How To Purify Water In The Wild?

Clean and fresh drinking water is basic for your successful outdoor experience. You will use it for drinking and cooking your meals.

purifying water outdoors

To meet your water requirements you can carry water from home. However, you would have to carry a lot of it to make sure you have enough.

In most cases, this is not a good option in (minimalist) camping.

A more practical option is to use the water from the sources around your campsite such as rivers and lakes.

This survival drinking water, however, is full of visible and invisible germs. Drinking unprocessed water will definitely get you sick.

Whether you’re out camping, backpacking, or just lost in the wilderness, knowing how to purify your water is a critical skill.

Not only can untreated water make you sick, but it can also be deadly in certain cases. Luckily, there are several ways to clean outdoor water without access to a modern kitchen.

In this post, we’ll explore the most common methods of water purification and water disinfecting tools so you will satisfy your basic needs.

So whether you’re planning your next outdoor adventure or finding yourself in a survival situation, read on for tips on how to purify water in the wild safely and effectively.

What are the safest ways to purify water?

Safe water purification methods vary depending on the type of water you are treating and the contaminants you are trying to remove.

You should always consider drinking clean water while enjoying the great outdoors so here you have 9 methods to purify outdoor water to stay hydrated throughout the trip.

purifying water

#1 Boiling

This is the simplest way to have uncontaminated water for drinking. It is also the cheapest as you won’t have to purchase anything else to make this process a success.

To boil it, all you need is a pan and the contaminated water to be purified. Heat it for about 10 minutes to bring it to a boil. Boiling will kill all the germs in the water and make it suitable for human consumption.

It is also the least labor-intensive method of all the survival water purification techniques as all you have to do is monitor it as it boils.

Besides drinking it you can use it for cleaning, preparing meals, and brewing coffee. Allow it to cool down and then sieve it to remove any solid segments.

#2 Filtering

The other method that you can use is by filtering it. A filter is supposed to remove the solid particles present in liquid but the modern filters that we have today do more than this.

If you are interested to know more about them check these survival water filters.

filtering water outdoors

A chemical component

How to clean water and what is the best way to filter water for survival? The best way to do it is to use a filter with a chemical component.

A chemical component kills the germs that are not visible to the human eye. These invisible germs are the most dangerous.

Other than killing invisible germs, such filters allow you to drink/use the water immediately after the purification process is complete.

You won’t have to wait for filtered water to cool down since it is not heated in the first place.

Small and compact

There are people who worry that filters are heavy and bulky but that is not the case anymore. Nowadays filters are built to be small and compact to make them easy to transport and pack.

They are also not as expensive as they were when filters were heavy. As an avid camper, you should make sure that you have one of these in your arsenal.

Such water filtration devices are the right answer on how to filter water in a survival situation that will help you clean it and guarantee your safety and well-being.

#3 chemical treatment

You can choose to treat the water with chemicals. Chemical treatment involves the use of iodine tablets for purification. They are quite effective in killing bacteria that are present in an unfiltered liquid.

I use potable Aqua’s iodine tablets to have drinkable water while camping or in survival situations. Check the best seller of iodine tablets that many outdoorsmen use to have clean drinking water.

potable aqua

These are popular water disinfection tablets that won’t cost you much and you will have plenty of them on disposal. They work against Giardia Lamblia which is the most common cause of human diarrhea.

Quick and easy to use

This water treatment method is the quick and easiest way to treat water. All you have to do is to drop the tablet in the water, wait for some time and you are good to go.

Iodine tablets can also be accessed easily. As a camper, make sure that you have a few of these for your purification needs.

Use running water

Some iodine leaves a taste in the iodine-infused water but if you are not a fan of the iodine taste, you can get other tablets that function to remove it.

In as much as iodine will kill most of the germs, it is advisable to collect running water as it is deemed safer than a stationary one.

Moving water is free of the scum that is found on settled water and as such, it is much safer for human consumption. You can also get it from a spring head as it is usually less contaminated.

#4 Distillation

The water in tropical areas might have more salt and minerals that can make you even more dehydrated if you drink brackish or salty water.

So, it is important to separate them from the liquid. With distillation, you will separate the water’s salts and minerals. How to distill water?

Water destilation process

Water distillation process

You need a container, a small container, and a cover to distill the water. Place the smaller container into the larger one and fill the water in the large canister.

Cover it and leave so condensation will do its job. The cover must be indented towards the smaller vessel so the condensation can drip to it.

This is a primitive water purification that won’t purify it fully but it will distill it. If you want to make it safe to drink use an emergency water filter.

#5 Sedimentation

How do you filter water without a water filter? If you see water murky you can use the sedimentation method to get drinking one without particles.

Using sedimentation is one of the ways to purify dirty water naturally. How to use this method?

Get a container and pour the liquid into it. Leave it to stand for some period of time so the particles and dirt will gather at the bottom.

Use a water bottle or other container to pour it in just be careful not to disturb the dirt at the bottom. You can use a plastic or metal bottle.

You can use a single-wall water bottle or double-wall bottle, but the double wall water bottle is more effective.

This is because it helps to keep the water cold and it is less likely to develop condensation on the outside.

It is always best to clean it additionally with other purifying methods that I presented in the article. This way you will have clean water for drinking and cooking.

#6 Stone boiling

Many survivalists use this natural method of purification when they don’t have any tablets or other filtering systems with them.

If you want to use this method, get some rocks and a solid container that will handle high temperatures.

Clean the rocks and put them into the hot campfire to heat them up. Prepare the container with water. Get some sticks that will help you to grab the stones.

stone boiling water purification

Get them out, blow the dirt off, and place them into the water. When the water will start to boil you will know that your goal is accomplished.

It is disinfected after you leave the stones in for about a few minutes.

#7 Solar water disinfection

Solar water disinfection (SODIS) is a type of water purification that uses solar energy to destroy pathogens in water. It is a simple, effective, and affordable method of water treatment.

The basic principle behind solar disinfection is to expose plastic bottles with contaminated water to sunlight. The sun’s ultraviolet rays kill the bacteria and viruses in the water, making it safe to drink.

#8 UV light device

Using a UV light device can be handy. By using it, you will reduce the number of bacteria and other contaminants in your drinking water.

This is a great option if you are camping or hiking and don’t have access to a clean water source.

These devices work by emitting ultraviolet radiation. The radiation kills the bacteria and other contaminants in the water, making it safe to drink.

They are small and portable, making them perfect for taking on outdoor trips.

Here is a SteriPEN Ultra UV Water Purifier that destroys over 99.9% of bacteria, viruses, and protozoa for you to have clean water in no time.

There are a few things to keep in mind when using a UV light device.

First, make sure that the water is clear before treating it with UV light. If there are particles or sediment in the water, it will reduce the effectiveness of the UV light.

Secondly, make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use. Each UV light device is different and will have specific instructions on how to use it.

#9 Plant water purification in the wild

Are you surprised to see plants on the list of water purification? Some plants can be helpful in this procedure. How to clean water naturally?

plant water purification

The procedure is an easy way for treating water as you will soak plants in the stagnant water. This is one of the ways to filter water without boiling. Plants that will help you are:

  • Reeds and bulrushes
  • Plant Xylem
  • Cilantro
  • Moringa Oleifera
  • Oregon Grape (antimicrobial alkaloid)
  • Coconut
  • Rice
  • Fruit Peels
  • Jackfruit seeds
  • Java plum seed

Can you boil stagnant water and drink it?

This is the most common question that I get regarding water purification. Boiling stagnant water is a good way to clean water without a filter. Even more, this is one of the best ways to sterilize water.

Stagnant water is full of living organisms such as bacteria, viruses, and parasites so it isn’t appropriate to drink as it is.

If you don’t have clean water with you then you can boil it to kill those germs as it is the safest purifying method to kill disease-killing organisms.

If the taste of the boiled water is strange leave it to stand for a few hours or add a little salt to each quarter of a liter of boiled liquid.

CDC published a pdf document where you can check which contaminant causes potential health effects and what are the methods to deal with them.

How long do you have to boil water to purify it?

Boil it for at least a minute to destroy human pathogens. However, if you are dealing with cold or cloudy water or there are particulates in it, you should boil it for at least three minutes.

According to WHO, 90% of human pathogens will be destroyed in one minute of a water temperature above 65 °C.

If you have a pot with a tight-fitting lid, you can bring the water to a rolling boil and then let it sit for one minute to kill any organisms left. This is the best way to clean water fast.

Can you survive on boiled water?

Boiled water will kill the majority of harmful pathogens, so it is safe to drink. However, you will need to purify the water to make sure all of the harmful organisms are killed.

You can survive on boiled water for an extended period of time, but it’s not recommended for everyday use.

Boiling will remove most of the dissolved oxygen from the water, which can make it difficult to drink. It is best to drink boiled water when you are stranded in the wilderness.

How do you purify water in the forest?

If staying in a forest, you can collect rainwater or use water filters. If you are near a river, you can also use the river source.

If there is no freshwater around, you will need to find another way to purify your water. One way to do this is by boiling. You can also use tablets that kill bacteria.

water boiling purification

Which survival water filter is best?

If you decide to get drinkable water with the help of a filter, which one should you choose?

A pump filter

There are different types of filters for various purposes. The most popular outdoor filter is a pump filter.

This type needs to be operated by hand and is good at cleaning large quantities of water quickly. It’s perfect for use when camping, backpacking, or if you need to filter water from a river or stream.

A gravity filter

Another popular choice is the gravity filter. This type doesn’t require any pumping and is very easy to use – you just hang it from a tree or other high spot and let the filter down through the filter media.

Gravity filters are great for filtering large quantities of water, but they can be a bit slow if you are trying to filter water on the go.

A straw filter

If you are looking for a small, lightweight filter that is perfect for traveling, then you might want to consider a straw filter.

These filters usually attach to the end of a drinking straw and allow you to drink directly from any source of water – even puddles and streams.

Straw-style water filters are affordable and work well for removing most contaminants from water.

No matter what type of filter you choose, it’s important to know how to use it properly.

Make sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully and practice using the filter before you need it in a real emergency.

What is the most effective portable water filter?

The most effective portable filter for water is the one that meets your specific needs.

If you are looking for a fast and efficient filter for camping and backpacking, then a pump filter is the best option.

water filter pump

If you need a filter that can handle large quantities of water, then a gravity filter is a good choice.

And if you are looking for an easy-to-use and affordable filter for traveling, then a straw filter is a good option.

Use Platypus GravityWorks filter

However, the most effective portable water filter is the Platypus GravityWorks Filter. It is a four-liter filter that can easily be transported in a backpack.

The filter uses gravity to filter the water and does not require any pumping. It also has a wide variety of filters that can be used, including a carbon filter to reduce bad tastes and smells.

How to find clean water in the wild?

Do you want to know which outdoor water is the cleanest of all? The best water source to use is running water that cleans through the soil and rocks.

Avoid stagnant water if you can and choose rivers and creaks with a good water flow.

When you find a creek or a river make sure that you head upstream as much as possible and check if there isn’t any dead animal lying in the water. This way you will avoid contamination.

Fill up the water bottle with the running water and use one of my survival water filtering techniques to get uncontaminated water for drinking.

This is the best way to know how to find and clean water in the backcountry.

Use precipitation

You can also use rain, snow, and dew as an emergency water supply.

If you decide to get drinkable water this way, make sure you have a clean container where the water will accumulate and that the raindrops won’t touch the treetop or anything else.

How do you purify water in the wild with nothing?

When you don’t have anything to purify water in the outdoors with, you can use the sun or a fire.

To purify water with the sun, first, pour the water into a clear container. If the water is cloudy, you can pour it through a coffee filter or some other type of filter to make it clearer.

Then place the container in direct sunlight and let it sit for at least six hours. The sun’s UV rays will kill any bacteria or parasites in the water.

Solar water purification

To clean water with fire, build a small fire and let it burn until it is hot. Then place the container of water on top of the fire so that the flames reach up to it.

Let the water boil for at least five minutes. Check how you can make dryer lint firestarters so you will set a campfire in no time with success.

Both of these methods are effective at killing bacteria and parasites, but neither of them will get rid of viruses.

If you are worried about viruses in your water, you can use a chemical purifier such as chlorine dioxide tablets or iodine crystals.

Make homemade water purification tablets

Are you interested in making DIY water purification tablets? You can make them at home using bleach. Prepare the next items:

  • 4 drops of bleach on a gallon of water
  • Pliers
  • Drinking straw
  • Lighter or a jet torch lighter
  • Drop applicator

The procedure

Grab pliers and hold the top of the straw with them, leaving 8-16 of an inch of plastic out so it will melt together to seal the straw.

Put the top of the straw closer to the lighter so the plastic melts and seals the straw. Wait for a few seconds so the straw will be sealed properly.

Take your drop applicator and fill the straw with bleach. Seal the other top of the straw and you have your bleach kit ready to use while you are outdoors.

You can write how many drops of bleach are in the straw so you will know how to dose them in the water content.

Make sure you buy odorless and clean bleach.


When you are out there camping or backpacking, it is vital to make sure that the water is clean and free of germs for consumption.

Purifying water is one of the most important aspects of survival in the wild.

By understanding how to purify water in the wild and using different methods, you can ensure that you will always have potable water.

Check out my water survival guide for more information on how to purify outdoor water sources to stay hydrated in any situation.

Use the methods when you don’t have bottled water with you or you drank all of it and need to have more.

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