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5 Ways to make safer drinking water

5 Ways to make safer drinking water

Author Erik Abrams

Water is essential to survival. For a short camping trip, you can take sufficient drinking water with you in a collapsible 5-gallon container, camelbak water bladders or simply a few water bottles . However, if you are heading out on a longer trip, water is heavy to carry, so knowing how to make water safe for drinking is essential.

Try to find a water source that looks clean and unpolluted. A clear, fast-flowing stream or spring are ideal, but even dirty water can be transformed into drinking water in an emergency.

First, collect the water and filter the water using a bandana or your shirt to remove large particles.


If you have access to a fire or a camping stove, boiling is one of the most effective ways to reduce pathogens in the water. Boil the water and keep it at a rolling boil for at least one minute to fully purify. If you are at an altitude one mile above sea level, then raise the rolling time to three minutes.


If you have Iodine tablets, make sure to follow the directions on the packet. If you don't have the instructions, and you may have a 2% solution in your medical kit, then just add 20-drops to a gallon of water and allow it to stand for 30-minutes. Iodine will make the water taste funny but it it is a cheap and effective way to produce drinkable water.

Chlorine Bleach

Add 10-drops to a gallon of water and allow to stand for 30-minutes. Make sure that the bleach does not have other added ingredients, only 5-6% sodium hypochlorite. Bleach leaves a slight chemically after-taste also.

UV Light Treatment

There are a number of gadgets operated by hand or with batteries which use UV light to kill bacterias and viruses in water. They work best on filtered water and have the advantage that they do not change the taste of the water and act quickly. In an emergency, a homemade system can be used placing water in small plastic bottles in direct sunlight for at least one day.


There are basically two types of commercial water filters available. Gravity fed drip filters are effective but slow. Pump action filters work instantly sucking water up through a filter cartridge which is frequently made of ceramic and lined with silver. These can purify a gallon in about 5-minutes. But remember - filtering is not as good as purifying. So it is best to find a purifier.

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