How to Filter Water While Camping

Filter Water While Camping

Clean water is a basic human need. A human can survive without food for weeks, but will only last three days without water. For that reason, every person who plans to go on a trip, especially for a few days, should check their water supply from time to time. But what if you run out of water?! What will you do?

The different methods to filter your water are boiling it, using purification tablets, solar purification, stone or cloth filtration, chemical treatment, etc., and you can DIY (do it yourself) filtration when no other opinion is available. Make sure to apply these techniques to have clean and safe water.

This article, containing a few related subjects, will assist you when you face water shortage along your way. Let’s start.


In every backpacking adventure, it’s vital to have access to clean drinking water. Since you can’t carry gallons of water with you when you’re hiking, we suggest that you carry a water filter instead. We reviewed several filters to help you choose the best backpacking water filter that will fit your needs.


Ways to filter water while camping (with pros and cons)

If you run out of water and need some water to stay hydrated, here are some effective methods to treat any water you can find in the wild, including from questionable sources, to ensure your safety when you drink it. From stone boiling to solar purification, to having water filters, these are sure ways to provide yourself water when you’re in need.

The following techniques should be considered.

Stone boiling

Boiling is an effective way to remove harmful organisms and unwanted microbiological contaminants from water. Boiling does not require you to have any special equipment besides a pot and a heat source.

However, boiling water usually tastes bad and requires fire, electricity, a kettle, or a stove, and is time consuming. Moreover, if you don’t boil water long enough or do not bring it to 100°C, not all microorganisms will necessarily die.

Purification tablets

A very popular option to treat water for outdoor travelers is purification tablets, or so-called halogens. These take away bacteria and viruses. They’re also lightweight, affordable, and effective.

However, using purification tablets, like chlorine or iodine, cannot completely remove pesticides, chemicals, and heavy metals. It also requires a lot of time to kill water contaminants (usually 30 to 60 minutes).

Solar purification

Solar water disinfection is a water purification method that uses solar energy to make biologically-contaminated water clean. It doesn’t change the taste of water, but it improves the microbiological quality of drinking water.

This is one of the fastest ways to kill microbiological contaminants, such as protozoa, cysts, and bacteria. Yet, solar purification requires batteries to function.

Chemical treatment

Chemical treatment methods are used to completely break down the hazardous waste into non-toxic gases, or to modify the chemical properties of the waste.

Using chemicals will kill off many microorganisms present in your water, like giardia and viruses, since they contain heavy oxidants. But, make sure not to put too much to avoid itchy skin, diarrhea, vomiting, or fatal diseases.


Distillation is the process of separating mixtures based on differences in the conditions required to change the phase of components of the mixture.

Distillation helps eliminate impurities from water. However, never drink it right away, as some unwanted elements are not completely removed with this method. That’s why you have to distill water multiple times in order to have it completely clean. Moreover, it has high levels of acidity.

Cloth filtration

A cloth filter, or so-called paper band filter, takes solid particles from the water using filter paper. You will only need simple materials: scissors, two bottles, rubber bands, a burner, and filtration materials, such as soil, sand, gravel, etc.

Use cloth filtration if you have no other option. This will somehow clean your water, but this method will not completely remove impurities and pollutants from your water.

Reverse osmosis filtration

Another method for purifying water is reverse osmosis filtration, which applies pressure to remove solid particles. It can perform two functions: water softening and water purification. Though, the reverse osmosis process reduces the number of beneficial minerals that may be helpful to your body.

Sedimentation treatment

Sedimentation is a water treatment process that uses gravity to remove suspended solids from water.

When facing extremely murky water, sedimentation is a great way to deal with the excess of unwanted particles, yet it is still not sufficient to purify water. Furthermore, turning to sedimentation without using coagulants is very time-consuming, and coagulants may be toxic if used improperly.


Plants also play a huge role in keeping water clean by absorbing carbon dioxide and expelling oxygen. However, you need to have a strong understanding and knowledge of these plants before using them.

The following flowers and plants can be used to remove dangerous contaminants from water:

  • Moringa Oleifera
  • Jackfruit, java plum seeds
  • Fruits peels, like that of a banana
  • Rice and coconuts
  • Plant Xylem
  • Oregon grape

Fruit peels and shrubs, like the Oregon grape, are a great way to purify your water.

DIY (Do-It-Yourself) filter

DIY filters are easy to make. For that, you can gather materials you can collect around you, such as rocks, sand, or soil to filter your water, just in case you have no other option. This method is somehow way more effective when you’re in survival mode.

The DIY filters are wood and tubing, cloth filter, or container.

However, it doesn’t completely kill the bacteria present in your water. You still need to purify water (by adding tablets/chemicals or boiling) after filtering it with this technique.

Carrying water filters

Carrying a light-weight water filter is a good idea when you’re camping. Water filters with filtration systems get rid of parasites like giardia and cryptosporidium, which cause serious health problems. You can pick between a squeeze water filter, a pump, or gravity water, depending on the amount of people you’re travelling with.

Note that once you’ve already purified the water for drinking, you should store it, so that it doesn’t get contaminated all over again. You can use clean containers or plastic bottles to store it.


Reasons to filter your water while camping

Outdoor activities, such as camping, hiking, or road trips, typically require sufficient water supply. But if you run out of water, you may need to source-drinking water from natural, untreated water sources. However, drinking untreated water can expose you to harmful elements that may weaken your body.

Raw water found naturally in the environment can come from many sources, including ponds, rivers, lakes, or any groundwater.

Is it safe to drink untreated water? Why is it necessary to filter it?

Water filtration is a technique that consists in removing impurities from water, since there’re numerous bacteria and microorganisms that live in natural water, such as suspended particles, algae, parasites, fungi, bacteria, animal and human waste, heavy metals, as well as other chemical and biological contaminants.


These contaminants may cause a variety of sickness, including fever, stomach cramps, vomiting, diarrhea, infections, and even pneumonia. Some contaminants, such as arsenic, also known as carcinogens, can potentially contribute to severe health issues.

Waterborne diseases

Other waterborne diseases include cholera, dysentery, and bacterial infections. The common symptoms that emerge from these ailments are similar to that of giardiasis. When you’re already dehydrated from backpacking, or in a survival situation for a few days, diarrhea will worsen the problem, and even put your life in danger.

For that reason, treat any water you drink from the wild or from questionable sources. Staying hydrated is a must, as well as staying alive. You can’t risk your life by simply drinking untreated water from the environment just to treat your thirst.

As previously mentioned, there are several methods to filter your water, including:

  • distillation,
  • boiling,
  • UV water purification,
  • reverse osmosis, and other water filtration.

We’ve further discussed these methods earlier.


Risks in drinking contaminated water

The risk of drinking contaminated water is that it can spread diseases and can put your life in danger. When a person drinks untreated water containing bacteria, they will mostly develop acute gastrointestinal symptoms, and in severe cases, these can lead to dehydration and fatal illnesses.

Some of the commonly reported problems experienced from drinking untreated water are:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Dehydration
  • Stomach cramps
  • Bacterial infections
  • Typhoid
  • Other gastrointestinal and waterborne diseases

Other waterborne diseases include cholera, dysentery, and viruses, and bacterial infections. The common symptoms that arise from these ailments are similar to giardiasis. When you’re already dehydrated from backpacking for a few days straight, diarrhea will worsen the problem, and even put your life in danger.

As we did notice in our survey, a waterborne illness called giardiasis occurs in the United States. It’s a protozoan parasite that can cause extreme cramping, and worst of all, in any outdoor situation, violent diarrhea.

Therefore, don’t use raw, untreated water as your regular drinking water while camping. Always remember to think first before you drink, as we all know that all raw water that we may find in the wild is contaminated, and has harmful effects on the body. Treat the water first to make it safe to consume.



Staying hydrated is very important when you’re engaging in outdoor activities such as camping and hiking, especially if the weather is hot. If you’re planning to go somewhere that does not have a reliable source of drinking water, you need to pack your own and you also need to learn about ways to filter untreated water in case your supply runs out. 

As a result, we can say that filtering natural water from different water sources in the environment is a significant and important skill that you need to learn. All of the methods we’ve mentioned are very effective if you understand how they work, their importance, benefits, and outcomes.

Since there are a lot of ways to filter water, you get to use the method that you think is easiest to do, yet is efficient and helpful if you run out of water while camping. Water is a very important resource while camping and hiking which is why it is important that you know how to treat it for it to be safe to consume.

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