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Where to find water while hiking

Water is an essential part of hiking. Without water you simply can’t survive so carrying enough water is always important. On long journeys or even weekend trips, you can’t carry all the water you need for your hike when you set off and that is why being able to find water while on the trail is important. There are many different places you can get water from while hiking and knowing what they all are can be very helpful while trying to find a water source you can access.

The two main sources of water are natural and man-made. Today we will cover both of these two sources starting with the man-made.

Man-made water sources

The most simple places to find water while hiking are the man-made sources which can be found along the trail and at places such as campsites, some of these sources include:

  • Water Taps at Campsites and on the trail: these are mostly set up by local parks services and councils to help walkers and are mostly found on hikes closer to urban areas.

  • Water Tanks at Campsites: These are most commonly found on heavily trafficked and rural trails which are hard to access.

  • Water Drops: these are supply drops of water which can be purchased from a private company and dropped at a predetermined spot.

These are the three main places you will get water from when we talk about getting water from man-made or constructed sources. Water taps can be rare, tanks can be empty and water drops expensive so that's why it's important to not just rely on these few tactics alone to get your water.

Natural water sources

So natural water sources can be more abundant than man-made ones but that doesn't mean they are easy to find. If water in your area is not directly identifiable then you may need to go looking, there are several key indicators to whether you are on the right track to finding water and these include:

  • Bees: The presence of bees is one smaller indicator of water, without water you most likely would not find the bees indicating water nearby.

  • Ants: Ants are a stronger sign of water on the trail, a large column of ants can be a solid indicator of water, follow the ant column until it's conclusion and if it lands in a tree trunk with ants disappearing into a hole then consider doing some digging to see if it is a water source.

  • Birds: The two main birds for telling where water nearby would be are Finches and Wild Pigeons. Finches can be a good sign of a hidden water source nearby and Wild pigeons can be an even better sign; their behaviour can indicate where water is, if they fly low and quickly they are heading to water while if they fly from tree to tree in a slow manor then they are returning from drinking.

  • Mason flies: The presence of mason flies are a fantastic indicator of water within your area, no more than a few hundred metres away you can nearly guarantee a patch of water so look hard.

  • Beach Dunes: trapped in the waving dunes that are a feature of a large portion of Australian beaches you can sometimes find water. After large rainfall you are likely to find some trapped water which once treated can be used for drinking.

These animals all help indicate where water might be on the trail but it's important to note what these natural sources look like. some of the best sources of water on the trail are:

  • Creeks

  • Rivers

  • Streams

  • Falls

  • Lakes (Away from slow following water)

  • Snowmelt

  • Rainwater runoff

Some of these places are easier to get water from than others but overall these are fantastic places to go to collect water. Treating water is always advised even if the water is flowing so carrying water purification tablets are highly advised. The golden rule for doing this is one tablet for every litre of water but always make sure to follow the instructions that come with the brand you buy as this may differ from tablet to tablet.

Next time you are planning for a hike, try map the sources of water you can use along the trail before you set off. These helpful tips on finding water in the natural and man-made environment are a great starting point but depending on the location of your hike you may find yourself needing to get water from more area specific sources.

Written by Josh Welch


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