Three days, that’s it. It only takes three days to die of dehydration. In a wilderness situation, access to clean, potable water is the most important factor in regards to your ultimate survival. Any long-term shelter should be constructed within easy walking distance to a creek, lake, or well. Just because you have access to fresh water, that doesn’t mean it is safe to drink. Untreated lake and river water can have bacteria that can cause temporary nausea, headaches, and vomiting all the way up to death. In order to survive, you won’t have the luxury of taking a sick day. Though staying near a body of water is ideal, it is not always possible, especially in hostile environments. In the worst situations, finding water is critical.
The easiest way to make sure that whatever water you find is safe to drink is to boil it. This requires a heat source and a container for the liquid. While it is always best to be prepared, it should never be assumed that you are going to have a lighter or pot in order to boil your water.
In most situations, you will likely have the material to make a bow drill, as it only needs a decent stick and some sort of string (Like shoe strings for example). Once you have your bow prepared like the picture below, gather your tinder, and a socket (something to put pressure on top of your drill). The drill is simply the stick that will be used to create the fiction against your fireboard.
Truthfully, it is far easier to understand how to use this method to create your fire by a demonstration than by reading. If you are interested, please watch this youtube video to get the best possible instruction. If you need any help with this method, try reading this article published on Wildwood Survival.
Once you have a fire, it is pretty simple to boil some water if you have a pot. If you don’t then things get a bit trickier. If you have some waterproof fabric (tarp, tent, jacket), you can dig a hole and line it with the fabric. Find a way to transport your water into the hole. The waterproof liner will keep the water from soaking into the ground.
The next step is to heat rocks your fire. You should be careful because some rocks will explode due to the buildup pressure of internal moisture. Once the rocks are hot, shift them into your water-filled hole and continue this process until you bring the water to a boil. This is a labor-intensive process but is one way to purify water without a pot.
A far easier method is to use a chemical in order to purify your water. Though this can only be maintained for as long as you have access to the chemical, it is a great way to kill bacteria and make sure that your drinking water is safe. Most survival stores sell iodine tablets which is one of the classic ways to purify water. The problem is that some people are allergic to iodine. There are other non-iodine based purification tablets, but it might be worth the while to use a common household item to purify your water, bleach.
We are not suggesting you drink bleach, but rather use a very small amount (1/8 of a teaspoon/gallon) and let the chemical stand for at least thirty minutes in order to kill any bacteria in the liquid. This level of bleach is safe for a human body to consume, and can provide a quick way to clean a water source.
Natural process can be harnessed to save yourself from drinking bad water. Collected rainwater will be safe to drink unless it has touched a contaminated surface like a lead pot. Evaporation is also a great way to create potable water, though it is a bit trickier and much slower than the other methods.
You will need to dig a hole and place an empty container in the middle of the hole. Beside the container, you will need to place the contaminated water. (Tip: if the containment water has a larger surface area, it will increase the rate of evaporation.) Drape a waterproof fabric over the top of the hole, and place a rock directly over the pot in which you want to collect clean water in. As the contaminated water evaporates, it will collect on the underside of the waterproof fabric then drip into your desired container.
Ultimately, the best method to cleanse your water is the use of a filter. Wilderness retailers sell reusable water filters that require little upkeep beyond changing the filter after several uses. The biggest drawback to these awesome items is the fact that is unlikely to just come across one unless you make it a point to purchase one on your own. My Patriots Supply is a leader in the industry and they offer many portable filters for a reasonable price.
Given the right resources, it is possible to make your own water filter through the use of soil or sand. For the first time in this entire article, you will need to use a NON-waterproof piece of fabric. Place it over your container of water, and then place a thick layer of soil or sand on top of the fabric. Pour the contaminated water through the sand and repeat multiple times in order to purify your drinking water.