3 Ways to Get Clean Water in the Wilderness

Whether you get cut off from basic resources because of an attack or natural disaster, or are headed out for a long hike, knowing how to get clean water is vital for survival. Water can be deceptive, and what may look like a clean, fresh spring, can sometimes be filled with dangerous chemicals or bacteria that can seriously jeopardize your health.

We’re going to go over some easy ways to clean virtually any water that you find so that it will be safe to drink, but first, let’s go over some some simple tips to help make the process a little easier:

  • Not all water is created equal. If it’s brown and standing still, do everything you can to find another source. The methods for cleaning water we’re about to discuss are effective in killing germs, but toxic metals and chemicals don’t go away. Look for moving streams and other bodies that are free of foreign substances.
  • Walk upstream. If you walk up to a stream and are planning on taking water from it, take a few minutes to walk a bit upstream. If you see some dead animals or any waste, take water from somewhere above. Purification will kill pretty much everything, but it is never a bad idea to limit the amount of toxins in the water you plan to drink.
  • Load up when you can. Water is heavy, but it is also precious. When you find a clean source, or one that is at least acceptable enough to drink, fill up as much as you can carry, as you don’t know when you’ll find another one. If you’re going to be staying in the area, this might not be as important, but consider always having a decent supply on hand in case of an emergency.

Knowing this, here are three surefire ways to get clean water virtually anywhere.

Boil It

This is far and away the easiest way to clean water. Virtually no bacteria (at least the kind you would find in common water sources) can live at 212°F, so if you find a water source you aren’t sure is safe to drink, simply build a small fire or put it on the stove, and once it’s rolling, you know it is safe.

The only downsides to this method are that you need to be able to make a fire and that boiling the water will not clean out the dirt. So if you find a muddy stream or pool, the boiled water will still look the same. This may require some mental strength to drink, but just trust in science and know can’t hurt you. Also, boiling water will not remove toxic chemicals, so do your best to ensure these are not present in the water you plan to drink.

Bleach It

This may sound strange, as most of us have always been told to avoid bleach like the plague, but it is actually a really easy way to clean almost any water source. Simple add one drop (think of an eye dropper) to each liter of water. It will make the water taste a little funny, but it will kill any harmful bacteria, making it safe to drink.

This is the same idea behind the water purification tabs you can buy at most camping/outdoors stores, but using a dropper and some bleach is far less expensive. In the event you do not have bleach, iodine will also work, but something with chlorine in it will certainly be stronger and is the preferred method.

Filter It

If you can’t boil or bleach the water you plan to drink, you can always filter it. To do this, you will need a few things.

  • A small container.
  • Charcoal. If you don’t have this, you can use old, burnt wood
  • Leaves/grass.
  • Small stones/pebbles.

Once you have these, cut a small hole in the bottom of the container. Layer the charcoal, stones and leaves/grass on top, making sure to leave some room for air. Then, pour the water slowly over the leaves and let it run through, collecting the water that comes out of the bottom. You could put a piece of cloth over the whole as a final filter, but make sure it is clean. The best thing to do in this case is filter and boil, but if you can only do one and don’t have access to a heat source, this is a pretty effective way to get some clean water.

When out in the wilderness or in a survival situation, preparation is key. Knowing what you need to do to get the resources necessary to live could be a matter of life and death. These simple water purification techniques will make sure you will always have access to clean water, making your chances for survival that much higher.


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