How to Filter Water In a Survival Situation

Why filter water? 

A good way to ensure you’re drinking clean water is by filtering it, picking up a stomach bug can be deadly when in a survival scenario, there are various methods to make sure Bacteria, Protozoa & Viruses are eliminated from your drinking water.

While you can store bottled water that has already been filtered, you can also filter water yourself. DIY water filtering methods to filter, disinfect and purify water yourself when traditional systems aren’t an option.

Below are some common DIY water filtering methods you can use:


Boil water at a rolling boil for 1 minute makes it safe to drink, or 3 minutes if you’re at an elevation above 6,500 feet (1,981 meters). Best practice to filter through cloth first to remove sediment, etc.

Tablets or drops

Some common water purification or disinfecting tablets and drops include sodium dichloroisocyanurate, chlorine dioxide, iodine, tetraglycine hydroperoxide.

To use, follow the instructions on the package and drop the tablets into the water to purify it, letting them sit for a directed period of time.

Activated charcoal

Activated charcoal can take up and store toxic compounds, smell, and germs. It can also reduce fluoride and heavy metals. However, it doesn’t appear to be very effective at removing bacteria, viruses, or hard water minerals.

Simply put charcoal in a sock or cloth bag and pour water through.

Travel filters

These portable water filters are designed to remove bacteria, protozoa and viruses from water sources. They come in the following forms: a hand-pump machine, a filtering straw or water bottle squeezable pouch filters, these can deal with most situations and are very cost effective in the long term.

DIY sediment filters

You can create your own water filter to remove smell and debris by layering a mix of gravel, play sand, and activated carbon in a bucket drilled with a hole and fit with plumbing to pour water through.

People sometimes use fruit peels, such as apple peels, for water purification in remote villages that rely on contaminated water for everyday needs. You could potentially adapt this method into a DIY water filtration system.


When traditional water filtration methods are unavailable, you have plenty of other options, such as boiling, UV treatment, disinfectant tablets, portable sediment filters, and activated charcoal.

You may be interested in filtering your water for many reasons.

Some people are also concerned what is in their drinking water from the tap, many chemicals are allowed in small amounts that many may wish to remove.

For indoor water use, it may be a good idea to keep a stock of filtered water available in case of emergency water shutoffs or other events that result in a lack of clean drinking water.

Having a water filter at home may come in handy, too.

For outdoor activities, like camping and backpacking, consider a portable water filter, this will help avoid harmful germs or other contaminants in natural water, which may result from wild animals or other human traffic. Filtering water can not only remove contaminants and debris, it can also make your water taste better.

Water filtration may further improve some aspects of tap water. It can also be helpful in water shutoff situations or scenarios when clean drinking water isn’t readily available, like in remote locations. 

To find the best approach, consider your goals. Certain methods work best for removing physical debris and particles, whereas others are better for removing heavy metals and germs or improving smell and taste. You can also combine different methods or use a commercial travel filter.

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