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One of the top priorities when it comes to camping is access to safe drinking water. You must disinfect enough drinking water to provide for your needs. Location is not essential as you can purify no matter where you are. Remember, your body can only last for three days without drinking water.

The good news is that there are abundant water sources around the globe and several ways to disinfect the water. Here are tips and methods on how you can clean the water, depending on the situation you are in.


The first thing you need to do when you are in the wild or an emergency is to find a water source. Depending on where you are and the situation you are in, water can be either abundant or not existing at all.

Some of the water sources you can find in the wild are ponds, lakes, creeks, and streams. If you can distill the water, you can use saltwater or brackish water as a source. Precipitation can also serve as an emergency water supply.

You can use sleet, ice, rain, dew, hail, and snow as a source of water. Fresh rainwater that did not pass the forest canopy or jungle is safe to drink. You can melt new snow for drinking without the need to purify it.

Water coming from springs and other underground sources is safe in many areas. Clear liquid coming from nominated trees like birch and maple is also nontoxic to drink and is bountiful during late winter. Those water sources that are not mentioned here are considered unsafe to drink and should be disinfected by using one of the methods discussed below.


The easiest and most efficient way to kill the bacteria, parasites and other pathogens in water is by boiling. This process will not get rid of all forms of chemical pollution, but it is the safest method for disinfecting.

Boiling the water for five minutes can kill most organisms, but you can extend it for ten minutes. This process can be done over a campfire or stove in a ceramic, glass, or metal container. If you don’t have a fireproof container, heat rocks for thirty minutes in the flame and put them in your water container.

A container could be a folded bark container, a rock depression, an animal stomach, a bowl burned out of wood, or a hide. Do not use quartz or river rocks as they explode when heated.


After a disaster, your water will not be suitable to drink because of lead, heavy metals, radiation, salt, and other contaminants. If you attempt to filter them out, it can damage your costly water filter.

In situations where the only water available is dirty water, there are lots of options that you can choose from to purify the water. The best and efficient solution is water distillation. You can heat water into steam, and collect the steam to produce clean water.

This process may not be able to remove all contaminants, like certain organic compounds and volatile oil. However, most heavy particles will remain. In the case of home-based disaster survival situations, the fastest way to create a steam distiller is by using some small-diameter copper tubing or pressure canner.

The good thing about this process is that the canner remains intact. Shifting gears from water distillation to food preservation is simple. But, fitting the copper line into the steam vent of the canner lid is quite tricky.

In the field, you can try a solar still. This is a quick invention in collecting and distilling water in the ground’s hole. To create one, position a square white or bright plastic on a 3 feet deep hole using a clean container centered on the bottom.

You can place a drinking tube from the container to drink your gathered water without removing the whole still. To seal the still, gather the dirt around the edge of the plastic at the rim of the hole. Put a rock at the center of the plastic to create a 450 cone over the container.

Find a sunny area to dig the still. To increase its water production, you can add urine and green vegetation to the hole. The less productive and smaller version of this set-up is a transpiration bag. This includes a clear plastic bag tied in live vegetation.


Pump-action filters and suction/drip filters are the two primary types of water filters. Pump-action uses a pump to attract raw water into a filter cartridge. The drip filter utilizes gravity drip motion or inline on hydration bladder hoses.

In using a hydration bladder, suck water into the filter as needed. A Katadyn Pocket filter is a good option. This filter has a ceramic cartridge with silver inside. The cartridge filters out the bigger pathogens, and the silver disables or kills smaller organisms such as viruses. Other filters similar to this will pump a quart per minute. If you are not conscious about time, you can opt for a gravity-fed system.


If you search online, you will be surprised by the numerous water disinfection tablets. These tablets are beneficial, but they are different in some ways. Consider the life span of the product if you are going to be staying in a cave, BOB, or cabin. Some may have a one-year shelf life, and others may last up to two years or more.

Disinfectant tablets differ in the chemicals used. Most of them are effective against water-borne pathogens. After treating the water with the tablet, wait for 35 minutes before drinking. Some pills may take four hours to get the maximum disinfecting action.

Those tablets that contain iodine can be a bit problematic. Disinfectant tablets with iodine are not the best choice for pregnant women or someone with thyroid issues.


It is quite a gamble to drink raw water. Even pristine water can be contaminated with all sorts of pathogens and dirt. If you are lucky enough to locate a spring with clean water, then you don’t have to purify water. However, if you are not sure whether the aqua is pure or not, it is still best to disinfect the water.