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The best way to purify water while camping

Imagine that you are outside, far from civilization. Camping, hiking, even fleeing any natural or man-made disaster that strikes your town. You find a creek, a water source. Can you drink it directly without treatment? You can't. The water can be contaminated with dangerous pathogens, such as bacteria and parasites.

What is the best way to purify water while camping? In my experience, the most effective method of purification is:.

  1. boiling in water
  2. Chemical treatment.
  3. Reverse osmosis
  4. Squeeze filter
  5. Distillation method
  6. Desalination.
  7. cloth filtration
  8. UV water purification
  9. Slow-speed sand filter
  10. Stone/ceramic filtration.

At this point, you're wondering how they actually work? How do you use them when camping? And how do you store the filtered water? Let's answer these questions.

The 10 best ways to purify water while camping

Here are 10 different ways to purify water and make it drinkable. Please use your discretion to determine which method is best for the situation at hand.


One of the oldest and most widely used methods of water purification is boiling (using a campfire or portable water heater), which effectively kills microorganisms in the water. Nevertheless, the water may still taste, may still be cloudy, and may still have chemical traces, depending on the water source you use. If necessary, use this method in combination with other methods. Boiling water is a very simple process if you have the right equipment, but in extreme cases, improvisation may be required.

Chemical Treatment

Many municipal water systems use chemical treatment, mostly in addition to other treatment methods. This will kill many of the microorganisms present in the water, but has not proven effective in getting rid of chemical contaminants or cloudiness.

Chlorine is a chemical that can be used for purification in an emergency, and most chlorine bleaches contain about 5% chlorine. This is an effective way to kill most microorganisms in water almost immediately, as bleach is a heavy oxidizer, but be careful not to add too much. You should add about 4 drops of bleach per quart/liter.

Another basic chemical decontamination method is to use iodine, although this takes more time than chlorine. Since iodine is often found in first aid kits, this method of water purification is still useful in emergencies when you are far from civilization. Iodine kills a range of common pathogens, but not all of them - so you still have to be careful. To use iodine, heat the water in the sun for a period of time, then add 5 to 10 drops of iodine per quart/liter, depending on how clear the water is. Alternatively, you can use iodine tablets to purify the water (available at most camping stores). Let the water stand for at least 30 minutes before drinking or using it for cooking and washing.

If you are looking for the most effective purification tablets, then I personally recommend Potable Aqua Water Purification Tablets. They cost next to nothing on Amazon (see link), but their true value is immeasurable. After just 35 minutes, any problematic water becomes fit to drink because these tablets kill all the bacteria and neutralize the water. These wonderful tablets actually improved the taste of the water (unlike regular iodine tablets) and are widely used by the military and emergency services. You really should check them out!

Reverse Osmosis

Another popular method for purifying water at home is reverse osmosis filtration,** which applies pressure to remove solid particles,** such as salts. As such, it can be used for desalination of seawater, as well as filtering out fluoride added to municipal water supplies.

Reverse osmosis usually utilizes a filtration system, either connected to your faucet or in a specialized jug. Many of these systems are quite affordable and simple enough for home use, so if you're looking for a basic drinking water filter because you don't like the water coming out of your faucet, you should consider this one. If you're looking for a water purifier for camping, there are some reverse osmosis systems that are portable enough to take with you.

Squeeze Filters

Probably the safest and most reliable solution is a squeeze water filter system. This type of filter is usually made of a high quality microtubular membrane. Its microscopic pores do not allow anything harmful to pass through with the water. The absolute best system of this type is the Sawyer Products PointOne Squeeze Water Filter System, available on Amazon. It is guaranteed to remove 99.99999% of all bacteria and 100% of microplastics. You can take this filtration system with you on any trip and it will be a lifesaver in any emergency. Water from any source will be successfully treated and is safe to drink.


Distillation is effective in removing many contaminants from water and can also be used for desalination purposes. This process involves heating the water so that it evaporates and collects in a pipe leading to another vessel, thereby removing many impurities that may be present in the water. Since water from unknown sources may contain dangerous pathogens such as E. coli, distillation offers a viable solution for making drinking water in desperate situations.

Traditional distillers require a sealed pot over a heat source with a tube at the top for collecting steam. This pipe is usually run through water for cooling and then leads to a vessel that collects the distilled water/liquid. The heated water should kill any pathogens in it, and the distillation will filter out any impurities in the water. It may take several distillations to produce completely clean water, so do not drink it immediately.

There are a number of **solar distillation methods that may be useful in any outdoor situation, whether you are camping or lost in the wilderness. You can buy a solar water distillation kit, but you can also make one with some off-the-shelf parts and you should be able to get it together. Solar stills are also suitable for desalination purposes, so if you plan to go camping soon, the above kit is a must.

A solar still contains two tanks: one for contaminated water and another empty tank for collecting distilled water. A piece of glass is placed at an angle over the contaminated water trough and tilted downward into the trough that collects the distilled water. To increase the energy absorbed from the sun, it is useful to use a black sink to collect contaminated water (or paint it black). This method basically utilizes the process of evaporation and condensation, and it requires little effort and no additional filters or technology other than building a solar still and adding water.


While you can certainly use distillation or reverse osmosis to desalinate water, there are other methods that can prove more practical if you find yourself stranded at sea or on some deserted island with no potable water. There are a number of portable desalination tools that you should take with you out to sea, or in the case of hiking along the beach. This includes solar-powered stills as well as filtration systems and other devices, though the former is probably the easiest to carry.

Cloth filtration

If there is a lot of particulate matter in the water, cloth filtration becomes an option. This will not filter out any pathogens or contaminants, so you should only use relatively clean water or use this method before purifying the water by other means. You can also build a more sophisticated filtration system using roots and cloth, which will give you clear water, but still not necessarily safe to drink. While cloth filtration may not be the ideal filter for drinking water, it will still remove some impurities. Here is a video that demonstrates this method.

Ultraviolet water purification

Ultraviolet light stops microorganisms from multiplying, which greatly reduces their potential harm. The downside to UV purification is that you shouldn't expose the water to sunlight for very long, or the microbes could reactivate and thus become harmful again. This is also a known method of filtration when you collect rainwater.

You can buy UV water purification systems, some of which are small and can be carried around with you. While you still need a power source to charge them, there are UV water purification pens that you can charge with a regular USB connection (even from your laptop). These are a great idea to take with you (and keep charged) if you find yourself in a situation where your only source of drinking water is contaminated with microorganisms.

Slow-speed sand filters

Slow sand filters produce relatively clear water, free of pathogens, taste and odor. They do not necessarily remove all bacteria from the water. If you need something for short-term use, this may not be the most practical camping water purifier setup. If you're stuck in the wilderness for a long time and need a long-term water filtration solution, or if you're building a camping site, this may still be an option. It can also be a great solution if you want to survive in the desert.

The slow sand filter has a layer of gravel at the bottom with coarse sand placed on top. Finer sand is placed on top, and then the water is allowed to flow through it. Subsequent layers filter out any sand in the water, while many contaminants are filtered out as they pass through the biofilm layer that grows at the top. The added charcoal will filter out any taste or odor present in the water.

Stone/ceramic filtration

Stone and ceramic filters for drinking water have been around for centuries and are still prevalent in many parts of the world. These filters include golden rocks and various ceramic filters, usually of the type that use a container with two separate sections. In most ceramic filters, contaminated water is placed in the upper part and slowly collected in the lower part, passing through the ceramic filter. A kimberlite filter works in a similar way to a ceramic filter, with water being filtered through porous stones to remove any cloudiness or other particulate matter. If you are looking for a water filter for camping, you may want to consider using a ceramic or kimberlite unit.

How to store filtered water

Once you have actually purified your water for drinking, you will need a safe way to store it so that it does not become contaminated again. If you have any clean containers or bottles, this is the obvious answer. In general, it is best to let the container dry thoroughly in the sun (if this is possible in your case) to avoid your fresh drinking water being contaminated with waterborne pathogens or other contaminants. You can also calculate exactly how much water you need to store to maintain constant hydration.

Almost anything you can find will do, but it's better if your water is protected from the sun and left open. Open water containers quickly become stagnant, risking recontamination and eventually becoming a breeding ground for mosquitoes. If you use UV purification methods to purify your water, it is absolutely necessary to leave the treated water unexposed to any light source for any length of time; otherwise, inactivated pathogens will be reactivated and begin to reproduce again.

I have done some extensive research and one of the best water storage products on the market is the Cherainti Hydration Bladder on Amazon. It will meet your needs on the go and fits in every backpack. Thanks to its unique design, it is leak-proof and can be easily filled and cleaned. It is also very durable and safe to drink.

Related Questions

Is the water in the campground safe to drink? If you are located in a campground, you can rely on the sign you see next to the body of water. If the sign has an image of a crossed out faucet, or you see a purple pipe nearby, then it is not safe to drink from. Consider using the purification methods discussed earlier.

Can you shower with non-potable water? If there is no other option, then the answer is yes. However, be very careful not to accidentally swallow any water. Untreated water contains malicious pathogens, as we have mentioned in this article. To be on the safe side, see if you can at least filter the water you intend to use for cleaning.

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