5 Easy Ways to Purify Water in the Wild


Posted on February 18th, 2020

Whether you’re heading out for a day hike or beginning a week-long wilderness journey, you need to begin each trek with a plan for staying hydrated. Now if that plan simply states: “Drink water,” that’s a great start, but it’s not enough to just pack along a few bottles and hope for the best.

Stuff happens. Water gets spilled out. Hikers take wrong turns, or get injured. So, being completely reliant on bottled water could become a major threat to your safety. And, depending on the length of time you spend in the great outdoors, it could also be impractical, as well as wasteful—imagine lugging enough water bottles in your pack to stay hydrated for a full week. Or longer!

Fortunately, mother nature offers many other sources of water. And it’s easy to tap into those sources, as long as you know how to ensure that your water is safe to drink. So read on for our top five tips for purifying water on the go!

Ensuring Water Safety While Out in Nature

Now, most of these methods require some equipment, so they will be best for campers. But others just require smart day hike packing. And still others could save your life if you get lost in the woods with nothing but a memory of this blog post. For those reasons, we hope you’ll pay close attention to these water purification methods:

1. Boil your water

As long as you’ve got a small camp stove—or even a campfire and a pot—this is certainly the easiest way to purify water. The keys to remember: water must first reach a boiling point of rolling bubbles, then remain at that boiling level for a five-minute minimum. After that, the water will be safe for drinking—once it’s cooled off, of course. 

2. Rock it

What if you’re camping, but you forgot to pack a fireproof container for boiling water? No problem: you can still use the heating method of purification! Just stick some rocks into your fire, leaving them in the heat for at least 30 minutes. Using a safe handling method, remove the rocks from the fire and stick them into a container of water, allowing several minutes to pass before taking a drink.  

3. Try filters and pumps

If you camp out regularly, it’s probably worth investing in a water pump or filter, so you can purify water quickly and easily. In fact, some water bottles now come with built-in filtration systems for easy use, and lighter packing. Just head to your local outdoor store and you’ll find plenty of options. 

4. Pack tablets or drops

Looking for a cheap and easy purification system? Iodine, chlorine or potassium permanganate tablets or drops work very well—although they may leave a funny taste in your water. The only constraint with this method is the timing: you have to leave the chemicals in your water for at least 20 minutes before it becomes safe to drink. If this is your method of choice, you may want to pack some powdered drink flavors to mix into your water. This should help cover up the taste of the tablets. 

5. Work with what you’ve got

For all our previous tips to work, you need to: a.) have prepared ahead and b.) have access to a water source. But what should you do if you’re stuck in the wild, with no streams or lakes, and no tools for purification? It’s time to find your inner Bear Grylls … and make the best of your surroundings. First, you’ll need to collect some water. No rain? No worries: it’s possible to pull moisture out of the ground by digging as deep a hole as you can, and sticking any kind of container into bottom of the hole. Next, cover the hole up to trap in humidity—plastic works best, but any air-tight cover can work in a pinch.

Now, place a small weight, such as a rock, in the center of the cover so it dips at its middle point. Then, sit back and allow gravity to work its magic: as the ground water evaporates upwards, it will run into your cover and drip back into the container.  Of course, this will take quite some time but, in an emergency, it may be just the trick you need to save your life. 

6. Using Plants

Can you believe that mother nature also supplies us with a water filter? But before you attempt this method you should be confident in your understanding of plants and the process because mistakes could be severe and no body wants that. So, before you use banana peels to filter mirky water or crush up cilantro and pass water through it, please be experienced!

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