10 Water Purifying Tips for Wilderness Survival

Filter water before purifying it. In this example, a bandana is used to remove particles before purifying water in a metal container.
Filter water before purifying it. In this example, a bandana is used to remove particles before purifying water in a metal container.

How do you purify water? Here are some quick tips for water purifying in wilderness survival situations.

Unlike snow, ice should be purified before drinking. This is because of the potentially dangerous contaminants frozen inside. (Watch what the snow is falling in or on, though.)

Turbid (murky) water has a drastic impact on the effectiveness of water purifying tablets. Your water must be clear and free of floating debris for water purifying tablets, or any other chemical treatment, to work. Filter the water before applying the chemical.

The same goes for using sunlight to purify water. Murky water contains particles that will block UVA sunlight from disinfecting. Clear water is best.

A sock, a bandana and a shirt are just a few quick makeshift water filters to use in a pinch.

Sycamore trees are a great indicator that water is nearby. Sycamores usually grow near water. Get to know how to identify their distinctive bark.

There are three kinds of biological contaminants to watch for in water: protozoan cysts (such as Giardia and Cryptosporidium), bacteria and viruses. Make sure any commercial product you buy, such as a water purifying straw, is capable of handling all three.

Keeping a pot of water stable over a fire can be tricky sometimes. Instead of managing a balancing act, heat rocks in the fire. Place the hot rocks in the water. This will boil the water. Don't place the rocks back in the fire for reheating, since doing so could drown the fire.

Sap from non-poisonous trees is drinkable and does not need to be purified. In a pinch, cut a V-shaped sap wedge a half-inch into the tree. The sap will seep to the bottom of the V. Placing a leaf at this intersection will act as a wick, and with a little finesse the sap will drip from the tip of the leaf into a container below.

When tapping a vine for water, make a slice in the vine about 5 to 6 feet above where you've cut it off. This helps to speed the flow. The cut acts as a breather valve, similar to one in a gas can.

After all that water purifying, don’t chug your water! Your kidneys can only process 8 fluid ounces (237ml) of water every 15 minutes. Pace yourself when rehydrating. Keeping with this schedule ensures the most efficient use of your precious water.

Editor's Note: These tips on how to purify water are excerpted from The Unofficial Hunger Games Wilderness Survival Guide.

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