As I referred to fire being the lifeline to survival, water is the lifeblood of survivability; a person cannot go any longer than 3 days without water before dehydration sets in and ultimately death will follow. The rule is a minimum of 3 liters a day per person. This rule can change and increase depending on the environment you are in or the types of activities you are involved in.

Water is also heavy and can add a lot of weight to your pack, 1 US gallon of water weighs in at 8.34lbs per gallon; think about this when you are in the planning stages of your pack if you are planning a hiking trip, camping or building a bug out bag.

If you are planning for hiking, camping or building a bug out bag then you will want to plan on a few ways of procuring and purifying water from water sources along your rout. You can use USGI style 1 qt canteens, stainless steel water bottles for carrying and procuring water. You can use a water filtration stray, pump, water purification tablets, iodine, boiling and many other ways to purify your water.

But what if you’re not planning a trip and find you’re self-unprepared and in a survival situation, what if you’re trip plan was just for the day hunting or fishing off some place deep in the woods or swamps and you get lost for days or weeks?

Knowing you only brought enough water for the day and maybe a little extra. You had better have the basic skills and ability to procure and purify water.

Before we get into purifying water, let’s look at why we need to do so before it’s truly safe to drink.

Disease / Organisms
What common disease organisms are found in dirty swamp or lake water?
Giardia, cryptosporidium, endameba, the eggs of worms, cholera, shigella, salmonella bacteria and those that cause typhoid, the enterotoxogenic strains of E. Coli, Hepatitis A, and also rotavirus which is a major cause of disease in children. So as you can see there are many reasons to be concerned about the water you are about to drink.

So let’s discuss a few ways to procure and disinfect water to make it safe to drink. Ok let’s find the water and what do we have for a vessel to put it in?

If this is a planned trip more than likely you have a container to procure and carry water in. I always carry a metal container on me while in the woods and swamps. I prefer a large mouth stainless steel bottle only because I can do more with it than use it for a water vessel.

Ok so let’s say this was not planed and you have no metal container with you, but you had a plastic water bottle left from that bottled water you had stuffed in your car or tossed in the back of your truck or maybe you found one in a ditch or on the side of a trail. It’s hard to go out into the woods or swamps anymore and not find trash left over from other people.

The first thing you will need to consider is the clarity and the debris or trash floating in the water. You can simply use a sock, your shirt or a peace of clothe material to strain and filter the debris from the water.

What is pasteurization? This is an alternative method of making water safe to drink. The water is pasteurized at 65oC (149oF).

You will need a fire, not a large one just a basic fire. Find 3 sticks, limbs around 3 to 4 feet in long and make a basic tepee, if you don’t have any rope or cordage on you, you can use your shoe lace or even a vine to tether the top of the tepee. With your water in the plastic bottle hang it over the fire, not so close you melt the bottle, you will need to keep an eye on this or the bottle will melt and the water will put out your fire. The bottle does need a cap, if it does not have the cap that came with it, manufacture one from a stick as a cork and seal the top with whatever you can find.

Depending on the size of the fire, 20″ to 24″ placing the bottle above the flame should do the trick. Watch for the water to start bubbling in the bottle and allow it to stay over the fire for about 20+/- minutes depending on the heat. Let the water cool and its ready to drink. See photo below.

Example of Pasteurization

Boiling Water

Boiling water is the most effective method of purifying. To do so, you will need a heat source, such as fire or camping stove, and a metal vessel to hold the water. According to the Washington State Department of Health and the United States Environmental Protection Agency, you should bring the water to boil and keep it rolling for one minute to purify it. At altitudes above one mile, 2,000 meters, you should increase the rolling time to three minutes.

Household Bleach

Although boiling water is the most effective method of purification, or lack of a heat source might mean that this isn’t always possible. In these instances, you can kill most of the pathogens using plain household bleach that doesn’t contain added perfumes or dyes. You need to use a clean container and add five drops of bleach for every two liters of water. The water needs to stand for 30 minutes before it is safe to drink. This method does not kill all pathogens in water and, while it is useful in an emergency, you should try and boil drinking water where possible.

There many other ways and methods of achieving the same goal to make the water safe to drink, plastic bags, collecting rain, using bamboo as a water container and a vessel to boil, using hot rocks from the fire and placing them into the water to boil and more.


There are many ways you can go about collecting and procuring water. Use your hat, shirt or other articles of clothing to soak up the water and rinses into your container. You can use a bandanna around the bottom of your leg on your ankle to collect the morning due. You can dig small holes in a dried creek or river bed for underground water that may still be there.

Plants such as the banana tree offer a great source of drinkable water, cut the tree at the base and drink straight from the tree, dig out the stump in the shape of a bowl and allow the water to come to collect at the top and drink.

Bamboo offers drinkable water right from the bamboo. Water vines, vines growing in the woods offer clean drinkable water. With vines make sure the liquid is clear and not milky looking, if its milky stay away from it its poisoning and it will most likely make you very sick and possibly kill you.

There are many methods and ways of collecting and purifying water that I have not discussed here. But I think you get the idea, so until next time, thank you for reading.

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