Water Gathering & Disinfection

It’s no secret how important water is to life on our planet. Our bodies contain around 60% water in its composition. Around 71 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered by water, however 97 percent of that water is undrinkable due to it being salt water. As humans we cannot consume it because of the high salt content or other minerals.

Dehydration is one of the 3 top killers in a survival situation right behind hypothermia and hyperthermia. Dehydration is essentially when the body loses more water than the body is taking in.

Signs of Dehydration:

Dry mouth/Thirst

Muscle Cramps



Urine output low and darker than normal

Any outdoor or off-road adventure you take water should be your number one priority in your trip planning. Generally speaking you want to carry a comfortable amount with you. If you’re overlanding, your vehicle can carry quite a bit more than you can on your back. If backpacking you will want to route plan so that you will come across natural bodies of water and use a water treatment method like a packable filter or purification tablets. The common rule is that we need 1 gallon of water per day.

Improvised Methods

It’s always good to have the right equipment (i.e. water filter) but it’s even better to know how to improvise if Murphy ’s Law happens, as it usually does. .


I’ve always been an advocate of carrying a single walled stainless steel container. Boiling is one of the most effective methods to disinfect water. This is the reason that the CDC recommends it. You may even recall times where your local news stations have issued “boil advisories”. Easy to remember method is to bring it to a rolling boil. This will ensure that all the nasty bacteria has been killed.


Similar to the old “solar still” method but less work is the transpiration method. This is a simple method of trapping condensation in a evaporation effect. Take a clear plastic bag and place it over green vegetation (tree leaves, small bushes, tall grasses, etc.) and tightly tie the other end to “trap” moisture in the bag. As the day goes on the sun will draw out the moisture from the leaves and capture it in the bag. It’s simple and doesn’t require a lot of work. Just remember not to place on any poisonous plants.

SODIS (Solar Water Disinfection)

A technique used in many 3rd world countries to provide safe drinking water by way of using UV radiation to kill germs and bacteria.

You will need a PET clear plastic bottle (the ones like soda or water come in). Unfortunately this isn’t a difficult task due to the amount of litter found outdoors.

Next, remove the labels, ensure the bottles are clear, and have minimal scratches.

Filter the water with a rag or bandanna to remove any debris as you fill the bottle up. Filling the bottle ¾ of the way.

Cap bottle and shake for 20 seconds then fill the rest with water.

Lay bottle in sun for around 6 hours on a sunny day. It works great laying on the top of a vehicle roof rack.

If cloudy it may need to be exposed for up to 2 days to kill all bacteria.

If raining….collect rainwater instead.

Benjamin Franklin once said “When the well’s dry, we know the worth of water”. Now you have the knowledge in case the “well does go dry