Staying hydrated when SHTF: 4 Ways to filter water
By Grace Olson // Oct 28, 2019

When you find yourself out in the wild without water, you have a serious problem. You have to find a source of water somewhere. A portable water filter may save you lots of time and effort, but not everyone has one. It is important then to learn various water filtering techniques, using materials found in the wild. Equipped with this knowledge, you will be more prepared and at ease in case of an emergency.


Here are four ways to filter water without a commercial filter. (h/t to

Sand and charcoal water filter

This filter does not completely purify water, but it can turn cloudy water clear. For this filter, you need:

  • Gravel or small rocks
  • Sand
  • Charcoal from wood fire
  • Container (plastic bottle or plastic bag)
  • A thin fabric or coffee filter, if available

If you have a plastic bottle, cut the bottom cover and take the cap off. Invert it afterward. If you are using a plastic bag, cut a small hole at the bottom of the bag.

The setup begins at the bottom. Follow these steps:

  1. Place the fabric or coffee filter on top of the smaller hole, ensuring that only water will pass through.
  2. Add a layer of charcoal. It should be around one to two inches. This layer will absorb any carbon-based minerals in the water.
  3. On top of the charcoal, lay down alternating layers of sand and gravel. They should have at least two layers each. The gravel will filter the large sediments while the sand will remove the finer particles.
  4. Set up a container under the bottle or plastic bag.
  5. Pour the cloudy water at the top, and watch clear water settle at the container below.
  6. Boil the collected water to remove microorganisms.

Evaporation trap

Evaporation traps collect the ground water that has evaporated from the soil into a container. This filter is suitable if you will be staying in the area for a long time. It takes a while to collect water, but it will provide you with a semi-continuous supply.

Here are the materials you need:

  • Large plastic sheet
  • Container with a large opening

To set an evaporation trap, you need put it in an area that has direct or indirect sunlight. It also needs a lot of space and should be left undisturbed.

Follow these steps to make an evaporation trap:

  1. Dig a hole one to two feet deep and more than three feet wide. Just make sure that your plastic wrap can cover it.
  2. Put the collection container at the bottom of the pit. Make sure that no dirt gets inside.
  3. Place the plastic sheet over the pit. Weigh it at the sides with branches or rocks.
  4. Carefully put a rock in the middle of the sheet, so that the sheet dips down just above the collection container.
  5. Boil the collected water.

The plastic sheet will collect the evaporated ground water, dripping it down to the container.

Solar still

A solar still works similarly to an evaporation trap. Solar stills are easier to set up because you can carry the items needed to set it up anywhere. However, like evaporation traps, they also take a while before you can collect the water.

The items you need for a solar still are:

  • A large mixing bowl
  • Collection container
  • Plastic sheet

To set up your solar still:

  1. Place the large mixing bowl in an area with direct or indirect sunlight.
  2. Pour unclean water into the bowl.
  3. Put the collection container in the middle of the bowl. Its height should be shorter than the rim of the bowl but higher than the level of unclean water.
  4. Cover the bowl with a plastic sheet and weigh it at the sides.
  5. Carefully place a rock or other weight in the middle of the sheet, just above the collection container.
  6. After collecting enough water, boil it for purification.

Household chemicals

Common household items can be used to clean dirty water. Aside from purification tablets and drops, you can use something as common as bleach and iodine. If you decide to use this method, strain the water first through a shirt or any other fabric. It must be relatively free of particles before applying the chemicals.

If you decided to use bleach, do the following:

  1. Add 1/8 teaspoon of bleach to each gallon of water.
  2. Mix well and let the bleach work for an hour before drinking.

Iodine works as a short-term solution, but it is inadvisable for pregnant women and people with thyroid problems. If you decide to use iodine, follow the instructions below:

  1. For each gallon of water, add 20 drops of 2% iodine solution.
  2. Mix well, and do not drink until an hour has passed.

Practice these filtering techniques at home to prepare you for any scenario. Read more water purification tips and tricks at

Sources include:

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