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Whether you’re taking a weekend camping trip or preparing yourself if you ever need to survive in the wilderness, the first thing you’ll need to learn is how to purify water. In this article we’ll look at how to purify water while camping, and give you 5 different ways to do so.
Based on the rule of three, you can survive three days without water (as well as three minutes without oxygen and three weeks without food). As a result, if you’re ever in the wilderness without a clean water supply, it’s important to find clean water as soon as possible. Before you go and drink from just any stream, though, know that drinking unfiltered water can be more harmful than being thirsty.
Dangers of Drinking Unfiltered Water
Water is a literal breeding pool for viruses and bacteria, not to mention harmful chemicals such as lead. Drinking unfiltered water has a slew of dangers, some that won’t trust ruin your camping trip but might result in a hospital stay for you. Here are some of the most common illnesses associated with drinking unfiltered water:
- Exposure to heavy metals
- Exposure to chemicals
How to purify water while camping (6 ways)
If you’re trying to pack light while staying safe, a LifeStraw may just be your best bet for safe water. Since you drink through it like a regular straw, it’s easy to use. They work by utilizing a carbon filter that removes most harmful pathogens or debris from your water, as well as any foul odors or taste that could make drinking from the wilderness unpleasant. Just understand that certain pathogens may be able to still slip through, which is why it’s best to use a LifeStraw with other forms of purification. However, if you’re ever in a pinch, drinking out of just the LifeStraw will be much better than drinking raw, unfiltered water.
2. Boil your water
One of the most reliable ways to kill pathogens in your water source is to boil your water. Parasites, bacteria, and other organisms that could be infecting your water are not immune to heat, so 10 minutes of boiling will kill them (this time may vary based on elevation).
You can boil water over a fire or in a stove using a metal, ceramic, or glass container. If you don’t have one of these fireproof containers on hand, you can also heat rocks for around 30 minutes in the fire and place them into your water. Bowls can be made out of a variety of items such as carved wood or hollow rocks, so don’t be afraid to get creative. Just make sure that you never heat river rocks or quartz, as these will explode.
However, it’s important to note that boiling alone will not evaporate all forms of chemical pollutions. This means that if you know you’re in an area where certain chemicals such as lead are in large abundance you may want to consider coupling boiling with a method such as distillation, which will be discussed further below.
3. Chlorine or iodine tablets
If you’re willing to sacrifice the taste of your water, using chemicals such as chlorine or iodine tablets can be a great way to clean your water in the wilderness. These iodine tablets, however, are supposed to be foul-taste free and can treat up to 25 gallons of water. They work efficiently to kill most bacteria in water in emergency situations. With that being said, however, these aren’t designed for regular use, meaning you should attempt to use other methods of purification first.
While boiling your water will kill any pathogens, it won’t filter out many contaminants such as radiation, lead, salt, chemicals, or heavy metals. You can try to filter these out, but depending on how much is present in the water, it could mess up your filter.
That’s why distillation is the safest method for purification and can be combined with other methods to make sure you are as safe as possible.
During distillation, you heat the water to a boil. As it heats, the water is converted into steam, which you can capture. The best way to do this is to use a metal pot with a lid. As the steam gathers and condenses on the lid, you can remove it from the pot and store the fresh water in a separate container. Contaminants won’t be able to travel with the water (except for some volatile oils) which means your water will be safe to drink. During natural disasters, this is one of the most preferred methods of water purification.
5. UV Light Devices
Recent studies have worked to show just how effective UV light is in killing small organisms. As a result, it’s growing increasingly popular as a disinfection and purification method – and not just in camping. While they can be a bit pricer than other filtration methods, using a UV filter such as the LARQ UV water bottle can be a convenient, easy way to make sure you have water available. With this bottle, all you have to do is press the button on the cap and gently shake your water to help disperse the UV light. One charge will last you around a month, making it great for longer trips without power.
Consider using the below UV filtered water bottle in tandem with another method on this list to be certain your water is as clean as possible.
6. Gravity Water Filter
A gravity water filter is another great way to purify your water while camping. These simple to use water filters last for a long time and can clean over 1,000 gallons of water making it suitable for drinking. Simply fill the bag with your water that needs to be purified and allow it to pass through the filter and you’re good to go. They’re inexpensive too.
When it comes to surviving in the wilderness, drinking raw water can be one of your most dangerous gambles. Even if the water looks crystal clear, it can be full of harmful pathogens just waiting to get you sick. As a result, unless you can find a spring and natural water table you can guarantee is safe, unfiltered water is risky at best and deadly at worse. You should always attempt to use some form of filtrations – or preferably a combination such as using a LifeStraw with boiled water.
As with everything, however, there are exceptions. If your three days are running up and death from dehydration is near with no way to treat the water, you can drink it raw. While you may still become ill, it’ll keep you alive long enough to seek help.