How to Purify Water While Camping or Backpacking
My mind is full of memories of my Scouting days from when I was a youth and truth be told, many of my best memories came from early Cub Scout campouts that would be the first steps towards me eventually becoming an Eagle Scout.
Anything with the wilderness always caught my interest, so learning about wilderness survival, the importance of water, and the various ways to get water in the seemingly inhospitable wild were skills that I learned eagerly.
Wilderness Survival, Emergency Preparedness, First Aid, Camping, and Pioneering merit badges were just a few of the ones that really taught me to think about things differently and focus on many things in a certain way.
Each rank of Scouts would concentrate on these things again, and we learned over and over you could go for a long time without food or even without fire in most places, but you needed water.
Water filters weren’t an option in those days because this was all about the skills to excel in the wild, but whether you’re tracking down natural water you can drink straight up, learning ways to naturally purify water in the wild, or preparing for an emergency situation, you should always have the knowledge and tools on hand to get yourself drinkable water if needed.
Read on to learn how to purify water in the wild (or even purify unsafe water in urban settings like New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina), because this is a skill you want to know inside and out!
Important legal disclaimer: This should go without saying, but this is the world we live in so: this article is like any other on the blog, it is informational in nature. We’re doing our best to give all the correct information on how to find or create clean drinking water but we are not doctors, we are not nature deities who can guarantee safety, and we are not legally liable if you get lost in the woods and get sick from water that isn’t fully filtered. We’re here to provide you the power of information – nothing more.
Best Vs. Worst Natural Water Sources in the Wild
One of the best things you can do if you’re going to be going on a thru hike or hiking in really isolated areas is to learn about natural water sources. Depending where you are there might be plenty of places in the wild where the water is perfectly safe or mostly safe to drink, and then there will be places where it obviously won’t be.
While it’s always a good idea to use filters when out on a thru hike or hiking rustically (or in a wilderness survival situation) but by understanding the likelihood of water that is infected versus the water that is most likely to be clean, you will be in better shape if you don’t have a good filtration option on hand and even if you do, the cleaner the water you start with, the better off you’ll be filtering it anyway.
So what should you look for?
Keep in mind that these aren’t necessarily 100% equal, and the area has a lot to do with it, but there are a few rules of thumb to follow that can help increase your chances of staying with healthier clean sources of water and avoiding the issues that can come from contaminated water. While boiling is a great practice and you always want more than one way of filtering your water, starting with the cleanest possible source will help drastically increase your chances of avoiding any unfortunate trail incidents due to bad water.
Certain places just tend to have cleaner water so things you want to look for when searching for water, whether in a wilderness survival situation, or taking a long thru hike, this information is crucial.
You want to look for water from cleaner sources like:
- Running water
- Water over rocks
- Water through moss
These are generally excellent sources of water and if you have water running quickly through rocks AND moss then you likely have a winner there. This is one of the best situations you can find in the wild, however if you have the ability to filter and sterilize the water on top of it, then you should absolutely do that as well.
River Water vs. Lake Water vs. Creek Water: Which Is Cleanest?
This is a question that comes up a lot, but there is no easy answer. While looking for running water in the deep wilderness might indicate that currents equal clean, would you say that about the Mississippi River that has had cities dumping stuff in it for hundreds of years?
The truth is that while there are some rules of thumb for certain situations, this question is exactly that: EXTREMELY situational. If the water looks dirty and stagnant, it doesn’t matter whether river, pond, or lake – that’s nasty.
On the other hand if you are out really and truly in the middle of nowhere, that clean water flowing over rocks that looks and smells pristine might very well be all but ready to go.
Before heading out anywhere you need to be prepared with multiple options. Carrying multiple water purification tablets, a lightweight water filter for backpackers and ultralight hikers, or a fire starter and metal container for good old fire; add very little weight to your pack and give you multiple options to make absolutely sure that you will have drinkable water no matter what condition it is in when you find it.
Always do your research ahead of time, and make sure you know how to use anything you’re carrying. If you find yourself in a survival situation, remember that dehydration kills the quickest, so have your filter ready and make sure to buy yourself time by having the ability to stay hydrated.
Looking At Our Top Rated Outdoor Water Filters
There are several water filters for campers and hikers that are already extremely popular with hundreds or even thousands of positive reviews, and for good reason. Ranging from a simple “filter straw” that has become really popular with the rise of thru hiking over the past couple decades to slightly more advanced systems, there are many ways to help give yourself clean water when you need it most.
Boiling is almost always best
No matter how clean the water seems or how effective water filters can be, there’s a reason why boiling has long been a go to: it kills everything, including normally the small number of potential bacteria or viruses that many filters won’t be able to fully filter out, no matter how good the design.
While the process is time consuming and can be irritating if you are say on a long thru hike or a multi-day hike in really isolated State or National Parks (hello memories of Alaska!) it is a far better thing than catching Giardiasis, a.k.a. “beaver fever.”
That being said in many places, like thru hiking many long established trails in North America, a filter for bacteria will be enough most of the time. There’s a lot to go over in the following article, but you can expect the following sections:
- Top 8 portable water filters for outdoor use and filter vs. purifier
- Finding pure water in wilderness survival situations
- Water purification tablets & our top 4 choices (Although several are simply different versions/options for Aquatabs)
- Urban emergency water kits & top 6 choices
- Clean outdoor water FAQ
The LifeStraw water filter is a very well known wilderness water filter for campers, hikers, backpackers, and other outdoor enthusiasts who may find themselves in need of clean and safe drinking water while out in the wild.
This award-winning filter (Time Magazine referred to LifeStraw as the invention of the year) is extremely lightweight, easy to use, and is designed to filter up to 1,000 liters of water without the need for any additional chemicals like iodine or chlorine. This filter specifically is designed to filter 99.9%+ of bacteria commonly found in water as well as protozoan parasites that also call the water home.
While you still need to be wary of places known to have dangerous viral issues in the water, when it comes to bacteria and protozoan you are in good shape. In fact, this popular filter has been so effective that it has been produced in mass for multiple bulk deliveries to afflicted regions that were struck after a natural disaster.
When a product is consistently being used in mass relief efforts for quick and efficient purification of contaminated drinking water. Measuring a mere 9 X 1 X 1 inches and only two ounces in weight, despite the very small numbers this is a powerful survival tool has a very high flow rate and can treat a stunning 1,000 liters of water.
Add in the strong emphasis on charity work and the company’s commitment to using the money from purchased LifeStraws to provide clean drinking water in developing communities (especially for children), and it’s not a hard sell to see this filter as a must have for every long backpacking trek or bug out bag.
Sawyer is a name very well known by a wide array of outdoor enthusiasts, and in particular they have a reputation for producing some really top notch outdoor water filtration options. The mini water filtration system from Sawyer products is not only ideal for backpacking and hiking, but also for exploring, scouting, or as part of a bug out bag or wilderness survival disaster test.
The Sawyer mini filter hits most of what you want in this type of outdoor tool. This is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, and weighs only 2 ounces while creating a membraned filter that helps to remove the majority of protozoa and bacteria. In fact, this filter goes above and beyond EPA standards.
Able to remove well over 99.9% of all bacteria and protozoa, this takes care of the far majority of serious issues that pop up with unclean water and offers a great way to quickly and effectively filter the water whether you’re in a wilderness survival situation or an ultralight backpacker looking for water in the middle of a long through hike. With the ability to properly filter up to 100,000 gallons of water, it’s hard to argue with what Sawyer brings to the table.
This reliable brand comes out with another fantastic product and the straw comes with all the accessories needed to take advantage of its versatility in the wild. While they might not be quite as well known as LifeStraw, they can go toe to toe with the competition and still come out on top a one of the top options out there.
This is quite a bit different from the filtering straw models of the first two entries, but shows what a good compact wilderness survival water filter system looks like. If you want a setup that will help you make sure you purify your drinking water from nearly any source, then this is a product you need to take a really serious look at.
This system is a 0.01 micron water purifier and is ideal for emergencies and as part of any survival gear for camping or long distance thru-hiking or backpacking in desolate places. A three stage nano-filtration filter, this top notch system is highly rated and comes with a variety of important accessories that help make sure you can fully and thoroughly filter your water to make it safe to drink from almost any source you’re likely to run into in the wild.
Independently tested at various U.S. labs, the tests have been nothing short of spectacular not only removing the level of bacteria and protozoa but has also been shown to have some serious ability to remove up to 99% of all virus, staph, and even 99% of mercury and 93% of lead. That’s a really impressive set of lab results and shows why many preppers as well as outdoor enthusiasts absolutely love this filter.
This setup filters an impressive 17 ounces a minute and comes with a detailed instruction manual for first time users. This setup can filter up to 100,000 liters before the filters all need to be changed out and replaced, while the replaceable carbon filter will last for 2,000 liters.
Those are some impressive numbers. Add in a lifetime warranty and you have a winner for a serious water filter here.
The survivor filter is an extremely high quality water filter for wilderness use that has been tested through many labs in Columbus Ohio. The tests showed the three filter system that this particular filter uses has been incredibly effective for a wide array of contaminants including protozoa, bacteria, and in some cases even particular water viruses.
Part of the reason this is so effective is because of the specialty construction which led to a three filter setup. That filter process includes:
- Mesh cotton pre-filter
- Built in membrane ultra filter
- Replaceable carbon filter
By having this three step process, almost everything that you don’t want in the water will be filtered out along the way. The replaceable carbon filter lasts for up to 1,000 liters (which is 264 gallons for us Americans), while the membrane ultra filter is good for 100,000 liters (#1 you can do the math, #2 no way you’re keeping track of that many gallons).
This survival straw comes with a few extra filters in the beginning, and there’s a reason this one appears so high on the list: it has some incredible performance results at this point. Add in a 7 ounce per minute flow rate and a 100% lifetime warranty and it’s not hard to see why this filter is so high on our list of clean water options.
There are several truly outstanding straw-based water filters for wilderness use and we want to make sure that our readers understand the full array of options that are available. The Etekcity portable filtration straw is an excellent example of this, and they fully deserve to be on this list.
Well designed and easy to use, the Etekcity filter straw uses the 3-stage advanced filtration setup that has become so popular among these products because of its effectiveness. This means a pre-filter, an anti-bacterial carbon filter, and a follow fiber membrane filter set for 0.01 microns.
This filter has been tested to remove well over 99% of common waterborne bacteria and protozoa. This water filter has been thoroughly tested and meets all EPA water quality standards, making it an outstanding choice as part of a bug out bag, emergency kit, or thru hiker’s or back country trekker’s pack.
The filter comes with a few important accessories such as a longer straw that attaches to the filter, a proper cleaning syringe, and a foldable water pouch. This type of versatility is incredibly useful, especially considering these are small accessories that are easy to pack and carry without worrying about too many extra ounces to the pouch.
This filter is good for up to 1500 liters of water, although at that point you will also need to buy new filters to make sure you are back to top of your game again.
This hiker microfilter from Katadyn is a popular water filtering piece of equipment that is easy to carry, easy to use, and gets the job done to make sure you have the clean water that you need when out and about in the wild.
This is a 0.2 micron filter, and is a very low maintenance water filter that doesn’t require the frequent backflushing that many other models do require in order to stay fully functional and safe. This ultralight filter is less than a pound in weight, and is designed to be able to produce a solid amount of water with each filtering job, quickly producing 11 ounces of clean filtered water.
Coming with a one year warranty which rarely needs to be called upon (we really struggled to find any examples of this model not coming through for users), this filter’s use of an activated carbon core is key to the high quality filtered water, and the cartridge can often filter a full 200 gallons before needing to be changed out for a new one.
This is a great option for backpackers and long distance hikers because of the large amount of water these filters can take care of in addition to the light weight and ease of use. There are many outstanding filters out there and this one has rightfully earned its place on the list of truly top rated filters for back country hikers and ultralight trekkers.
The GravityWorks water filtration system is set up to be one of the really high capacity filters out there. Using a hollow fiber water filter and a gravity fed mechanics, this has a 4 liter clean water reservoir in addition to the ability to filter a remarkable 17 ounces per minute, which is a very solid rate.
This filter has been tested in multiple situations and has consistently met all the guidelines that are laid out by the NSF and EPA for removing 99.9% of all protozoa that is commonly found in water in addition to removing 99.9999% of all bacteria that is found in water.
Since the mechanism is gravity fed there is no pumping required, making things a lot easier on your energy level. Just fill it up, hang from a tree, tent pole, or any elevated area, and in less than three minutes you have four liters of fully filtered drinking water.
The cartridge needs to be replaced around every 1500 gallons, and as long as you keep on top of this and take care of it, this filtration system can last and provide drinkable water in a campsite or emergency for many years to come!
An absolutely exceptional option very popular with a wide array of outdoor enthusiasts.
The Water Purifier Pump by Survivor Filter is a hand pump powered water filter that really makes the grade when it comes to removing a wide variety of harmful materials in water that might otherwise be missed by other filters.
Using a heavy duty three stage filtering system, the separate membrane filters are replaceable, easily cleaned, and this pump can be backwashed while out in the wild to make sure it continues to perform at a top level.
Independent tests showed this was an excellent water pump as these lab tests showed:
- 99.9% removal of common water viruses
- 99.9% removal of common water bacteria
- 99.5% removal of mercury and 93% removal of lead
Able to filter up to 17 ounces of water a minute, this small, lightweight, but strong and durably built filter comes with a variety of helpful accessories including extended hoses, an attachable water cup, an easy to zip carrying case, and more.
There’s a lifetime warranty on the survivor filter and they offer a full money back guarantee if anything goes wrong. The carbon filters do need to be changed out every 2,000 liters of water, while the built in filters can be used for up to 100,000 liters of water before getting replaced.
This filter is FDA approved and weighing only 3.5 ounces and is 7 inches long, and while that makes it light and easy to carry, don’t worry: it’s make of strong material that also makes it incredibly durable, as well.
Best Water Purification Tablets
There are many different types of water purification tablets out there from the good old fashioned iodine capsules to more modern concoctions designed to be even more effective and efficient when it comes to fully purifying your water in the wild.
There’s also the important fact that purification takes care of the majority of common water borne viruses (at least they should if they are EPA approved) while filters do not.
This is why even if you have excellent filters from up above, it never hurts to have some excellent purification tablets to really cover your bases, and we have the best of the best of those here, as well. There are many amazing options out there, and we want to make sure you know about all the options that are out there.
Read on to learn more, and to stock up whether for a long term hike or finishing off your emergency rations at home! There is never a bad reason to make sure you get water purification tablets for your emergency kit, your hiking gear, or your home emergency preparation kit!
There are many great purification tablets out there, and these can be a great addition to any emergency kit whether an at home kit in preparation for emergencies, on you in case of getting lost in the wilderness, or in any emergency survival travel kit. The ability to make bacteria infected water drinkable is crucial to being able to survive.
Available in one pack of fifty or two packs of fifty, these tablets dissolve in the questionable water and only half an hour later (30 minutes) the water is ready to go. One bottle of 50 tablets is enough to treat a full 25 quarts of water.
This has been proven effective against Giardia Lamblia, one of the most common bacterial issues in non-drinkable water and these tablets in particular have been used by a large number of groups across the world. Portable Aqua certainly lives up to its name.
As an important note, these are meant for short term use or limited emergency use – which is what virtually all pill based water purifiers are. These should not be used daily or constantly unless there is literally no other option and these are often marketed as one of the best reliable backups (or active compliments) to actual water filters.
However these will help questionable quality water become drinkable for those emergency situations where you need it most!
Coming in packs of 100 water purification tablets, the TAC-H20 has gained a strong reputation among major international organizations and even the militaries of several nations. The tablets are designed to kill a huge variety of bacteria but also mico-organisms and the various causes of common water-based issues like cholera, dysentery, and typhoid.
You want to make sure to minimize your chances of getting sick, and drinking unclean water is a straight line to the hospital at best and maybe even worse depending on the water and the situation. Aquatabs is EPA approved and fully approved for the European Union (EU) as well.
Considered by many to be some of the best water purification tablets in the world, these have aced every single test out there are are ideal for emergency situations as well as frequent use for temporary situations where there might not be clean water for an extended period of time.
These have been used by several military forces out in the field as well, including (but not limited to) NATO, the French army, the British army, Russian army, several special forces groups, and more.
A simple treatment with Aquatabs and the water is ready to drink within 30 minutes. A single tablet is good for 5 liters of water.
These show up a few times, in part because many companies sell them and because of that there are many different offers surrounding these top notch purification tablets, and each one should be looked at. You can tell some are designed for easy ultralight backpacking while others have a home stash or emergency preparedness kit in mind.
In this case these Aquatabs come in a group of 100, and these tablets are effervescent, meaning you add them to the water, let them do their dissolving bubbling thing as they kill massive amounts of microorganisms that cause around 99.9% of the potential issues you might have with unclean water including potentially fatal diseases like typhoid, dysentery, or cholera. Or the infamous “beaver fever” aka Giardiasis.
In a mere 30 minutes you have clean drinking water that is safe. Just like that.
This particular package has over 100 tablets, each one is individually sealed, and each of those tablets show a remarkable 5 year shelf life. Good for emergencies out in the wild or at home in case of emergency, these are not meant for long term or semi-permanent use but they do provide the benefits of safe drinking water.
These are an outstanding option.
This one definitely sticks out as a bit for those of us who don’t naturally read Yiddish/Hebrew, but these purification tablets are tried and true, and there’s a reason they consistently receive high scores from outdoor enthusiasts around the world who have come to trust them for clean water.
Coming in packages of 50 tablets, even just a single tablet has the ability to purify an entire liter of water. Like most of these tablets, a full 30 minutes is needed to make sure they take full effect.
These will help kill anything in the water including bacteria, amoebas, and fungi in addition to many common water-borne diseases. These tablets are outstanding in filtering out the most harmful things generally found in dirty water out in the wild.
These also advertise as being a way to help purify fruit and vegetables, as well as the ability to clean water for taking care of emergency wound care without worrying about infection. The ingredients that are used in these Israeli water purification are safe for peopl with iodine allergies, which is another major plus.
Clean Water In Survival Situations
When the question comes up for what I recommend when going out to the wild the truth is I recommend a quick lesson and a lot of preparation. If you’re going way out in the wilderness and only have one method for getting clean water then you’re woefully under prepared, in my opinion.
This is especially inexcusable considering how small, lightweight, or easy to carry most clean water solutions are. There are the many filter straws that are only mere ounces in weight, purification tablets that are even lighter and can be carried in your pocket, and just having a metal tin cup and the ability to start a fire allows you to boil it.
There is absolutely no reason not to have fire starters and/or materials for boiling water, tablets that help purify water that is being treated, as well as a straw type filter or portable water filter. Having the ability to string water through multiple methods of purification is never going to hurt, especially when drinking dirty water can have such heavy consequences.
Prepare Good Water for Long Term Urban Emergencies
While most of us think of things like water filtration for safety and water storage for emergencies as being for camping trips, in the wild backpacking trips, or wilderness survival and/or travel emergency situations, the truth is that there are plenty of situations where you may have a water emergency in a town or city urban setting.
There are many different options when it comes to creating a backup plan in case of emergency whether it’s something obvious like a natural disaster, or if some unforeseen emergency happens that results in
Wait, didn’t you guys already review this product further up? Yes. Consider this a placeholder to show just how important it is to have options to purify water in an urban or rural setting when other methods could fail. Since this was the top pick further up it seemed appropriate to appear here, as well.
This is an inexpensive but strongly effective water treatment that allows for the treatment of dozens upon dozens of liters of water. Even in an urban setting this can become a life saver in the case of an emergency where water shuts off.
This isn’t just for something like having to go to a park stream or pond to collect water if your systems are down long term, but this can happen in an urban area for a variety of reasons. Flint Michigan is just one example of how urban water can be contaminated and unsafe over the long term, but it’s not only close to the only one.
If you’ve ever been in a house or apartment with the water out for even a short time, remember how the water looked brown and disgusting when it first made its way through the pipes after? Imagine if you were in the city and that was the only way the water looked for days or even months. You don’t want to drink that straight!
Not many people know about emergency water pouches, but if you are going to live in an urban environment, you really should take a look at what these have to offer as an outstanding emergency option when the utilities go down for any amount of time.
Each of these safe plastic pouches holds 125 ml of water each, and are commonly sold in four ways:
- 12 pouch pack
- 18 pouch pack
- Case of 64 pouches
- Case of 128 pouches
These contain emergency water that you know is distilled, safe, and will take care of all your thirst needs while you survive until the water comes back on or you have to find a longer term solution in a worst case scenario. These pouches are also surprisingly resilient. They’re not just going to wilt and several users have reported them freezing and re-freezing without bursting the pouches – meaning they are great for being carried along even when some freezing might happen.
These packets of emergency drinking water get the job done and give you that backup plan you need to make sure you have safe drinking water in an emergency situation!
Some people like their water canned. The Blue Can Emergency Drinking water comes in 6 packs or 12 packs as well as cases of 24 or 48 cans, each one holding 12 oz of purified water per can. This adds up to about 2.25 gallons worth per case, and that is a lot of water when a clean source isn’t available.
This stores safely in heat and brags of a 50 year shelf life meaning these cans of water will stay clean and bacteria free, giving you an emergency source of water you can rely on for the truly long term.
Perfect for an emergency stock, including a loaded up shelter. These are free of BPA, chlorine, fluoride, and any other additives. The cans are made from aluminum that has a strong reputation for being corrosion resistant.
The cans make it incredibly easy to store water, and a single case serves a person for four days according to the recommendations given by The Red Cross of 64oz per person per day. Stack a few of these cases and an entire family could be good to go for a week or more.
The convenience of cans makes it easy to carry several cans around wherever you travel or go, allowing you to be easily prepared wherever you go or in whatever situation you are in (and in wilderness survival scenarios that can is also one heck of a tool to have).
Boasting of a five year shelf life and coming in easy to store package for, these pouches of emergency water are perfect for survival kits as well as disaster supplies, and every house or apartment should have some!
Sold in packs of 12, 48, or 96, each pack holds 125 ml of purified water for emergency use. These disaster supplies are bacteria free and can be useful in a wide array of different situations. The design of the pack means the package can even withstand extreme heat or freezing, as it is approved for temperatures as low as -40 degrees or as high as 230 degrees (both in Fahrenheit).
These are a far better option that bottled water and by getting them in packets that can last years without any side effects you are taking care of your most important needs in any truly emergency situation that you might run into whether at home or traveling on the road.
Remember that this isn’t just about having water to take care of your body’s needs, although that is absolutely crucial, but even a relatively small amount of dehydration can affect your ability to think. Your mind is always your greatest survival tool in these situations and you need to keep it sharp to deal with the challenges ahead!
Water isn’t just a wilderness survival concern or a planning point for back country trekkers or long range thru hikers. Even in an urban setting you always want to be prepared for a worst case scenario, and that’s where a product like the Mainstay emergency drinking water packs come in.
This particular product has 60 packs, rated to last the average person 30 days in an emergency situation. Each pouch has 4.225 ounces and a 5-year shelf life from the time of manufacturing.
The packaging is specially designed to withstand a huge array of temperatures from as frigid as -40 degrees F to as boiling as 210 degrees F. That definitely puts an eye forward towards a wide array of potential issues and sets up an excellent safety net that makes sure your water is still in good shape, at least. They are sealed from any outside oxygen contamination which means they’re safe from being contaminated by bacteria.
These are a great emergency option, and there’s a reason they’re so highly rated.
This is an incredibly interesting piece of emergency gear to provide clean and safe drinking water when disaster strikes, but this isn’t about wilderness survival or filtering water, but it is urban preparation if you know a potential disaster is on the way and you only have a little bit of time to prepare.
The WaterBOB emergency water storage system holds a stunning 100 gallons of water and is designed to be set up inside a bath tub. The water can be fresh for up to a full 3 months (12 weeks) and although this is set up for only a one time use, if you know a flood, hurricane, or other natural disaster is coming that could possibly knock out utilities, you have the ability to have a large amount of clean drinking water stored up for long term use to see you through the days (or even weeks) that public utilities are down.
However, there is an obvious caveat with this very interesting project. Either you need an extra bathroom that nobody uses to keep it consistently full, you need to know a potential natural disaster is coming, and this is only useful if the house or apartment survives. That being said, this is definitely an intriguing prospect that
A pump comes with the storage system to allow easy access to the stored water. The materials that are used are BPA-free and made from FDA food grade approved materials. In other words, this is built with emergency use and preparation in mind, and the extremely high rating indicates buyers are very happy with how this system has worked in the real world.
Purify Water FAQ
Q: What is the best method for water purification?
A: Whatever one works. While this sounds oversimplified, I like using more than one method when it’s viable. Boiling will get rid of almost everything other than viruses, and there are many really good options from iodine caplets to bleaching it (best if you understand how to do this) to using a water filter like the Life Straw. If you can combine a few of these – even better. Better over paranoid and safe than sorry!
Q: Why do some people boil water and filter it? Isn’t one method enough?
A: Many times one method is enough, and if you’re doing something like thru hiking over a long period of time it might make sense schedule wise to only use one method because of time restraints or if the water is known to be relatively clean. In some cases where the water is really questionable, sometimes going the extra distance isn’t a bad idea.
Q: How reliable are outdoor water filters for hikers?
A: You know the old saying you get what you pay for? There’s a lot to say about that when it comes to good portable water filters. There are several amazing affordable options but you need to make sure that you go for a highly rated one that has been tried and tested, similar to those that we included in this article for you to look at (hint, hint).
Q: Why can’t we eat snow for water during the winter?
A: While technically you can, this is a bad idea not necessarily because of the cleanliness factors but because your body is going to drop in temperature when you eat a lot of snow, opening you up to core body temperature issues.
Q: Do those basic water filters actually work?
A: Most do. You want to make sure to go with one of the reliable options that has been proven – something offering clean drinking water is not something you should skimp on.
Q: What if I don’t have any method to clean water?
A: The truth is that it is a very rare situation where you don’t have at least one option. If for some reason you have no purifiers, no filters, no ability to start a fire, then at that point you need to look realistically at your situation. If it’s life or death due to dehydration, drink the water and buy yourself some time. Often the worst of infected water doesn’t hit you for a day. If that day can help you save your life, take the chance. If you’re still in good shape – find a way to get a fire or something going.
Q: Is it true bleach can be used to purify water?
A: The answer is yes, with a bit of an asterisk. Bleach can kill about anything in water with the proper amount, but bleach in large amounts is also poisonous to drink.
The necessary disclaimer here: we’re not doctors and not giving advice here – this is informational in nature and frankly if you have another option, go with it. This should only be fallen back to in a life and death situation.
Assuming you are in that life-and-death place, then the key is to have a closed container where you can add a small amount of bleach (think a capful). Add it in, mix. Wait for 10-15 minutes and then sniff. If you can’t smell any bleach then add another cap and wait again. When you can detect a hint of bleach when you smell the water, you can be pretty sure everything else is dead. It’s disgusting, it shouldn’t be done long-term, but that is a way to get some clean water in the system in an emergency.
Q: If filters don’t get rid of viruses, how can I get rid of viruses in the water?
A: In many areas of North America, especially the United States and Canada back country, this is going to be unnecessary and a normal filter will be more than enough. However if you want to be extra safe from viruses (nothing is 100% but the following 2 solutions are as close as you’ll get) then you either need to use an EPA approved purifier (not filter – they’re not the same thing) or boil your water thoroughly.
Even if you use a purifier, you’ll want to use a filter to get rid of sediment and the other potential issues before purifying that water. It’s a two step process in this case, but very much worth it to be on the safe side.
Q: What is the difference between a water purifier and a water filter?
A: Filters take care of bacteria and protozoa, but not viruses, while also removing dirt, debris, and sediment to create cleaner (and cleaner tasting) water. A water purifier goes much deeper and takes care of most viruses, as well.
You Can Always Learn More
One of the really cool things about being hooked up to what’s going on in the outdoor community is that there are always new products coming out, new techniques being taught, and more information coming from experts who practice these tips in the field and have a real feel for what actually works and what doesn’t. The more you know about finding clean water in the wild, and being able to filter water that might otherwise might not be safe for drinking, the better off you will be in any outdoor situation.
Water is truly the elixir of life, and you want to make sure you have the ability to get safely filtered water if you ever find yourself surrounded by the wild – whether intentionally or in a survival situation.
Great video on creating your own survival water filter system