How to survive in the woods for a year? ( Can you ? )

Surviving in the woods is a rather hard task for even the most determined survival expert or enthusiast. The main problem which people do face while living in the woods is the availability of water if you find water your chances of surviving in the woods for long periods of time increase exponentially.

You can survive in the woods for a year by finding a constant fresh water supply, a good source of food by hunting, fishing or trapping and a nearby shelter. When it comes to shelter you can either build one yourself or search for an abandoned cabin, which is near to the freshwater supply.

When it comes to survival your number one goal should be to get fresh water and once you find it you need to filter it. In this case, you will need a good water filtration system, my personal recommendation is to get one with a 0.2-micron filter Click here to check it out on

No matter what kind of SHTF event you are prepping for, you could be forced to abandon all your plans and supplies at a moment’s notice. Generally, major SHTF scenarios where people have to flee an area are fairly rare as most SHTF events are on a  more local scale. However, as a prepper, you have to think about how will you manage without your bug out gear and supplies. Most preppers hoard a lot of fuel, food, and water but in a major SHTF scenario if you lack the logistics on how to move them safely you could find yourself without your life-saving supplies.

During major SHTF events, most people will flee urban areas and head to the rural areas where they could get some help, however, these rural areas will become flooded with thousands of people, making a strain on the local supplies and economy. This, in turn, could lead up to a serious conflict between the natives and the newcomers, and depending on what kind of SHTF scenario it is unfolding this conflict has the potential to end up in disaster.

People who do have the skills to survive off the land will not rely on other people’s help as the longer the SHTF event lass the harder it will be to get help from anybody, it is just a matter of time when a straw breaks the camels back. Preppers who do have the skill to survive off the land will have two options either try and survive in the woods or in a small homestead where you can easily grow crops.

There could be a lot of scenarios why someone would have to survive in the woods for a year, odds are that even after the SHTF event has already passed there will still be chaos and no rule of law in the area. In this case, the best idea is to stay as far away from people as possible as they can turn on each other fairly quickly, you might think the presence of law enforcement would have no problem establishing order, but when people are starving the law doesn’t matter for them anymore.


How to get water in the woods

If you have to survive in the woods your first priority will be to get water, at this point you will either have very little or no water with you. The amount of water you would probably have on you depends on how far the woods are from your original location, if you have traveled there on foot or with a vehicle and if you had the possibility to refill your water bottles. The ability of a good freshwater source in the woods will dictate how long you could survive in the woods. If you have read my article How long does it take to die from dehydration? ( Days or Weeks? ), you already know that the average person can survive around 3 days without water, but this time could be seriously cut down if you do physical activity.

Search for a stream

The number one idea when searching for a stream in the woods is that water takes the path of least resistance. This means that if you also have a mountain nearby your chances of finding a stream is fairly high. While most people will aimlessly wander in the woods hoping to get lucky, you should follow the nearby hills and crevasses as these places are one of your best odds to find water. Look at the vegetation, bigger trees need more water.

Search for signs of civilization

If you come across a remote cabin in the woods, even if it is destroyed and uninhabitable do not ignore it. Most cabins in the woods are built fairly close to a source of fresh water. Explore the area, although keep in mind that small streams and creeks change their paths fairly often and this could be the reason why the cabin has been abandoned. Abandoned logging camps are also a good place where freshwater could be nearby, although this is not guaranteed.

Take a look at the roads of the logging camp, ignore the one that leads directly towards the nearest city or town and follow the one which goes deeper into the woods and doesn’t have tire marks of wood cutting equipment. Most likely this path could lead you to some sort of living area where freshwater is nearby.

Melt snow

This is a no-brainer if it is winter time and there is plenty of snow you should not have any problems with freshwater. Although no matter how thirsty you are, never eat the snow directly as this will lower your core temperature and in some cases, it will even dehydrate you even further, if you need more info on this check my linked article above. As a word of caution which you have probably already heard, never eat the yellow snow.

While plenty of snow could be a blessing when it comes to freshwater, during spring this could be a nightmare. As the snow starts to melt on the nearby hills and mountains it will overflow any creek and stream. If you did not set up your shelter in an adequate place to avoid floodwater you could be in for a “surprise”.


Collect morning dew

If you have read my article,  Best survivalist movies ( Top 18 ) and have watched some of these movies you probably noticed at some point that these survivalists were collecting the morning dew. Collecting the morning dew could potentially save your life if you are dehydrated, however relying only on the morning dew as your freshwater supply will lead to disaster. By far the easiest way to collect morning dew is with a plastic bag or bottle, and even in the best-case scenario, you will only end up with a few sips worth of water.

Collecting rainwater

Collecting rainwater needs at least some level of ingenuity, but with a good rainwater collection system, you could solve all your problems related to freshwater. If you need more information on how to collect rainwater check out my article Advantages of rainwater harvesting ( Top 25 ). If you have already set up a shelter you could integrate the rainwater harvesting system into your shelter, you can use plastic bags and bottles to channel your water into a water barrel.

Odds are you probably won’t have a water barrel with you, because why would you carry a water barrel with you during an SHTF event. In this case, dig a ditch, compact the ground in the ditch as much as possible, put some flat rocks in it and place some plastic bags in order to prevent water being absorbed back into the ground. You probably will not be able to prevent all the water from being absorbed by the ground, however, you will limit the time of it happening.

Filter and purify water

After you have found your freshwater source it is vital that you filter and purify the water. Preppers usually have several water filtering systems, if you do not have one and you are already in the woods you need to use a piece of cloth or even your socks as a filtering device. Do note that this way you will only filter out the larger pieces of debris and insects from your water, but it is still better than nothing.

No matter what kind of water filtration systems you do use keep in mind that you still need to purify the water in order to kill the bacteria and even viruses that can be found in the water. The easiest way to purify water is by boiling it for several minutes, once the water becomes hot enough that it bubbles leave it to bubble for a couple of minutes then let it cool down and it is ready to drink.

What to eat in the woods

There are a lot of things to eat in the woods, from wild berries to fish and animals. However, if you do not have the necessary knowledge of the local plant life it could end up deadly. Some berries and fruits found in forests are actually poisonous, while most will not kill you outright they will complicate your life. When the body wants to eliminate toxins that you have consumed the fast as possible it will provoke vomiting and diarrhea.

While you might think diarrhea is nothing to be worried about which is generally true, but not in a survival situation where your freshwater supply is limited and you lack any medicine. Even something as simple as diarrhea could end up killing you, by weakening your body to a point where you do not even have the strength to get food.



Unless you can safely identify the plants do not even attempt to forage, this is especially true in the case of mushrooms. Wild mushrooms can be delicious but most of their weight is water and most mushrooms tend to have very low nutritional value. Basically, you expose yourself to the risk of being poisoned by some mushroom which in the best case scenario could get you some nutrients.


If you are lucky enough to find a local stream than you hit two birds with one stone. Usually, streams in the woods are fairly clean and most of them also have fish in them. Depending on the size fo the stream you can improvise several fishing methods, like building a dam, fishing with a net or even making your own fishing pole. One thing to keep in mind that you can not live by only eating fish as they lack several vital minerals and vitamins which the human body needs, mostly vitamin C.

Hunting and trapping

Unless you have a bug out gun which you can also use for hunting it will be fairly difficult to rely only on hunting and trapping for food. If you need more information on which bug out gun is good not only for hunting but also for personal defense check out my article What is the best bug out gun? ( Handguns, Shotguns and Rifles). Hunting and trapping will take a lot of time and skill, even experienced hunters do not have a 100% success rate, as you often miss. In case you are living in the woods without any link to the civilized world, every bullet counts and one missed shot could end up deadly for you.

Shelter in the woods

Most people would think that they hit the jackpot if they find an abandoned cabin in the middle of the woods. However, as your first priority is freshwater than your shelter has to be close to the freshwater source. These abandoned cabins can be a good temporary shelter, but unless you can find a nearby freshwater supply than you will have to either find some sort of shelter closer to water or to build your own.


Once you set up or find yourself some sort of shelter make sure you follow my advice in my recent article ( Top 29 ) Off grid cabin essentials, where you will learn everything you would need for your shelter to function as a home. My recommendation is to constantly look for a good freshwater supply, even if you have not found one you can still make a small shelter with local materials. However, do not invest to much time in this shelter as it will be a temporary one.

Once you have identified a freshwater source than you can search nearby for a place where you could build a more permanent shelter. Once you set up your shelter, have access to constant fresh water and you can also feed yourself then you will not have any problems surviving in the woods for a year.

In conclusion

When it comes to how to survive in the woods for a year you have to keep in mind your 3 basic needs which are food, water, and shelter. You also have to prioritize your basic needs, first is water, second is food and third is shelter. Do not make the mistake of finding shelter in the middle of nowhere which is not in close proximity to food and water. By settling down in one of these shelters your health could start deteriorating if you do not find food and water nearby.

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