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Purifying Water In The Wild

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All of us have imagined at some point in our lives whether we have what it takes to survive in the wild. From conjuring up imaginary scenarios of getting stranded on a deserted island to ending up knee-deep in the swamps of dense rainforest with only a backpack, our musings have been endless. And then there are those of us who actually have survived or are planning to challenge ourselves to survive in the wild. Whatever category you may fall under, one thing is absolutely imperative: Water, the elixir of life. Or to be more specific clean drinkable water.

Yes, without food you can last for up to a week max, but without water, even a day will feel like living in hell. Not to mention that you will pass out from dehydration and wake up to

  • being eaten alive by wild beasts
  • buried under an avalanche of snow or
  • not waking up at all!

Suffice to say, the key to surviving in the wild is having access to clean, drinkable water. Here, we are going to share some prime ideas and tips on purifying water, so pay attention.

How can you naturally purify water?

Purifying water can be done naturally. The easiest way to do so is to collect water in a container and heat it over a fire until it boils. You can use any metal container, clay pot, coconut husk or even a large shell to boil water.

Pro tip: For good measure, keep the water over the flames for at least 10 minutes after it starts to bubble to ensure all harmful bacteria and protozoans are killed off. Cool it down and quench your thirst-easy peasy!

How to purify water with natural materials?

Some naturally occurring materials can also help in purifying water. For example, the herb cilantro can absorb the most harmful substances and acts as a natural filter while giving a refreshing flavor to the drink. The center gooey part of a fleshy cactus can also do the trick!

What is the best natural water filter?

The best natural water filter for purifying water is activated charcoal. Why? Because of 3 reasons:

  1. Its porous texture helps trap impurities as small as 1 micron in diameter.
  2. It removes traces of heavy metals such as lead and sulfur from water.
  3. It can be easily found in the wilderness.

Pro tip: Just grab a piece from the fire you built to stay warm, dust off the ashes, rinse it and soak it into the water you wish to purify, preferably for a few long hours and let it work its magic.


What other materials can filter water?

There are a wide variety of water filters available in the market. From portable ones to take on camping trips to our favorite: survival straws, you have plenty of options for purifying water. And as long as we are on the subject, you can also use this guide for basic wilderness survival gear – 10 essential items.

However, you may find yourself stuck in a situation where a handy water filter is unfortunately not available. What to do then? Use what you have of course!

Here are some materials which can act as filters and you may find them in the wild:

  1. Sand Fine sand, or silica, acts as a natural filter. Do you know how the water inside wells is sweet and drinkable? It’s because the sand in the top layers of the earth slowly filters the water and as the water trickles down below, it is stripped off of all its impurities in a slow but effective process. The same principle applies here i.e. Sand can filter particles as tiny as 25 microns and even absorb insoluble minerals like iron and manganese.
    Pro tip: Leave it overnight to give it a good 8-10 hours for the water to collect.
  2. Oysters Yes, you read it right. A fully grown oyster can easily filter up to 50 gallons of water a day!
  3. Fabric You can use a piece of fabric to act as a sieve and filter out most impure particles. Not just any fabric will do, however. You will need to find a piece that is not woven or stretchy at all (because a stretchy fabric will widen the holes and gaps between the threads and allow impurities to pass through). A thin piece of silk, from a scarf perhaps, may come in handy here. But bear in mind, this is only effective for solid impurities, and you will still need to boil the filtered water to make it completely safe for ingestion.

How can I purify water cheaply?

If you are unsure of your wilderness skills in purifying water, the two safest and cheapest ways to do so are by using survival water purification tablets and using survival straws.

Let’s talk about the first one. There are indeed tablets available in the market which can play a beneficial role in survival water purification.

How does it work?

Survival water purification tablets function by releasing chemicals like chlorine or iodine into the water which then kills bacteria, viruses, and protozoans. This may take only 15 minutes for most bacteria to die, 20 minutes for giardia and up to 240 minutes for resistant spores. These tablets are easy to carry in your backpack, cost-friendly, easy to use, and best of all, they require no equipment or tools to work! Just chuck one inside a liter of water and let it work its magic – no fuss guaranteed.

Pro tip: When using tablets that utilize chlorine or chlorine dioxide for purifying water, uncover the lid of the container to allow the chlorine to evaporate to minimize the chemical odor.

Types of water purification tablets

3 of our top picks include:

1. Katadyn Micropur MP1


  • It kills all common microbes that may be present in water, including not just bacteria but also protozoa like cryptosporidium.
  • The packaging is durable which means the tablets won’t crumble into dust if you accidentally sit on them!
  • Super affordable! One pack containing 20 tablets retails on Amazon!
  • It doesn’t irritate your throat unless you are super sensitive.


  • It isn’t the best tasting one from all the ones I tried and tested but the taste is still tolerable.
  • Takes 4 hours to work.

2. Potable Aqua tablets with PA+Plus


  • Best tasting water purification tablets I have ever tried!
  • Completely odorless
  • Durable packaging comes in 2 small bottles, one containing 50 iodine tablets and the other has PA+ tablets for neutralizing the iodine aftertaste.
  • Super cheap on Amazon!
  • Takes only 35-40 minutes to work!
  • Zero irritation.


  • Not effective against cryptosporidium.

3. Purinize Water Purifier Drops


  • Kills most microbes including cryptosporidium.
  • Gives only a mild chemical aftertaste, one that you would barely notice!
  • The packaging is fairly durable.


  • May cause slight throat irritation.
  • It also takes 4 hours to work.
  • A little pricier than the others on Amazon.

Water purification tablets side effects

Although economical and effective, these tablets do have a few side effects like:

  • Bad aftertaste
  • Sore throat
  • Dry cough
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal pain

However, these adverse effects only appear with excessive use.

Summing up, the keynote to take away here is that when in the wilderness, WATER is your best friend! And be it rainwater, stream water or muddy stagnant water, it is vital to know different ways for purifying water and now, thanks to this article, you can be confident in your knowledge about how to purify water in the wild. If you wonder about some other options, you can visit this fellow post on water purification.

Drink safely!