How to Filter and Purify Water in the Wild

You should always be ready for a survival situation – having both the know-how and the equipment necessary. Be ready to survive without your gear as well.

When stranded in the wild, you will rarely have access to water that’s safe to drink. And this will probably be your biggest problem, as you – and whoever is accompanying you – have to drink at least 1-2 liters of water each day.

Fortunately it takes relatively little effort to filter and purify water in the wild – if you can find some.

What most people omit is the fact that most of the dangerous chemicals remain in the water after boiling. Therefore you always have to filter it before boiling. Boiling will only serve to kill the bacteria and viruses in the water.

How to filter and purify water:

how-to-filter-and-purify-water-in-the-wildYour filtering container can be made of a bottle with the cut out bottom, a tin can with holes in the bottom or even a strip of bark shaped into a cone. The pebbles have to be quite small in order for the sand not to mix with them. Charcoal or activated charcoal is the most important ingredient when it comes to removing pathogens and harmful chemicals from the water – everything else serves primarily as a dirt filter.

Pour the water through your filter and into a suitable water container. If you’re unsure whether the filtering and purification has been thorough enough – repeat the process. If you keep the filtering container for a prolonged time, you may need to replace the charcoal layer with a new one.

Afterwards, you should boil the water for at least 2 minutes in order to make it safe to drink. You can add ingredients like pine needles, spruce needles or forest fruit to add taste and nutritional value to your drink. Roots can be also a great source of nutrients.

If you decide to keep some of the treated water, remember to re-boil it every 1-2 days.

You should learn to filter and purify water quickly, so you can provide drinkable water in a time of dire need.

Finding water is another issue that you’ll have to be able to solve. There are many sources, but only some of them will be available in a given location.


It’s best to obtain water from fast-running sources like the river pictured above – Goahtemuorjohka near Skaidi, which, among others, served me as a great source of delicious drinking and shower water during my 3 month backpacking trip around Norway.

How to find water? If you don’t seem to be able to find any, try following animal tracks or observing birds and insects – they usually fly lower and in larger groups when there is a body of water near:


The Prestvannet lake on Tromsøya island in northern Norway – pictured above – was pretty easy to find, as most birds in the area flock there. Not exactly wilderness, mind you.

But remember – in most survival situations you should be moving around a lot, trying to get yourself – and others that might be accompanying you – out of it. This will be also your best chance to find water – as you cover more land, more likely it is that you come across a pond, lake, river or stream.

Related post: How to Filter and Purify Rain Water for Home Use.


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