How to Find and Purify Water in the Wilderness

Although water is an essential component of life, we tend to take it for granted due to having plumbing systems and being able to buy prepackaged bottles. If you find yourself in the unlucky position of not having guaranteed access to clean water, it should be your top priority to find some—or, if you have to, make some yourself.


Potential Fresh Water Sources

As long as you don’t find yourself in a desert, you should be able to locate a body of fresh water, such as a river or stream. Fast-moving water that passes over rocks is preferable, as this will do some of the filtering for you and make major microorganism growth less likely. Stagnant water or water from a lake can be filtered by digging a seep well, a hole near the water source that will allow water to seep through the ground. Loose soil and sand won’t filter as well, so seep wells should be dug at a larger distance from the body of water to maximize filtration.


Another water source that we don’t usually consider is plant life. Water can be squeezed from moss or collected from dewdrops on leaves in humid enough environments. The one drawback is that these methods will yield very little at a time, so it will take more work to harvest substantial amounts of water.


An even more time-consuming method, an underground solar still, will require some manmade materials you might not have the luxury of getting. Some forms exist that don’t use anything not found in nature, but today we’re focusing on one that uses a clear plastic tarp. First, dig a large, deep hole and put a container at the bottom surrounded by leaves or other vegetation. Next, cover the hole with your plastic sheet and weigh it down around the edges using rocks or soil. Finally, place another weight in the center of the tarp, above the container, to create a funnel shape. The idea is that the sun will cause moisture from the plant life to evaporate and then recondense on the plastic, and the funnel will direct the resulting droplets down into the container. The best part is, this water will be distilled, so you can drink it right away.


Water Purification Methods

Once you’ve collected and filtered your water, you’ll need to purify it to make it safer to drink. Boiling is perhaps the most straightforward option if you can find a heat-resistant container. You may at this point have limited water and not want to risk it evaporating away, but according to the CDC, you should get what you have to a rolling boil and keep it there for about a minute to kill any lingering microorganisms.


Alternatively, some survivalists carry water purification tablets with them. These can potentially be used on both clear and cloudy water depending on the brand, though clear will always be better. If you don’t have any, you’ll be happy to hear that some plants can actually serve a similar function, absorbing toxins and heavy metals from the water around them. Plant parts made of xylem tissue, notably wood, are particularly effective, but other things like cilantro and banana peel can be used as well. As you might expect, this should not be relied upon to completely purify your water, so we recommend only using this method if you’re already reasonably confident in the clarity and purity of your water.


You can also try to distill your water using a similar setup to a solar still. Rather than surrounding your container with leaves, though, you would place it inside a larger container that has your impure water in it.



Being in a dire survival situation is sure to make you realize how much we rely on electrical appliances in daily life. If you plan on taking a trip into the wilderness, you don’t have to leave the comforts of home behind thanks to the Vanpowers 2000W Solar Generator, which includes the Vanpowers Super Power Pro 2000 portable power station and SP200 foldable solar panel. With it, you can power and charge up to 14 devices at once with 6 different outlet types, and the solar panel means you’ll never run out of energy as long as you have sunlight. Even better, the power station has wheels and a collapsible handle, so it’s incredibly easy to transport as you trek through the woods.


For more information on energy storage options, please visit the Vanpowers website.