Wilderness Water? It May Be Growing Rather Than Flowing

We’ve all heard plenty of stories about people who survived when lost in the wild. Some of them did it by using their wits. Some by eating berries. And others by hunting or fishing. 

But very few survived for long without finding a drinkable water source. Often that source is a river, stream, lake, or creek. And ideally the survivor is carrying some sort of water purifier. 

If you’re lost in the wilderness, you might not be able to find an obvious water source. But you may be able to get enough water to survive until you’re rescued from an unlikely source. I’m talking about plants. 

Today I want to share some ways to access water from what you see growing around you.

Can plants quench your thirst? 

Why can plants supply water to a thirsty wilderness wanderer? Because they are constantly absorbing water from the ground. 

And as an added benefit, plants frequently filter out a variety of impurities during this natural process.

When they transpire water – in other words, when water vapor evaporates from the plant’s leaves – that water can be collected.

And the plant is none the worse for wear when this occurs. You can collect water from its various branches and leaves over and over again. Without harming the plant.

What’s the old bag & string trick? 

OK, so what’s the best way to collect this precious water during a survival situation? You don’t need much in the way of supplies. Just a clear plastic bag (with no holes in it) and a piece of string. And, of course, a plant. 

If you have a choice of plants, select one with the largest green leaves. And one that gets plenty of sunlight. The transpiration process is accelerated by the sun’s heat. 

After shaking the branch to get rid of insects and debris, cover as many leaves as possible with your plastic bag. Then tie the string around it tightly. 

The tie should be at a higher level than the bottom of the bag so that gravity can do its job. Water will find its lowest level. 

You’re going to need a t-shirt… 

Now, I’m not going to tell you this is a speedy process. It’s not. You may need four hours just to get one-third of a cup of water. 

But if you have plenty of plastic bags and string, and there are lots of plants around with green leaves, you can significantly increase your water collection.

When you’re ready to extract water from the bag, cut a small hole in the bag at its lowest point while holding a cup or other container under it. 

If you’re parched, you’ll probably pour this water down your throat as quickly as possible. But to be on the safe side, filter it through a fabric such as a t-shirt. 

Or a cup and a drill… 

Now, what if there are no plants with green leaves in your vicinity? And the leaves growing on trees are too high to reach? 

Well, you can still extract water from those trees. Here’s how. Cut a small piece of a branch roughly the width of your arm at a 90-degree angle.

Tie that piece of wood to a tree so that the flat end is facing up. Place your cup or other small receptacle on top of the flat surface. 

About six inches above the cup, drill a hole in the tree that’s roughly the thickness of your index finger. Place a small tube or grooved stick into the hole and water will seep out and land in the cup. 

But DON’T drink from this

OK, Frank, but what if I’m in the desert and the only things growing around me are cacti? Can I get enough water out of them to survive?

Honestly, probably not. And even if you are able to extract water from our prickly desert friends, it’s very likely toxic.

The liquid produced by a cactus is extremely acidic. This can cause serious side effects like vomiting, which will only dehydrate you more. That's the last thing you need when you’re trying to survive. The lesson here is to stay out of the desert without a good supply of clean water. 

But when you’re in the woods or the wilderness, plants and trees can provide enough water to keep you going until you’re rescued.


  • Vick - January 29, 2024

    Photos would really help. Thanks for the info.

  • Dale Snelling - January 26, 2024

    Thank you for this information, I have never seen the leaves get a drink from them. I’am 82 yrs old, and old farm raised kid. And have retired back to our farm. I have read a lot of survival articles and books etc. Anyway I just want to thank you and your crew for all the good products and their work, especially your information and knowledge.

    Thank You Dale Snelling

  • Phil - January 26, 2024

    I was taught in Boy Scouts in 1969 how to make a solar still with a hole in the ground, a piece of clear plastic, a small rock, and a cup or collection container. The sun evaporates any moisture from the soil or anything that has water in it including plants.damp wood, dirty water ( poured into the soil), and snakes or other critters. It depends on the size of your solar still and a good strong sun light. I would also suggest a long piece of plastic tubing to suck the water out of the cup. I would bet that sliced cactus would give up its water in the solar still to the cup. This method is slow but the water would be safe to drink and it would be 100% h2o. Just a thought!

  • Lynn Grant - January 26, 2024

    Very inform

Leave a comment

*Required Fields