how to water from a tree
Tips & Tricks

How To Harvest Emergency Drinking Water From A Tree

Finding emergency drinking water is one of your most important tasks, but it’s not always flowing down a stream. Sometimes it’s standing all around you…

What happens if you find yourself lost in the woods with no potable water?

The clock starts ticking, that’s what. You can only live three days without water, after that you’re buzzard food. Tick. Tock.

Finding emergency drinking water should be your top priority in that situation, but sometimes you’re not lucky enough to have any groundwater nearby. So, what then?

One primitive survival tactic that you can implement quickly using only the most basic of survival tools is harvesting emergency drinking water from the very trees all around you.

The best part is you don’t have to filter or boil this water, the tree does all the cleaning for you. And this isn’t just regular water either, it contains all the good stuff the tree is using to feed itself – minor nutrients, minerals, vitamins, and sugars.

Harvesting Emergency Drinking Water From A Tree

Lucky for us the process to extract emergency drinking water from a tree couldn’t be any simpler. It can be set up in under 5 minutes with minimal effort and will supply water for quite a while.

This is an especially useful tactic for a temporary camp and people on the move, as you can fill your canteen in about an hour and move on until you’re either rescued or can find a suitable camp site with fresh groundwater available.

harvesting drinking water from a tree setup

You’ll need:

  • survival knife
  • container or canteen
  • paracord
  • twig or branch

1 – Carve a V shape notch in the tree at a comfortable working height a few feet off the ground. Cut in at an angle with the top of the “V” deeper than the bottom, clearing out the bark between the “V” in the process. Make the notch as pointy at the bottom as possible to encourage the water to drip down.

harvesting drinking water from a tree cutting

2 – Grab a small sturdy stick around the thickness of a pencil and about 8-10″ long and remove all the bark (this is important). Green sticks work best. Sharpen both ends, one end needs to be quite sharp for the next step to work properly and the other end can be slightly rounded so it’s easier to push on with the palm of your hand.

3 – Here comes the pushing. Jam the stick at a steep angle at the bottom of your V cut. You’ll have to jam it deep so it’ll stay put and at a downward angle so your fresh supply of emergency drinking water will run down it and into your container.

harvesting drinking water from a tree stick

4 – Tie your container around the tree using some cordage, or if you don’t have any cordage try a piece of clothing or a vine or a small flexible sapling.

5 – Almost immediately your container should start filling up with life giving (and grassy tasting) emergency drinking water, drop by drop. Go collect some firewood, set traps, or whatever else you need to do. Come back in 30 minutes to check on things and in about an hour total it should be full.

harvesting drinking water from a tree collecting

Remember that this little trick is seasonal and only works in the early Spring and late Winter when the outer layers are full of water.

In trees such as maple or birch the sap runs more plentifully and are your best bet, and might even produce enough emergency drinking water year round if you’re lucky enough to find the right tree in the right climate.

One caveat about this water however, make sure you drink it within a day or two or it will begin to ferment.

Final Thoughts

I don’t recommend doing this on an ongoing basis just for fun because it can be harmful to the trees. Practice it, then save this skill for when you really need it.

To protect the tree, it’s better to drink until it stops and then find another tree. However in an emergency situation you might not have that luxury. You might have to reopen the cut or sometimes cut a new spot daily. You’ll know when to cut a fresh tap because the flow slows down or stops.

Remove the stick and cover the notch with some clay when you’re done. This keeps the bugs and hopefully diseases from getting into the wounded tree and causing any damage.

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Sergeant Survival

I spread the news of disaster preparedness and homesteading skills to the masses. My mission is to teach the keyboard commandos out there some real life skills.

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