A man can only live for three days without water, so if you happen to get lost in the wild (or are trying to survive after a zombie apocalypse—the more likely scenario) you’ll need to master the skill of sourcing your own purified water in the wilderness.
In this article:
- Water Sources in the Wilderness
- How to Purify Water in the Wild: Different Methods
- DIY Survival: Water Treatments
Your Guide to Making Purified Water for Survival
Water Sources in the Wilderness
If you find yourself lost, you can get water here:
1. Springs or Rivers
Source your drinking water primarily from these bodies of water since their free-flowing nature means they possess less bacteria compared to still water.
2. Ponds or Lakes
Ponds and lakes breed more microbes because their waters are stagnant. If you don’t see any streams, you can collect water from these sources. Drink only after purifying.
You can collect rainwater using a plastic bag, an empty canteen, or a part of your tarp survival shelter.
If you’re in an area with a lot of shrubs and grass, you can collect water from these low-lying plants by wrapping cloths around your ankles and taking a stroll around. Wring out the cloth for some clean(ish) water.
5. Plants and Trees
Plants will hydrate you through their fruits or by cutting off a part of them like you would a cactus. You can also wrap plastic bags around plants or branches teeming with fresh leaves to collect the water transported from the roots. In arid places, you can tap tree crotches as water sources if you know where to look.
7. Snow or Ice
Since snow and ice lie abundant in colder regions and during the winter months, you can easily tap them as water sources as long as you melt it and then purify it. If you happen to venture into Antarctica or the northernmost regions of Alaska and you see icebergs, the ones with a bluish tinge are actually made up of freshwater. You can cut off a piece and slosh it around your water supply to add more.
How to Purify Water in the Wild: Different Methods
There are different ways you can purify water outdoors. If you have prep time, always equip your emergency kit with some of these devices and supplies. You can also familiarize yourself with these methods so you can gain access to clean water during calamities.
1. You Can Boil Water
The best way to purify water is by boiling it. Boiling water for 1 minute in low-lying areas and 3 minutes in areas above 6500 feet kills germs and bacteria. Just make sure you filter it before doing so to get rid of sediments.
2. Use Filters
— Camping&Caravanning (@FriendlyClubMag) April 24, 2018
You can put water through a series of filters in order to remove smaller and smaller impurities. Outdoor lifestyle stores sell commercial grade filters or you can make improvised ones if need be. This is only effective up to a certain point, so you will still need to add another purification step for your water to be completely safe to drink.
3. Treat the Water with Bleach
Chemicals, in the right amounts, will purify your water by killing bacteria and viruses. Since we’re talking about chemicals here, you will need to follow the measurements correctly to avoid making the water poisonous.
One chemical you can use is bleach consisting of 4% Sodium Hypochlorite. Add two drops of bleach per liter and wait for 30 minutes before drinking. If your water is especially murky, you can double the dose and wait for an hour.
4. Blast It With Ultraviolet Light
You can actually purify water by subjecting it to ultraviolet light. Certain outdoor shops sell water treatment devices which use UV light to kill viruses and bacteria in the water. Make sure you filter the water first before zapping away.
5. Leave Water Under the Sun
It’s the most low-tech but follows the same principle as the other tips listed above. However, this method will take longer as you’ll need to leave your water bottles under the sun for a full day or two to totally purify the agua.
6. Buy and Save Water Purifying Tablets
— CNET (@CNET) August 17, 2016
You can buy and use iodine tablets to purify water. Just follow the right dosage and any special instructions to make sure the tablets do their job correctly.
7. Distill It Yourself
One way to make purified water in the wild is through distillation. This involves boiling water and collecting the condensation from the steam. Survivalists employ this method for really dirty or contaminated liquids like urine.
DIY Survival: Water Treatments
When push comes to shove, you’ll have to devise your own water treatment system. This section teaches you how to make a filter and how to make a solar still.
How to Make an Improvised Water Filter
Step 1. Prepare the Bottle First
Puncture the bottle cap using a knife first and make two holes, and then cut the bottom part of the bottle off. This cylinder will serve as the container for the sediments you’ll use to filter out the impurities in your water.
Step 2. Collect Moss from the Ground
Moss will serve as one layer for your water filter. Find some and cut it off the ground.
Step 3. Get Charcoal
It’s cool if you are already packing some for your campfire but if you don’t have any handy, you’ll just have to get some from burnt wood from your campfire or a firepit. Crush the charcoal and save the powder.
Step 4. Grab Some Sand
You’ll need both fine sand and some coarse, rocky sand for this.
Step 5. Stabilize the Water Bottle
You can make an improvised stand for your bottle to hold it or hang it upside down. Place another container to catch the drips of water from your filter.
Step 6. Stuff the Moss into the Bottle
The moss serves as your first layer so you pack it in there nice and tight.
Step 7. Place the Charcoal
Add the charcoal and make sure this layer is at least 1 inch thick.
Step 8. Add the Sand
Add around an inch of sand. Shake the bottle to level the sediments and then pack it in with your palm.
Step 9. Intersperse Layers of Sand and Charcoal
After the sand, add another layer of charcoal and vice versa until you reach the top. Keep packing the stuff in with your hand every time you add a layer.
Step 10. Top Off with Gravelly Sand
The topmost layer should be the most coarse so place rocky sand at the top. This will remove the bigger particles from the water.
Step 11. Run Several Washes First
You’ll need to use it several times to clean the individual layers. In time, the layers will become more and more effective at trapping particles and at producing clearer water.
Step 12. Purify Water
To totally clean your filtered water, you can purify it by leaving it inside a mineral water bottle under the sun and keep it there for a day.
How to Make Your Own Solar Still
Step 1. Dig a Pit
You’ll need to make a pit around 1 foot deep and 2 feet wide. If you’re in survival mode, do this in the morning while the sun’s not too harsh, so you can conserve your energy.
Step 2. Put Leaves in the Pit
Place as many leaves as you can in the pit. The leaves will serve as your source of moisture, so get the broadest ones you can find are best.
Step 3. Pour Dirty Water into the Pit
You can also use saltwater in case you’re marooned on an island.
Step 4. Place a Container
Place a container with a wide lip in the middle of the pit. This will receive the collected water later.
Step 5. Cover the Pit with Plastic
You’ll need one sheet of clear plastic to cover the pit. Keep the plastic there by putting earth around the outer rim of the pit, on top of the plastic. Place a handful in the middle so it will let the drops of the water from the plastic collect in the center where your container is.
Step 6. Wait a Day
It usually takes over a day to produce enough water to fill around a cup. So just come back the next day. This is hardly an ideal way to treat water because of the low output, but if you’re really desperate, this method will serve for the time being.
Step 7. Use a Straw to Drink
Tap the plastic sheet to force the drippings into the cup. Use a straw to puncture the plastic and to drink from the cup so you don’t have to destroy the set up.
Check out how The King of Random purified swamp water:
We only really appreciate water once we’re miles and miles away from a dripping faucet, so a lot of us lack the routine skills to make our own purified water from nothing. Should the apocalypse happen or you wash up on an island somewhere, water filtration and purification know-how will save your life. Take the basic knowledge from this post and deepen your understanding further because there will come a time you’ll need to draw from it.
What do you think about this survival skill? Pretty nifty, right? If there is some water purification method we haven’t tackled here, write it down in the comments section below.
Up Next: Camping Checklist For The Wild Man