Survival Skills: Our Top 10 Water Filtration Methods With No Tools

There is nothing like going on the adventures that your soul craves, right? But, adventures bring difficulties of survival with them. Clean water is undoubtedly the most important thing where surviving emergencies is concerned.

  • Sedimentation
  • Filtering Through Stones and Pebbles
  • Using Charcoal
  • Boiling with Stones
  • Solar Water Disinfection
  • Evaporation Trap
  • Transpiration Bags
  • Distillation
  • Boiling

The Basics

Risks of Contaminated Water

Well, you can stumble across water bodies no matter how thick a forest is or how far away you are from civilization. But, drinking water directly from these sources can upset your stomach, or worse, lead to life-threatening problems. Here are some of the troubles that you can land in if you consume contaminated water.

  • Untreated water contains several types of bacteria that can harm your gastrointestinal tract. It leads to diarrhea, which can ultimately cause death as it brings about severe hydration.
  • Since your body is not accustomed to the toxins present in contaminated water, you can feel intense pain in your stomach.
  • You may feel nausea for prolonged periods of time, which can be alarmingly discomforting.

So, it is wise to always clean or purify water before consuming it to avoid any kind of misadventures.

How to Filter Water?

Filtration is the primary level of cleaning water as it removes the visible pollutants from water. Even if you can digest some of the algae and fungi, it can be hard to drink water that has such components. So, to omit all the dirt and visible algal growth, you can filter water before drinking it.

10 water filtration

Filtration happens in two ways: microfiltration and ultrafiltration. For both of these, you use a filter paper. The filter papers for each of these types of filtration have different sized pores. This is why microfiltration removes larger impurities while ultrafiltration removes even teeny tiny microbes.

How to Purify Water?

The purification of water serves the same purpose of cleaning it as the filtration of water. But, the basic difference is that filtration removes the impurities while purification kills the impurities.

Major forms of purifying water are chemical treatments and/or boiling. It kills off the organisms living inside the water to make sure they cannot disturb your body’s functioning.

10 Methods for Making Filtered or Purified Water in the Wild

Now that you know that clean water is crucial to your health, you need to find out ways of decontaminating it, right? Considering this, we have described 10 of the most useful methods of filtering or purifying water out in the wild without any portable water filters. They are discussed according to the ease of use and availability of the required tools.

1. Sedimentation

Sedimentation is one of the easiest yet most overlooked ways of cleaning water. What usually happens is that water gets all murky when it flows through streams. It can have mud dissolved in it, which makes it look unappetizing.

However, if you are patient enough, you can remove all the dirt and other major pollutants from it. All you have to do is put it in a container or make sure it stays stagnant for some time. This will cause all the dirt and debris to sink to the bottom of the container or reservoir.

This way, only clear water remains at the top as it is lighter than the impurities. Now, gently take out the clean water from the top and drink it. Make sure not to disturb the bottom of the water as it will set the impurities in motion. Otherwise, they will spread throughout the container, and you will have to wait for another prolonged duration.

2. Filtering Through Stones and Pebbles

If sedimentation of water is not your thing, you do not have to panic. You still have multiple options to help stay healthy while out in the wild. You can use the clothes you wear or any other porous surface to clean water to make it drinkable.

For this method of water filtration, you need two containers and your shirt or any cloth. In addition to these, you will have to collect some pebbles and sand from your surroundings. Once you have all of these essentials, wrap your shirt on the opening of a clean container. Now, spread some pebbles or stones on the cloth in an even layer. Then, fill the other container with untreated water and run the water through pebbles and cloth into the clean container.

This will remove bigger impurities, but to clear the finer impurities, repeat the procedure using sand this time. Spread a layer of sand on the cloth after removing the pebbles and run the water filtered with stones through it. This way, most of the polluting agents will be removed, and you can consume this water safely.

3. Using Charcoal

Using charcoal to filter water is another reliable way of getting your hands on clean water. For this, you need two containers, a clean cloth (your own shirt will work here too), and some charcoal.

Tie the cloth on the opening of a container and spread some charcoal over it. Make sure to have an even layer of charcoal to avoid any impurities getting past it. Then pour water from the other container through this charcoal assembly.

charcoal water filter

It will not only remove the sediments and unpleasant impurities but will also improve the taste of water. You do not need to lose your cool if you do not have charcoal. Set up a campfire using some wood and let the ashes cool. Then crush them in small bits, and you have the charcoal that you need to clean your water. You might need to run the water through charcoal multiple times to ensure complete filtration.

4. Using Sapwood

You can DIY a highly functional filtration unit for cleaning water too. For this, you need a sapwood and tubing assembly, which does not take much time to set up. While you are in the wild, you have trees all around you. And, you can use their sapwood (the soft outer bit of trees) to decontaminate water.

You can use a green and soft branch for this purpose too, but sapwood works best. All you have to do is cut a small piece of sapwood. A couple of inches long and an inch wide sapwood will work just fine. Then fix a small plastic tube above it, and your filter is ready.

Now, pour some water in through the tube and let it run down into a container through sapwood. It will not only remove dirt but will kill almost 99% of bacteria residing in water. You can use some other form of plastic too if you do not have a specific tube. But, you have to be careful of the size of the sapwood as it should fit the plastic opening tightly.

5. Boiling with Stones

Boiling with stones seems like an impractical way of decontaminating water. But, in truth, it does wonder to increase your chances of survival. This technique is particularly useful if you do not have a fireproof container. If you have a metallic container, you just need to fill it with water and put it on a campfire. But, plastic and other containers will do more harm than good if you put them directly on a heat source.

boiling with stones

So, in a situation where you have a fire-sensitive container, boiling water with stones can be very useful. What you have to do is pour some water in your non-metallic container. Set up a campfire and heat the stone in it to the maximum point.

Then using wood or something else, pick the hot stone and put it in water in your container. Repeat this process until all of the water comes to a boil. When you choose this way of water purification, you have to be mindful of the size of your container. Do not fill it to the brim as it will lead to wastage of already scarce water when you put some stones in it.

6. Solar Water Disinfection

Solar water disinfection is one of the least plausible ways of decontaminating water. But, it is way better than exposing yourself to the danger of drinking untreated water. Ideally, you should boil water before you gulp it down. But, sometimes, you just cannot light up a fire to boil water.

However, you never run out of sunlight, so you should make use of its natural decontaminating properties. For this, you need to pour water into a clear container and then place it under the sun for a day or two.

The UV rays in sunlight will kill most of the bacteria and viruses, if not all, of them. The heat packets in each UV ray can kill off multiple microbes in the water. So, be patient and give the water in your container some time to get ample sunlight. Then you can drink and store it according to your convenience. But, boil water as soon as you find a way of setting up a campfire.

Another thing to keep in mind is that water evaporates from the containers, especially under direct sunlight. So, keep it covered with a transparent sheet or fill enough water in the container to have some left even after a day of evaporation.

7. Evaporation Trap

One thing inherent to the nature of water is evaporation. No matter if it is scorching hot or unbearably cold, water has to evaporate in one way or another. You can benefit from this characteristic of water when you are away from home too.

The best thing about evaporation is that it causes only the water molecules to turn into vapors. This way, no pollutants or any other particles are there in evaporated water. So, an evaporation trap can be a lifesaver if you know how to make one.

In order to make an evaporation trap, you need a collection container and a large sheet of plastic. Only these two items can help you collect water even when you do not see a water body nearby.

Once you have these two tools, dig a hole into the ground. The depression should be wide but no deeper than two to three feet. Now place the collection container right at the center of the depression. You have to be careful while placing the container at the bottom of the hole so that no dirt gets in it. This will further pollute the already scarce water.

You can use some pebbles or branches to hold the plastic sheet in its place securely. Then finish off the evaporation trap by placing a moderately sized stone near the collection container. It will direct all the water to slide into the container.

Now, leave it as it is for a day to let the evaporated water cool down and accumulate in the container. You might still feel the need to boil or further disinfect the water. So, keep this in mind too while you choose to set up an evaporation trap.

8. Transpiration Bags

Transpiration is a natural process in plants that keeps them upright and functional. What happens is that the roots of plants uptake moisture from the soil and then transfer it up towards the leaves. The leaves then pour out tiny droplets of water through the pores on their surface.

Since transpiration goes on all day, it means there is a constant outflow of water in the form of transpiration. Now, you are aware that plants give out this pure water from their leaves. You need to figure out a way of trapping all this water before it evaporates into the air.

transpiration bags

To do this, you can wrap a plastic bag around the leaves of a tree. One of the best approaches to collect water by this method is to choose the leaves that get the most sunlight. You should use three to four transpiration bags to get enough water to quench your thirst.

While using transpiration bags, you have to be careful about choosing plants that are not poisonous or toxic. Edible plants are the safest for this method of water collection and decontamination.

9. Distillation

Distillation is one of the surest ways of removing contaminants from water. It uses two important techniques for treating water: boiling and condensation. The best thing about distillation is that it does not cause any wastage of water like boiling does. There is no evaporation, so you get the same amount of water after treatment as prior to it.

You need to set up an assembly which boils the water first and then condenses it to a reservoir. You need to carry a proper distillation kit with you at all times if you opt to choose distillation for water purification.

10. Boiling

Last but not least, boiling is another effective way of decontaminating water. But, for this, you need to have a steady heat source so that the water you want to boil gets proper heat. Another consideration to take care of is to have a metallic or fireproof container.

You can add some chemicals or water treating agents in boiling water as well. This will make sure there is absolutely no impurity in the water when you sit down to drink it. You might also feel the need to filter water before boiling it too. This is particularly necessary if the water is too murky or has a lot of algal growth in it.


Summing it all up, you need to drink purified or filtered water to stay healthy. Even if you are out in the wild, you cannot take any chances when it comes to your health and safety. Experts claim that contaminated water can lead to disturbed bodily functioning and even death.

So, you have to be very cautious about the cleanliness of water before drinking it. We have discussed 10 of the best and easiest ways of decontaminating water for you. Compare all of them and see which one works the best for you.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *