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How To Survive In The Wilderness

Updated on August 15, 2013

Finding and Collecting Water and Making It Safe to Drink

This is the first in a series of articles on How To Survive In The Wilderness and in this article we are going to focus on just how you would go about Finding and Collecting Water and Making It Safe to Drink

If you find yourself in a survival situation water is a top priority. You may think that you are surrounded by water and it will not be a problem. However, surface water such as lakes, streams, ponds and rivers are contaminated with bacteria, pathogens and parasites, which if not destroyed before you consume the water, can cause serious illness and worse.

"Common contaminates found in surface water to include swimming pools and well water that has not been properly disinfected include coliform bacteria (which includes E. coli), giardia, cryptosporidiosis, and hepatitis A, one , two and three (Center For Disease Control and Prevention, 2012)."

Remember To Keep Hydrated
Remember To Keep Hydrated

Did You Know That The Average Adult Requires Between 2-2.5 Quarts/Litres Of Liquids Daily For Hydration?

During the course of an average day, many people are hydrated by consuming coffee, teas, sodas, sports drinks and even through certain foods. If you do not have a reliable source of fluids, you will realize just how difficult it can be to get the proper amount daily. In a survival situation, your task for the day would be to consume between 2-2.5 quarts/litres of water to prevent dehydration.

If you fail to get adequate hydration within a 72-hour period you will begin to exhibit signs of dehydration, which if left untreated is fatal. The treatment if your dehydration is not severe is consuming water. Severe dehydration requires professional medical treatment. Bodily fluids are lost through sweating, urination, breathing and digesting high protein foods.

So if you find yourself lost in the wilderness just how can you find water that is safe to drink? Well read on, we have some excellent information on just how to find, collect and purify water in the wild

Collecting, Filtration and Purification of Drinking Water

Solar Water Distiller
Solar Water Distiller

The methods that are about to be described can be used in any situation, to include times when a natural disaster disrupts your home's water supply or if you find yourself stranded or lost in a wilderness environment. You can find surface water in many urban areas such as public lakes, ponds, private and public swimming pools, hot tubs, backyard water features and public fountains. Water sources you can find in wilderness settings include rivers, streams, lakes, cisterns and natural springs. The filtration and purification methods described are common techniques and most households or individuals would have access to the materials and items needed.

Solar Water Distillers for Wilderness Water Collection and Purification

The above image is an example of an in ground solar water distiller, which can be constructed virtually anywhere.

Use this method if you cannot find surface water or you do not have the means to purity surface water. Solar water distillers can desalinate saltwater making it safe to drink, as well. Distilled water or evaporated water is purified, meaning once condensed on the plastics' surface all contaminates are left behind.

You will need a way to dig a depression in the ground, a collection container and a sheet of clear plastic. You can use any plastic however, such as a garbage bags and plastic shopping bags (the results may be limited if the plastic is not transparent).

Adding vegetation increases the solar distillers' output. The sun's rays will sweat/evaporate the moisture from the ground and green vegetation and as it evaporates, it will collect and condense on the plastic.

The depression from the rock weight gives the water a place to collect. There is a small hole next to the rock weight, which allows the water to drip into the collection cup.

To desalinate saltwater simply trench around the hole and pour saltwater into the trench. The water will saturate the soil and then the moisture will evaporate and condense on the plastic, leaving behind any contaminates such as sodium.

Do not pour contaminated water into the hole; you may contaminate the plastic and collection cup.

Image Source:

How To Purify Your Drinking Water - Reading These Books Might Save Your Life!

Common Supplies and Materials Used For Water Filtration and Purification

Water Filtration Device
Water Filtration Device

  1. Household Bleach That Contains Sodium Hypochlorite (Liquid Chlorine) As An Active Ingredient With Between 5.25-6% Active Content Ensure The Bleach Does Not Have Any Additives For Fragrance Or Thickeners To Prevent Splashing
  2. Water Containers: Having Two Containers Is Ideal Because The One Used To Collect Contaminated Water Cannot Be Safely Used For Drinking Until The Exterior Has Been Disinfected (The Threads And Drink Line Of The Collection Container Will Have Contaminates Around The Drink Line)
  3. Vessel To Boil Water In
  4. Eye/Medicine Dropper For Measuring Bleach
  5. Two Percent Liquid Iodine And/or Iodine Tablets/Chlorine Dioxide Tablets
  6. Coffee Filters/Sand/Gravel/Cheesecloth/Activated Charcoal For Filtration
  7. Filtering Device Which Can Be Easily Made With A Two-Liter Plastic Soda Bottle

Before boiling or chemically treating water, construct a filtering device such as the one shown. Surface water that is not filtered will contain waterborne cysts, sediments and other debris, which can prevent bacteria from being destroyed during boiling or chemical treatment. Cysts provide a protective covering for bacteria and pathogens, so they must be filtered out. Filtering is important even if it just a piece of cloth or ground up leaves and grass. You must filter as best as you can with the materials available.

Solar Water Distiller
Solar Water Distiller

Solar Water Distiller

This is an example of a solar water distiller using a glass bowl, plastic, twine and a collection cup. Place the cup in the center of the bowl and you may have to place a weight in the cup, to keep it from floating free as you add saltwater or other contaminated water around the cup. Be careful not to splash contaminated water into the cup. Secure the plastic around the top of the bowl, add the rock weight to create a depression in the plastic and put a small hole over the cup and then place in direct sunlight.

Purification of Water by Boiling
Purification of Water by Boiling

Purification of Water by Boiling

Water must rapid boil for one minute at sea level and for three minutes if you are significantly above sea level.

At sea level water boils at 212 F/100C because of air pressure. The heavier the air pressure the higher the boiling point. For every 500ft/152m above sea level, the boiling point of water is reduced by one degree. As an example, the boiling point of water in Denver Colorado, 1mi/1.6km above sea level (5,280ft/1,600m) is approximately 203 F/95 C.

Therefore, at lower boiling temperatures water must rapid boil longer to destroy all contaminates. You may wonder then why not just boil for three minutes regardless of your elevation. You can boil longer but, boiling longer than the recommended times will reduce your water volume through evaporation. You can conceivably lose your precious water supply by over boiling.

Be careful of your boiling times if you have a limited water source because, you can literally boil a container dry.

Water Purification Supplies

Keep one of these nearby, you never know when it might save your life!

Man Vs Wild - See Bear Grylls Survive In Some Ot The Most Extreme Places

Looking for great survivalist information then look no further than Bear Grylls in Man Vs Wild

Videos From Bear - Man Vs WIld

Some great information contained in these videos from the ultimate survivalist - Mr Bear Grylls


Using Bleach to Purify Water
Using Bleach to Purify Water

Using Bleach to Purify Water

Filter the water as described from the collection vessel into a clean container. The ratio is based on a one-quart/liter container and it is two drops of bleach per one-quart/liter of water. Seal, shake well and wait 30 minutes for the bleach to work.

For a gallon container you would add eight drops. If the water is cloudy after filtration or you do not detect a whiff of bleach after 30 minutes, double the drops and wait another 30 minutes. Never exceed four drops per quart or 16 drops per gallon.

There will not be a residual effect once purified with bleach, in other words, do not add contaminated water to a container that has been chemically treated and expect the bleach to purify the added water.

Using Liquid Iodine

Filter using two containers and add five drops of iodine to a one-quart/liter bottle, or 20 drops per gallon. Shake well and allow 30 minutes for the iodine to disinfect the water. Once again if the water is cloudy after filtering double the drops and wait an additional 30 minutes.

There is no residual effect so do not add any contaminated water to a partially full container that has been treated with iodine.

Drink From Fast Moving Water
Drink From Fast Moving Water

Severe Dehydration?

Some reality television shows and even some survival manuals prescribe to the conventional wisdom that it is better to be rescued sick than found not alive.

If you suspect you are close to severe dehydration, and you simply do not have the means to purify your water and rescue is not likely, then you must decide whether to consume what is possibly contaminated water.

If you must have water, drink from fast moving water and if you have a canteen, hold a piece of your shirt or any cloth over the mouth of the canteen to filter the water.

Severe dehydration left untreated is ALWAYS fatal.

Let Everyone Know Your Thoughts ... - Or Leave Your Tips For Survival In The Wilderness

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    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Fantastic lens! Added to the featured links on my lens about "go bags" ^_^

    • AstroGremlin profile image


      5 years ago

      Water is priority one for survival. One can live several weeks without food, but only about 3 days without water. Going back I see you noted that.

    • UrbanTG LM profile image

      UrbanTG LM 

      5 years ago

      Great lense, can save lives. Bravo!

    • NibsyNell profile image


      6 years ago

      I love all this survival stuff. Great lens!

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 

      6 years ago from New Zealand

      Thanks for visiting my lens, squid liking and commenting. This is a great lens, with good tips. Thanks for sharing. Blessed.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Really useful tips.

    • Essentially Ind profile image

      Essentially Ind 

      6 years ago

      Interesting lens, Nice tutorial. :)

    • takkhisa profile image


      6 years ago

      This is a wonderful informative lens. I like it.

    • kiratalley profile image


      6 years ago

      I've been watching some Man vs Wild and I like the info you provided ... I did some survival training when I was really young, but had forgotten them all now.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Survival in wilderness is easier said than done. One need all the tips when caught in such situation.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I like to watch Man vs Wild show with Bear Grylls. There is so much to learn.

    • sunlightseer profile image


      6 years ago

      Having studied and taught survival for many years, I appreciate your good information. Great lens.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Awesome lens you never know when your going to need great info like this :)

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Thanks for the information about How To Survive In The Wilderness

    • peterb6001 profile image

      Peter Badham 

      6 years ago from England

      Great page, Bear Grylls would be proud of you!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Very nicely put together guide! thanks for sharing - blessed by a SquidAngel!

    • Sara Dowling profile imageAUTHOR

      Sara Dowling 

      6 years ago

      @anonymous: Thanks for your kind words :)

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Lots of great information is what makes a good lens. This is a good lens. Congrats!

    • Sara Dowling profile imageAUTHOR

      Sara Dowling 

      6 years ago

      @anonymous: Thanks for that, working on how to find food to survive right now

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      This is a fascinating subject. Can't wait to see your future lenses on survival. I've always wondered how long I'd survive in the wild.

    • WildFacesGallery profile image


      6 years ago from Iowa

      Wow I learned some things here. Nicely presented. Blessed.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Very helpful information for survival. :)

    • CoffeeWriter LM profile image

      CoffeeWriter LM 

      6 years ago

      Great lens. My tip... don't get lost in the first place! :)

    • Mr-Panda LM profile image

      Mr-Panda LM 

      6 years ago

      Definitely always a good thing to know how to survive in the wilderness! Thank you for sharing! =)


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