17 Best Ways to Purify Water in the Wild

Water is more important than food when it comes to surviving in the wilderness. This is because a human being can survive for a good number of days without food but only a maximum of 5 days without water. The problem with being in the wilderness is the fact that you will not always have the option of carrying portable water and when you do, you might run out of water before you know it. This is because being in the wilderness requires you to walk for long miles to find food or shelter. Carrying water may therefore not be a permanent solution.

The solution to having enough water in the wild is making use of the water you get in your environment. Water in the wild is normally contaminated with different types of parasites and microorganisms that may be very harmful to your health. For this reason, it is very important to know ways you can use to purify the water in order to ensure it is safe for consumption. Taking purified water prevents you from getting any waterborne diseases and gives you the energy to get involved in the day to day activities of the wilderness.

* We've also listed the 50 Survival Tips and Tricks for the outdoors.

Below are 17 Best Ways to Purify Water in the Wild.

1. Boiling

In the wild, one of the easiest ways to purify water is through boiling. Boiling of water takes only about ten minutes. It is therefore a great way to purify water in the wilderness especially when you do not have a lot of time to spare. For this purification method, you will need to start a fire and have a pot in which you can place the water in order to boil it. When using boiling as your water purification method, it is very important to ensure you apply a lot of heat until you see the water boiling with bubbles. Let the bubbles roll for about 5 minutes before you get the pot off the fire. Once this is done, allow the water to cool for about 5 minutes before drinking it.

Boiling works best for water that is not clean but is clear. This is because boiling is effective against microorganisms but might not be effective against dirt. For this reason, it is highly advisable to use other methods in combination with boiling if the only source of water you have contains dirty water. One way you can achieve this is by boiling the water and then passing it through a sand filter. The sand filter will remove all the debris and the impurities that were not taken care of in the boiling stage. This will make your water cleaner and safer to drink.

2. Filtration

Filtration is a very important way to purify your water in the wilderness. This is because there will be times where the only water you find in the wilderness is muddy or very dirty. In such situations you will require filtration method to purify the water to make it safe for drinking.

Sand filtration is one of the simplest ways to filtrate your water. The following steps indicate how you should go about it.

  • The first thing you will need is a bottle. Cut the bottle’s base evenly to create a cone shape.
  • ​Next, get a filter material you can for the bottom of bottle (the neck part). You can use pebbles or cotton. 3 inches of the filter material should be enough.
  • ​Add gravel to the filter material. The purpose of this is to prevent sand from getting into the water you filter out.
  • ​Fill the cone shaped bottle with sand.
  • Get some water and pour it through the filter you have created. Clear water should come out from the bottom. If the water is not very clear, pass it through the filter again to make it clearer.

There are several advantages you get when you use the sand filtration method. First and foremost, sand filtration is a very easy method of purifying water if you follow the steps above. The other advantage you get from this method of water purification is the fact that is very cost effective. This is because you are only required to use materials that are readily available. The other advantage is the fact that this method is very effective for getting rid of various forms of contaminants such as debris and other contaminants. Last but not least, you can use this method to clean a lot of water.

Here's another way to make survival water filter with a used bottle water.

3. Purification Tablets or Drops

The other way to purify water in the wilderness is by using purification tablets or drops. These are normally sold in most drug stores. The main ingredient in these tablets and drops is usually potassium permanganate, iodine or chlorine. Chlorine is the most commonly use ingredient for purification drops and tablets. The purification drops and tablets are usually made to be used for 20 litres of water. Below are the steps you need to follow in order to purify water in the wilderness using this method.

  • The first thing you will need is a 20 litre can. This however depends on the instructions given on using the drops or tablets. Check the number of litres you are required to add the tablet or drops before you start.
  • ​Fill the can with water up to the brim. Add the drops or tablets as indicated on the instructions.
  • ​Shake the can for about 10 seconds to allow the tablet or drops to mix well with the water.
  • ​Let the water sit in the can for a minimum of 20 minutes before you drink it.
  • Drink the water after the 20 minutes.

This video shows about adding water purification tablets for cleaning drinking water.

4. Evaporation Traps

It might not always be possible to get a water source in the wilderness. Sometimes there might not be nearby water sources and you will need to walk for a very long distance to find a water source. In such a situation, you will need to be very creative. Making evaporation traps on the ground is one of the creative ways to get water without a water source.

  • First and foremost, you will need to survey the land. Look for spots on the land that look like there was a river bed. This is important because you are more likely to get a lot of water in such an area.
  • ​Once you have located the spot you need to dig, start digging 19 inches deep holes. The more the holes, the more the water you will have. For dryer land however, you might need to dig further to locate the moist land.
  • ​Get any kind of plant preferably non-poisonous plants and throw them into the hoes you have dug.
  • ​The next thing you need to do is take an empty cup and place it at the centre of the holes.
  • ​Next, take a plastic bag and cover each of the holes with it.
  • ​Seal the plastic bag by pouring sand around the bag.
  • ​Place a rock at the centre of the plastic wrap to keep it from coming into contact with the cup.
  • ​Wait for the sun to evaporate water.
  • Collect your water.

Here's a video about making evaporation traps on the ground.

5. Distillation

Salty water is common in the wilderness. This type of water however can cause dehydration due to the large amount of salts in it. It also contains a lot of impurities and should therefore be purified. Distillation is the best way to achieve this. This can be done through the following steps.

  • The first thing you need to do is get a pan and a clear glass cup. Position the empty glass at the centre of the pan.
  • ​Pour the salty water in a slow manner taking care to avoid any of the water from getting into the glass cup.
  • ​Have the cover of the pan upside down. The handle should face the glass.
  • ​Boil the water.
  • ​As the water continues to boil, you will notice that it turns into a steam form and collects on the cover. The steam from the cover then condenses into the glass.
  • Wait for the water in the glass to cool then drink it.

6. Use of Survival Straws

If you are not up for doing a lot of work like filtration and distillation require, you have the option of using life straws. As more and more people become fans of taking adventures in the wilderness, more and more inventions are being made to make life in the wilderness tolerable and a bit easier for individuals. The survival life straws were made to help people purify their water when spending time in the wilderness. They are actually very easy to use and you can find them in most places selling hiking supplies.

The first thing you need to do is hold the survival straw into the water body. Hold it for about one minute. This will enable the water to move into the filter membrane.

Afterward, suck on the straw to draw water from the water body and into your mouth. The water you get into your mouth is very clean and safe from microbial and other contaminants.

The survival straws are probably the easiest way to drink purified water especially since there are is not much that you are required to do.

* We also put together a post on the Top 7 Survival Water Filters

7. Solar Water Disinfection

Solar Water Disinfection is one of the commonly used water purification in the wild. This is a method that requires you to be in a very sunny environment in order for the results to be successful. This is because you will be relying on the UV rays from the sun to disinfect your water.

  • The first thing you will need is a clear plastic bottle. This is important because UV rays are able to penetrate very well in such a material.
  • ​The next thing you will need to do is fill the plastic bottle to the brim with unclean water.
  • ​Once this is done, take the plastic bottle of water and place it in direct sunlight. You should choose a spot where the bottle is hit directly at all times by the sun. The best place is where there is no shade.
  • ​Have the bottle sit in the sun for few days.
  • Drink the water.

The downside of this method is the fact that you can only use it in a very hot environment since other weather conditions will not work. It is also not effective against bacterial spores. The water may therefore not be entirely safe.

This video shows how to effectively purity water using solar water disinfection method.

8. Chlorine

You probably would not think of carrying any household chemicals with you when you are taking an adventure in the wilderness. It is however very advisable to carry chlorine from your house since this might come in handy when you are in the wild and you want some clean water to drink.

  • Add the chlorine to the water. The amount of chlorine you add to the water is dependent on the temperature and quality of the water you want to purify. For water that is murky, you will need to use about 4 drops and clear water will require 2 drops.
  • ​Put the lid on the container after adding the chlorine to the water and shake the container to allow the chemical to mix with the water.
  • ​Turn your container upside down and open the lid slightly; about two inches to allow some water to pour out. This cleans the lead and the threads of the container.
  • ​Screw the lid of the container tightly and wipe all the exterior parts of the container. This will allow the chlorine to be on all the surfaces of the container.
  • ​Store the container in a dark or shaded room and let it sit there for a minimum of 30 minutes before you take it.
  • Drink the water.

9. Water Bottle Filters

One thing that is a must have in the wild especially if it is your first time to take such an adventure is a water bottle filter. There are numerous water bottle filters in the market today. The bottles come with filters in-built in them. These filters help in purifying your water enabling you to enjoy clean water when you drink. Using a water bottle filter is very easy.

The first thing you are required to do is to unscrew the lid of the bottle. This is so that you can be able to add water through the opening. Once this is done, add the water from your water source into the bottle preferably up to the brim. Next, squeeze the water filled bottle through the filter in order to enable the filter to clean the water. Once this is done, you can take your water in a short period of time. In about 15 minutes, your water should be safe for you to drink.

10. Using Plants

In the wild, there are numerous plants in the environment. The good news about this is the fact that you can actually use these plants to get clean safe to drink water. It is however very important to be careful not to use toxic plants since these might end up causing you serious health problems. It is very important to choose the right plants for this method. The following are the steps you should follow to succeed at this method.

  • The first thing you will need to do is have all the required materials for this method. You will need a piece of string, a plastic bag and a plant.
  • ​The next step involves selecting the plant you will use to extract the water. The best plant is the one that is constantly exposed to the sun since improves the purification process. A good example of a plant you can use for plant water purification is the berry bushes.
  • ​Get a branch that has a good number of large healthy leaves; shake the branch in order to get rid of insects and debris.
  • ​Wrap each leaf on the branch with a plastic bag and use the string to secure the bag tightly on the leaves. The trick here is to prevent any evaporated water from escaping.
  • Wait for a few days and there will be enough water to drink.

Here's another way on how to purify water using plants.

11. Natural Chemical Treatments

It is possible to utilize the plants you have in your environment to purify your water especially in an emergency situation. There are a good number of plants in the wilderness that have antimicrobial properties. These are the plants you need when you are looking for a way to purify the water you drink in order to protect yourself from waterborne illnesses. Oregon Grape is the perfect shrub you can use for the purpose of making your water pure for drinking. All you need to do is chew the root of this shrub before taking the water and after. The inner bark of Oregon Grape plant has berberine. This is an antimicrobial alkaloid that is very powerful against microorganisms.

When you chew the shrub’s root, the antimicrobial properties of the berberine kick in and fight all the microorganisms that might be present in the water. This method however has some disadvantages. One of the disadvantages of this method is the fact that you might not find this shrub easily and if you do, you might have a very hard chewing it since it is very bitter. It is however worth a try in cases of an emergency.

12. Carbon Water Filters

Carbon is one of the water purification methods that have been used the most for a long period of time. It is also one of the methods that people try to do modifications on to make it even better. This is a good method for removing impurities and chlorine from your water. Activated carbon is the carbon that is used in purification of water. Water is passed through different forms of this carbon to make it clean and safe for drinking. The common forms of activated carbon are the granular and solid form. The solid activated carbon is in most cases not used because water tends to take a long time to flow through the solid carbon. However, this is the best for purifying water since the slower the water passes, the more the impurities the activated carbon are able to catch. All you need to do is get a filter that has in-built activated carbon and use it to purify your water while you are out in the wild. For more water bottle filtering techniques, our friends at deerhuntingfield put together a guide on finding and purifying water in the wilderness.

13. Ceramic Filters

Ceramic filters are another example of a simple way to purify your water while you are in the wild. This method is very simple. The first thing you need to do is ensure you have a ceramic material with you. The next thing you need to do is pass some unclean water through the pores of the ceramic material. The water that will come out from the other side will be clean. This is a method that has been used by many travellers and backpackers over the years. Brewing industries have also adopted this method as an alternative for pasteurization because it is very effective against microorganisms.

This method is however not very good on its own. This is because it is not effective against pesticides and organic pollutants. It is therefore advisable to pass the ceramic filtered water through a carbon filter before you drink it. This is because carbon filters are capable of removing these contaminants and making the water even cleaner. It is however possible to forgo the carbon filter stage if you are certain that the water has not had any form of pesticide or organic pollution.

This video shows on how to purify water using ceramic filter method.

14. Iodine

Iodine is another example of a chemical that can be used to clean water in the wild. If you do not have iodine in your home, it is possible to get some in any drug store. The best thing about iodine is the fact that it is effective against microorganisms and other types of contaminants. Below is the process you should follow to purify water with iodine successfully.

  • First and foremost, you need to fill your container to the brim with clear or dirty water (depending on what you get in your search for water).
  • ​Once you have your hands on some water and you have placed in a container, add about 5 drops of the iodine to the water if it appears clear and about 10 if the water is muddy.
  • ​Shake the container to allow the iodine and the water to mix for the best results.
  • ​Leave the container in a dark place for about an hour. The importance of keeping the container in a dark place is the fact that it protects the iodine since iodine is light sensitive.
  • After one hour, your water will be clean enough and safe to drink.

One thing you should expect when using iodine to purify your water is some taste. This is because iodine imparts its flavour into the water since it mixes with the water. This is not something that can harm you in any way. You can take the water as it is. If you are not fond of the taste, adding Vitamin C has been said to help a lot in reducing the taste of iodized water. It is therefore advisable for you to carry a couple of vitamin c tablets the next time you decide to spend some time in the wild.

Here's a video on how to use liquid iodine to purify water.

15. Stone Boiling

There might be situations where you are in the wild but you do not have materials you can use to boil your water to make it safe for drinking. In such situations, you need to be creative. Over the years, campers and travellers have used stones to boil their water when they did not have any equipment with them. In the case where you do not have a pot to boil your water in, you should try and find a rock with a round hole in it. You can use this in the same way you would use the pot. Pour some water into the round hole of the rock and place the rock on the fire. This is another way to purify water by boiling. The problem with this method is that it might be hard to get such a rock.

The other way you can use a stone to boil your water is by using hot stones. It is possible to find hot stones in the wild. Here is what you have to do with the stones.

  • First and foremost, take a container and place the water in it.
  • ​In the container holding the water, add some rocks that are not heated. These you will use to hold the hot rock in order to prevent the hot rock from coming into contact with the container especially if it is a plastic container.
  • Next, place the hot stone on the other rocks and allow the hot rock to sit in the water for a while. Once the rock has stayed in the water for about 15 minutes, change the rock and put in a new hot stone. Keep doing this until the water boils.

This video demonstrate about rock boiling water for survival.

16. T-shirt Filtration

Creativity is something that has helped a lot of people who stay in the wild for a long time. For a long time, people who were in the wild and did not have the necessary supplies to purify their water used their t-shirts to get clean safe to drink water. To do this, all you need is a couple of clean t-shirts and three rods of sticks.

  • First and foremost, you need to secure the rods of sticks by inserting a couple of inches of the sticks into the ground. Arrange them in such a way that they create a triangle shape.
  • ​Once this is done, take the t-shirts and tie them on the sticks one on top of the other. The importance of doing this is that it enables you to have several layers of filtering material.
  • ​The next thing you need to do is have a container below the t-shirts in which you will collect the clean water.
  • ​Next, pass the water through the filtrate and watch as clean water collects into your container.
  • If the water is not as clear as you would want, pass it through the filter again for better results.

17. Sedimentation

Sedimentation is where particles tend to settle at the bottom of a container in which the water has been placed leaving the water clean except for the bottom part. Sedimentation is a great method for murky water purification.

  • The first thing you will need is a container to have the water in.
  • ​Once you have a big enough container, the next thing you need to do is fill the container with the dirty water.
  • ​The next step is to allow the water to sit in the container for a day or two.
  • ​After two days, you will notice that the dirt particles have settled at the bottom of the container. Take the water and pour it in another container in a slow motion to prevent the dirt particles from entering into the other container.
  • ​Take the water you have separated from the initial container and pass it through a sand filter. The importance of this step is that it enables you to get rid of other impurities the sedimentation method is unable to get rid of.
  • The water you collect from the sand filter will be clean and safe to drink.


In conclusion, it is very important to find ways to purify your water in the wild. This is because water found in the wild is contaminated with microorganisms, pathogens and sometimes even harmful chemicals. These microorganisms can cause diseases such as dysentery and other very serious health problems you might not be able to cure easily. Always remember that prevention is better than cure when you are spending time in the wilderness. It is very important to be open to using different water purification methods in the wilderness. This is because you can never be sure what kind of water body you will find in the wild and whether or not the water will be easy to clean. It is therefore important to carry a few supplies from home which will make purifying water an easy task. The other thing you should know before you start purifying your water in the wild is the fact that some methods are good when combined. It is therefore important to get skills on different methods so that you can ensure you only take very clean water. Last but not least, it is important to always find different water sources. This enables you to have enough especially if you plan on staying in the wild for a long time.

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