How To Purify Water Safely Camping or Outdoors:  5 Ways to Purify Lake or River Water

It doesn’t matter if you are hiking, kayak fishing or on a hunting trip, any outdoor excursion can go awry in a hurry if you aren’t geared with the proper survival equipment or don’t have a clean water supply.

If you’re not carrying your own supply of water in with you, you’ll need to purify the water you find in the wilderness.  To purify water while camping, you have five great options available to you: Boiling water, water treatments, water filters, water purifiers, and UV methods.

Let’s look at 5 great ways to purify lake or river water next time you’re out in the wilds.

Boiling:  Boiling water is a simple and effective way to purify water for drinking. There’s nothing to it: Collect the water into a pot or other container, put it on the camp stove, and boil it at a full boil for at least one minute (at least 3 minutes at altitudes above 6,562 feet).

That’s all it takes.

Boiling kills the bacteria, viruses, and protozoa that will ruin your trip. However, boiling does nothing for the mud and other particulate matter. But if you’re patient, you can leave the water out for a bit and the mud will settle to make drinking more pleasant.

If you aren’t used to boiling your own water, below is a quick video with a demonstration as well as the benefits & negative aspects.


Water Treatments:  Water treatments come in two basic types: chlorine and iodine. Chlorine comes in tablets that you dissolve in water and let stand for 15 minutes.

Iodine, which comes in tablets, crystals, or tinctures, works the same way, though iodine should not be used by pregnant women or people with thyroid issues.

If you aren’t familiar with the treatment options from a chemical perspective, below is a quick video.


Water Filters:  Water filters are great options for purifying water when camping. They’re easy to use, and are available in personal or larger, portable models for two or more people.

Filters do a good job on protozoa and bacteria, but will not filter out viruses. Water filters work by straining the water through an internal element using a hand pump, gravity, or in a sip tube. They also leave the mud out, so you get a nice clean drink.

Below is a quick method to make a quick survival water filter own your own.


Water Purifiers:  Water purifiers are the next step up in convenient, portable water purification solutions. They feature a combination of a filter and chemical compounds or, most recently, a multiple filter system.

To be marketed as a water purifier in the United States, the device must meet or exceed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Guide Standard and Protocol for Testing Microbiological Water Purifiers.

EPA-registered products must destroy 99.9999% of bacteria, 99.99% or viruses and 99.9% of protozoa. Water purifiers are affordable and provide safe, reliable filtration.

Below is a quick video of three popular water filters.


Ultraviolet Light Methods:  Ultraviolet light can also be used to purify water. At the correct intensity, UV light contains ample radiation to destroy the DNA in bacteria and other organisms.

Most UV purifiers pass water through a UV irradiated chamber to sterilize the water. The downside to UV purification is the expense: Even a simple handheld unit is costly.

However, UV radiation uses no chemicals, leaving you with pure, tasty drinking water.

One key to making the UV filter work properly: The water must be agitated enough so that particles do not obstruct the light, or pre-filtered to remove sediment before purifying

One popular UV water sterilization method is the Steri-pen. You can see that product broken down in the video below.

Wrap Up:

While there are several ways to make sure the water you are about to drink is clean, any of the methods mentioned above should keep you out of harms way on your next outdoor excursion.


We are not responsible for any unsuccessful attempts by you to purify water.  The suggestions above are widely used but purify your own water at your own risk.

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