point of the covering for collection.

PaulS28 (author)RobertP2312016-10-20

I explained why you want to use clear plastic - you want the infrared rays to reach the foliage and the soil inside the hole. Will opaque work? Probably but not as well. If I have the choice of wearing a transparent rain poncho or an opaque one as I bug out, I'll choose the transparent for precisely that reason or I'll carry a sheet of transparent plastic in my BOB if I feel I need to wear camo rain gear.

At any rate, there's no need for us to argue the point, everybody should go out and actually do it to develop the skills and practice is a great time to try both ways to see which works best so you know what to carry.

RobertP231 (author)PaulS282016-10-20

There is,nothing to argue about. I already said clear plastic eill work better, but simply pointed out that it is not "critical" as you said it was. It definately (not just probably) does work with opaque materials, including materials that are not made of plastic. They only have to be water resistant. We were taught, demonstrated and practiced this as part of basic survival training. I only made the point because people need to know you can still do this in an emergency even if you don't have clear plastic.

MADsighNtist (author)2016-10-07

Note: many places speak that you must "Boil Water" for five minutes, to be safe.

This is simply not true, no pathogens live beyond 186 degrees, and there are several companies that sell a special gauge that identifies that heat.

Also the Least Expensive piece of equipment one can own for outdoor water, is made by Sawyer Products. Originally designed for Kidney Dialysis machines, it was Too Narrow to pass blood, so they studied their invention, presto, good for 100,000 Gallons. yes 100,000 Gallons. less than $30.00

RoBear613 (author)MADsighNtist2016-10-16

"no pathogens live beyond 186 degrees"
This may well be true, but you cannot SEE the difference between 100 degreed F and 186 degrees F. But you CAN see the difference between 210 degrees F and 212 degrees F because the water boils. So, without any "high tech" devices (like a thermometer, lol) you can just boil the water.

MADsighNtist (author)RoBear6132016-10-16

Yes, a Well Taught person can differentiate those tempetkres, I have spent a Life Time studying Thermal Output of a variety of materials, Water being only one of them.

But Please Note: OLD thought BOIL for five Minutes

RoBears613 suggestion: "you CAN see the difference between 210 degrees F and 212 degrees F because the water boils." NO Mention of time . . . In the situations being spoken of, the Addition use of Fuel is a WASTE, as is the the thermal motions above 186 degrees.

In Survival Mode a PRIME Factor is ~To Conserve~ Everything Practical . . .

However, its your life, Live it your way by all means.

Me: making Camp since 1962.

RobertP231 (author)MADsighNtist2016-10-20

To MadsighNtist: The point was that if you boil the water, you don't need to know the temperature because the boiling tells you that the temperature is more than high enough, so no thermometer needed (and no, you can't tell the difference between 100 F and 186 F water just by looking at it, no matter HOW "well taught" you are). Also, both bacterial and fungal spores can survive even boiling water for a few seconds, and may survive 186 F water for an extended period of time; but neither will survive boiling for five minutes. That's why that recommendation exists. Also, boiling for five minutes will also rid the water of toxic volatile chemicals that will boil away quickly at 212 F.

jooly4 (author)MADsighNtist2016-10-07

Thank you for your information. What was the piece of equipment called?

MADsighNtist (author)jooly42016-10-16

the Sawyer Company makes the Newest Concepts in Water Purification. a Variety of Prices, based upon size, etc.

In my Rural Setting I Must use Water Purification, and I use a $30 Sawyer, it removes the RUST from the +80 year old piping, and provides clear water.

I trust the water for showering, dishwashing, etc, but like rust free for drinking.

Sawyer Filtration systems are sold in Wal-Mart and other large stores as well as online.

Hope that helps

~~ Old Geezer

bart01 (author)jooly42016-10-08

RobertP231 (author)2016-10-20

Of course, if you're dying from thirst you probably won't worry about such things, but otherwise you need to be careful to use very clean plastic for sanitary reasons or you could wind up with dysentery or worse. You should also ideally use a non-toxic plastic like polyethylene or polypropylene. If you use something like industrial grade vinyl, toxic plasticizers can leach into the water you collect. It may not kill you, but it wouldn't be good for you either. Also, while you will get more water by lining the hole with vegetation, it will still work without any vegetation at all, so long as you dig deep enough to reach even slightly moist soil.

bannerjoseph (author)2016-10-06

It is amazing that there are so many incredibly talented people that create new ways to solve problems on Instructables.

RobertP231 (author)bannerjoseph2016-10-20

While a goid Instructable, there is nothing new about this. Soldiers and survivalists gave known this trick for centuries (perhaps even millennia, because tanned leather and waxed burlap or other fabric will work in lieu of plastic, not as well, but they will work). I learned to do this over 50 years ago in the Boy Scouts, and again 40 years ago in the US Army.

flaming fox (author)2016-10-20

nice one my friend
good job on your work

Dawsie (author)2016-10-19

i remember doing this when we went camping in the GirlGuides back in the 70's lol it was a fun project to do we also learned how to make a bush oven to cook bread and meat ? I voted for you just for bringing back some very fun memories when we did bush servival lol thanks

IFIAandy (author)2016-10-12

I voted for you.

Blue-Jazz (author)IFIAandy2016-10-13

Thanks IFIAandy. Pls tell others to vote too. :)

IFIAandy (author)2016-10-12

nice one blue-jazz.

rxima (author)2016-10-07

this is brilliant

Blue-Jazz (author)2016-10-07

Thanks for all your insight on this Instructable.

kalkat78 (author)2016-10-06

When going into the bush carry several large clear tough plastic bags and some pieces of cord or one long piece and a knife. You pull the leaves of a tree together, tied if necessary, and enclose them in a bag and tie the top. Let the sun do its work and you will have plenty of water in no time. Several bags and you can have a bath. Easier than digging holes. Nevertheless, the method described still has merit.

Wragie (author)2016-10-06

yah this one goes back a few years lol. One thing that you should emphasize is that it would take several stills to actually have enough water to function. One is really iffy in most climates and not enough in hot areas to let you do more than sit around. In those places you need a few stills or figure out how to stop leaking :-)

AlwaysRavenclaw (author)2016-10-06

does it matter what plants i use? can i just use any?

DavidS531 (author)2016-10-06

Learned this 50 years ago in survival school and it still works, nice job. Semper Fi

MontieR (author)2016-10-06

If you shred the vegetation you will yield more liquid.

graywoulf (author)2016-10-05

Clear plastic would be preferable to any colored plastic. The sun then can heat the vegetation (or mud, wet sand, and yes, even urine) much easier creating more and faster evaporation by direct contact. There are many ways of doing this distillation process. You just have to be creative.

debsworld50 (author)2016-10-03

Wow, I will absolutely vote for you! Am becoming a survival enthusiast and all I see shared and advertised are for water filtration bottles and systems that are spendy spendy spendy! Noone seems to want to share basics with his fellow man. You Rock! Good luck on the contest. Respectfully, Debbie Thomas

offseidjr (author)2016-10-01

Great Instuctable, man! I'm definitely voting for you!

ST NZ (author)offseidjr2016-10-02

lol you have pretty much the same name as offseid! did you mean too?

offseid (author)ST NZ2016-10-03

Haha, he's my son! :)

ST NZ (author)offseid2016-10-03

Now I know why it says offseid'jr'! :D

ST NZ (author)offseid2016-10-03

Oh right, thats cool! ;)

Obsidian Man (author)2016-10-03

When you said "You may survive without food for a while but, if you are dehydrated you will surely die soon." you should be more specific. When surviving go by the rule of three, 3 minutes without air, 3 days without water, and 3 weeks without food.

Oh and i forgot this device is called a solar still and it will work way better with a see through cover.

Blue-Jazz (author)2016-10-02

I don't it should matter for the colour of the covering. I got about 200 ml, in one time.

Ultra-Indigo (author)2016-10-01

good ibble. I've seen this before but they said to use clear plastic as it should trap heat and create more evaporation, or did it not seem to matter? How much did you get?

cmduarte (author)2016-10-01

I've used this before, don't forget you can use your urine for this, just keep it out of the can.

DIY Hacks and How Tos (author)2016-10-01

Great trick. I am going to have to show this to my kids the next time that we go camping.

offseid (author)2016-10-01

This is a great survival tip. If this Instructable gets entered in the contest, you have my vote!

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