How to filter water in the wild

Finding a clean water source in the wild is not possible. Every outdoor enthusiast will be aware that it is only normal to find contaminated water, cloudy water, and dirty water filled with waterborne illnesses. Despite it being great outdoors, it is important to purify water and disinfect water that is available in the wild. Purifying water that is taken from the wild to remove waterborne pathogens and make it drinkable water is possible with a good water purification method.

In this article, we will discuss how to filter fresh water taken from the wild into clean drinking water. It is not possible to get pure water anywhere in the wild, but there are plentiful methods by which clear water that is taken from the wild can be filtered to make it potable. Let us discuss the various techniques of water purification that you must be aware of to carry out efficient water filtration outdoors.

Key takeaways:

🔸 Running water, such as streams, springs, and rivers are the most reliable water source in the wild that requires minimum water filtration.

🔸 Several natural elements such as rocks, sand, and UV light have the capacity to filter water in the wild.

🔸 Water filtration in the wild is crucial because over 7 million cases of waterborne pathogens and waterborne illnesses occur annually in the USA.

🔸 Set aside all your concerns about drinking clean water in the wild with the best travel-friendly LifeStraw water filter and enjoy clean drinking water anywhere.

7 ways to filter and purify water in the wild?

7 ways to filter and purify water in the wild?

Although the chances of contracting waterborne illnesses from contaminated water consumption are high, the chances that one might die in the wild without water also exist. It is crucial to have a water filtering plan in order before you head out into the wild. An experienced outdoor enthusiast will be familiar with the following ways of purifying water. The type of water purification method that will come through will depend on the materials available at hand.

If you plan on heading out in the wild, you must remember that all of the following purification process ideas are brilliant to change dirty water into clean water. Make sure that you consume only purified water to stay away from waterborne pathogens and waterborne illnesses. All the ways to purify water listed below are effective to kill microbes in contaminated water.

1. Boiling water

One of the most common water purification methods is to boil water. You can be assured that when you boil water you can easily make it safe drinking water. Boiling water to turn dirty water in the wild into clean water is a great idea because most parasites and water-borne bacteria will not survive the heating process. This works whether you boil water at 212 degrees at sea level or about 200 degrees in high-elevation areas, only because boiling water over 170 degrees Fahrenheit will remove bacteria.

Although boiling water in the wild is a practical purification process to get safe drinking water that is free from harmful organisms or harmful pathogens, it is not always possible to start the heating process. You must find ways to have a matchbox or camping stove to start the fire.

2. Solar water disinfection

Solar water disinfection

One of the most inexpensive ways to get filtered water in the wild is by solar water disinfection. The sun’s ultraviolet light is highly potent to kill disease-causing microorganisms in wild water. One does not require any tools to carry out UV purification. It is the easiest and cheapest water filtration method.

If you plan on using UV rays for filtering water, you simply have to fill the wild water into a clear glass water bottle or plastic bottle. The water bottle must be laid out under sunlight. The sun’s ultraviolet light or UV rays will perform UV purification of the polluted water. By the powerful effect of UV light, harmful viruses, and harmful microbes can be removed successfully.

Although solar water disinfection is the cheapest and easiest way to remove bacteria, harmful viruses, harmful pathogens, and other harmful organisms; there are disadvantages that come with using UV light. For one, you cannot depend on the sun’s ultraviolet light or UV light at all times. UV purification under the sun’s UV rays will not be functional on cloudy and rainy days. Moreoever, although UV water filtration can work to remove all microbes from the water, it is not capable of tackling chemical contaminants in the water. You must top water filtration by other means apart from UV water purification to ensure harmful chemicals are removed from the water.

3. Primitive filtering

Another water purification process that is popular in the wild is primitive filtering. Making use of the natural materials that are available in the wild, you can make your own water filter to deal with unpurified water. Simple natural materials like sand or soil are all that you require for this water purification. You have to pass the water through this water filter until you acquire clear water.

The things needed to filter water by this method are a clean container or water bottle, a shirt or cloth, sand, and gravel. It is better to have more than one water container to start the process.

  • Take the first clean container and fill it with the water to be filtered.
  • Over the other clean container, place the cloth or fabric and lay out the gravel or pebbles over this fabric.
  • To purify water, pour the water over the filter made.
  • Replace the pebbles with the sand and repeat pouring the water. You must remember, the finer the water, the better to get fresh water.

Filtering water by this method in the wild is simple and effortless. However, this is suitable to clear water and remove debris. Although this works excellently to remove debris and larger water contaminants, this is not the right choice to remove harmful viruses and bacteria.

4. Filtering water with pump

Filtering water with pump

If you are wondering how to filter water in the wild to get clean water that is not just free from debris but is also drinkable water, it is to invest in a filtering pump. A good filtering pump is a common carry-on for an outdoor enthusiast. There are types that are available for the filter pump, and you can select the one that suits you best.

Pump action and suction filters are the two types of water filters. The pump action water filter requires the user to pump the water into another water container manually. The suction water filter will purify water in the wild, as it is sucked through the hose. Filtering pumps are great outdoors. They are extremely handy and the best way o get clean water in the wild quickly. Owing to the fact that this is the most reliable method for purifying water in the wild, the equipment comes at a cost and can occupy enough space in the supply bag. They also require maintenance where the water filter must be changed and cleaned as and when essential to keep it performing and free from clogs.

5. Gravity filters

The next method is ideal for purifying water in the wild for a large group of people. Gravity filters are efficient in purifying water in the wild in large quantities in a short span of time, without the need for any stirring or manual pumping. If you want to know how to filter water in the wild quickly for several people, it is best to employ gravity filters.

However, using gravity filters to purify water in the wild does come with the disadvantage that they are heavy and will require a tree branch or a robust support system that can hold the device in place. Gravity filters to purify water in the wild are suitable for those looking for a long-term survival situation.

A gravity filter will function by pulling water from the reservoir into the water filter. The clean liquid will then move into a clean container. This process will keep the drinking water protected. It will remove debris and other particles from entering the water.

6. Distilling water

One of the safest methods to treat unclean water in the wild is distilling water. By a process of heating and cooling, distilling water is a great way to remove harmful microbes and minerals from the water. Distilled water is the purest as you can get outdoors. Although boiling water will remove microbes, it is incapable of removing the mineral content. Distilled water on the other hand is pure water that is free from microbes and mineral content. This is also ideal to deal with salt water filtration. Despite the effectiveness of this process, it is not easy to purify water by distillation in the wild.

7. Purification tablets

The final method that we have on the list for purifying water with effectiveness is purification tablets or purifying drops. This method is efficient to purify water and is inexpensive. Purifying drops or purification tablets are readily available in drugstores or camping suppliers. This process to get purified water is similar to adding liquid iodine or iodine tablets to the water.

Although this method for purifying water is effective, it does come with its risks. Pregnant women and those with thyroid problems cannot rely on this method to purify water. The taste of using purifying drops or purification tablets or iodine tablets can be unpleasant. Adding flavored powder taht is evenly mixed into the purified water (30 minutes after adding the iodine) can sort this issue.

Warm water filtration can be done with liquid iodine. 5 drops of liquid iodine per liter can be added to warm water that is above 68 degrees Fahrenheit. It must be evenly mixed and let the water sit for 30 minutes. Iodine tablets or purification tablets can be added to cold water and let in the water sit for 40 minutes. Cloudy water purification will require 10 drops to ensure the safety of the water.

Which is the best way to filter water?

Which is the best way to filter water?

The best way to filter water outdoors is by using a filtering pump or purification tablets. These two methods are highly efficient in purifying water when compared to the other methods.

What factors you must consider while filtering water in the wild?

Before you filter water in the water, the following 3 factors must be considered.

1. Water source

The water source where you collect water from is an important element to consider for water purification. You must always remember that stagnant water is not drinkable water. If the water source is from moving water, like rivers and streams, this water source is safe for water purification to be changed into drinking water. It is also emphasized that is it safer to gather water for purification closer to the water sources or from higher elevations. Stagnant water, water from animal grazing sites, and beaver inhabitations will host viruses and bacteria. Avoid using this water source for drinking water.

2. Water color

Clear indicators that must be avoided to be used as drinking water is water color and odor. While it means that clear water or freshwater does not guarantee that it is pure water, it certainly must be remembered to avoid water that is not clear. Green water, cloudy water, water with visible algae sediments, etc., must be avoided to be purified and used as drinking water. You must also steer clear of water that has a strong odor.

Fill a plastic bottle or water bottle with the water and let the water sit for some time. Observe if the sediments settle down or sink. If that is so, you can try water filtration methods to purify water to be used.

3. Animals

Animals are an important factor to look out for. While you must know that water where animals drink from must be safe, you must also be cautious to avoid water that has dead animals or excreta floating in it. Streams and lodges that have beavers must also be avoided. Such water sources will carry contaminated water that carries bacteria, viruses, and giardia.

Why Is It Crucial to Purify Your Water in the Wild?

Why Is It Crucial to Purify Your Water in the Wild?

Water is crucial for any survival situation. Irrespective of how desperate the survival situation demands water, it is important to make sure the water is clean and safe for use. Drinking, cooking, bathing, washing- any survival situation in the wild will need water. It is crucial to purify water to keep away waterborne pathogens and waterborne illnesses.

Statistics say that there are over 7 million cases of waterborne pathogens and waterborne illnesses occurring annually. The type of waterborne pathogens and waterborne illnesses that can be spread will depend on the area. The following 4 are the common waterborne pathogens and diseases to watch out for.

1. Otitis externa

Otitis external is commonly known as swimmers ears. The symptoms of this condition are inflammation in the ears. This arises as a result of staying in warm or humid water that is contaminated with bacteria and fungus.

2. Norovirus

Natural water bodies are notorious for spreading Norovirus. The symptoms of norovirus infection include diarrhea and vomiting.

3. Giardiasis

Giardiasis is spread from the Giardia parasite via infected animals. Wild animals that are infected by the parasite can easily contaminate the drinking water source. It is therefore crucial to purify water that has come in contact with animals.

4. Cryptosporidiosis

Cryptosporidiosis spreads from a parasite called cryptosporidium. It can be seen spreading from untreated water from lakes, rivers, and even swimming pools (due to its high chlorine tolerance).

How much water do you need per day?

How much water do you need per day?

An adequate amount of water intake to prevent dehydration is essential. It is easy to forget about sufficient hydration when outdoors. Here is the estimated water intake taht an individual needs per day.

  • Adult men require about 4 U.S. quarts per day.
  • Adult women require about 3 U.S. quarts per day.

These figures apply on a day of moderate action. With an increase in heat and activity, the water requirements will also increase. On warm and humid weather and days of increased activity, the amount of water consumption can increase to 5-6 quarts of water per day.

Which is the best water filter for emergency preparedness? How to choose the best?

Having access to clean drinking water must be a priority before you head outdoors. If your chances of trying your hand at water purification techniques look slim and you are wondering how to filter water in the wild effectively, you must consider investing in the LifeStraw Personal Water Filter. This small, compact, and extremely lightweight water filter is the perfect choice for water purification for camping, traveling, hiking, and other emergency preparedness outdoors.

The LifeStraw Personal Water Filter is designed with an advanced and highly reliable Microfiltration Membrane. This membrane is equipped to remove up to 99.999999% of waterborne bacteria, including E. Coli And Salmonella, and 99.999% of waterborne parasites including Giardia And Cryptosporidium.

Apart from hazardous microbes, the LifeStraw Personal Water Filter can also remove microplastics down to 1 micron that have seeped into the water from the environment, and even reduce the turbidity in the water down to 0.2 microns. With the high-quality Microbiological water filter, you can get 4,000 liters of pure water to drink. You must keep track of the water filter’s maintenance to ensure its efficiency.

You can trust the durability and performance of this product to get pure water due to the rigorous testing it has been subjected to. To ensure that its users get filtered water to perfection, the LifeStraw filter has been verified and approved after all standard protocol settings laid by US EPA, NSF, and ASTM. Is your outdoor trip due soon and you are concerned about how to filter water in the wild? Bring home the LifeStraw water filter to enjoy a clean water supply wherever you go.

Pros and Cons of LifeStraw Water Filter

  • Highly efficient for purifying water outdoors.
  • Inbuilt Microfiltration Membrane for thorough removal of bacteria and parasites.
  • Compact and sleek design.

Can you drink rainwater?

Harvesting rainwater and putting it to multiple uses is a great way to conserve water. However, it is not suggested that you drink rainwater directly, especially if the water has been collected in a tank or container. You must subject it to advanced water filtration methods; preferably reverse osmosis or distillation.

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. Do rocks purify water?

Yes. Rocks and sand are natural materials that are capable of performing water filtration. A layer of sand and gravel or even rocks close to each other leaves small gaps in between them. These spaces are sufficient for filtering water from larger sediments and debris. The permeable layers of rocks and sand are highly effective to make natural water filters in the wild for purifying water.

2. What water is drinkable in the wild?

The reliable and best drinkable water sources in the wild are running water and groundwater. The faster the movement of water and the higher the elevation point (in the case of waterfalls), the better. Credit goes to gravity and running motion that can wash away large debris. Experts always suggest opting for running water over groundwater. Once you collect the water in a clean container, you must go ahead and filter it irrespective of where you collect the water from. The hazards of microbes and chemical contaminants in the water can be removed only by filtration.

3. Can we filter ocean water?

Yes. Salt water from the oceans can be filtered and made potable. Highly advanced desalination plants are built to remove salt from ocean water. The treated water is also subject to chemical treatment to remove contaminants from natural and unnatural sources. Desalinated ocean water is used for consumption in ships and in arid regions where there is no access to clean drinking water.

4. Which animal purifies water?

One of the best natural purifiers of water is Sponges. The coral reef is filled with sponges that filter large quantities of water and remove the impurities in them. The coral reef is a crucial element of nature underwater to maintain the balance in the ecosystem because certain types of sponges also produce more than three times the oxygen that they consume.

4. What are the best natural water filters?

Nature has several water filters; some commonly available and others designed to carry out water purification in nature. A few of the best natural water filters are:

  • Sand, gravel, rocks.
  • Charcoal and carbon filters.
  • Sun’s UV rays.
  • Certai n minerals.
  • Oysters.
  • Sponges in the reef.


Purify water with ease in the wild with the above-mentioned techniques. If you have access to unpurified water in the wild, recall the points to ponder before collecting the water and carrying out the filtration process itself. If you have plans of staying outdoors often, set aside all your concerns on drinking clean water in the wild with the best travel-friendly LifeStraw water filter and enjoy clean drinking water any time.

About The Author


Gary Wright is a certified water technician & distinguished water treatment expert, Gary Wright possesses an unrivaled depth of knowledge in water softeners and filters. Gary’s passion for water quality is rooted in his own personal experience. He grew up in a small town with hard water, and he remembers the challenges of dealing with dry skin, an itchy scalp, and cloudy drinking water. As an adult, he decided to become a water treatment expert so that he could help others avoid the same problems. His expertise empowers individuals and communities to enjoy pure, refreshing water for a healthier lifestyle.