Outdoor Water Purification Techniques

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If you’re an outdoors enthusiast then you know that there’s an endless list of activities that you can enjoy. From hiking through the mountains to camping along the plains, there’s something for everyone. However, it’s important that you have keen survival skills when spending time in nature. This is especially the case when it comes to water.

Stream water should be purified before drinking.
Any water you obtain in the outdoors MUST be purified before drinking.

While you may be surrounded by water, that doesn’t always mean that it will be suitable for drinking. And considering the fact that water consumption is crucial to your health this can have a huge impact on your experience. Luckily, there are a few ways that you can remove contamination from water. Let’s take a moment to discuss five of the best outdoor water purification techniques.


Boiling is considered to be one of the best ways to purify your water. It kills viruses, pathogenic bacteria, and protozoa. Simply bring the water to a rolling boil for 1-3 minutes. The higher the altitude, the longer you should allow it to boil. Once finished, allow any cloudiness to settle to the bottom of the pan and then filter the water by pouring it into a clean cloth or coffee filter. You can improve the taste by adding a pinch of salt.

Pros: Boiling your water is extremely cost-effective. You don’t have to spend money on expensive equipment. All you need are a pot, water, and the ability to make a fire. Another benefit of boiling your water is that it’s chemical-free. Some methods require you to add chemicals to your water. This isn’t the case with the boiling method.

Cons: Boiling your water won’t change its taste. While this method is effective, your water may taste like charcoal or the minerals that were purified from it. Also, the boiling method won’t remove particles from the water which means that you may still notice dirt and dust.

Iodine Tablets

Iodine is ideal for water purification. It disrupts the ionic balance within pathogenic cells thereby killing the bacteria in the water. It also replaces the chemicals that are necessary for the bacteria to thrive. When using iodine tablets, you simply drop them into your container, close it, and then allow it to dissolve for 30 minutes or more.

Pros: One of the best things about iodine tablets is that they are easy to carry. And this can make a big difference when you only have so much room in your backpack. Also, it doesn’t require as much effort, so it can save you a lot of time and you can get hydrated as soon as possible.

Cons: While iodine tablets can be useful, they can be ineffective when it comes to killing certain contaminants. This is specifically the case if your water contains parasitic worm eggs. Also, these tablets can have a negative impact on some individuals such those who have iodine allergies, thyroid problems, or are pregnant.


Filtration is one of the most commonly known water purification methods. Filters use chemical and physical filtration in order to remove microscopic contaminants and particles from the water. The two most popular types of filters are pump-action and drip/suction. Pump action filters make use of a pump which forces raw water through a cartridge. Drip/suction filters are cartridges that make use of gravity–much like an IV bag.

Pros: Perhaps the best thing about filters is that not only do they remove the contaminants from the water, but also the bad smell and taste. Another huge advantage is that it’s cost-effective.

Cons: There’s maintenance involved with filtration. You must ensure that your equipment is always clean and well-sanitized after each use. Also, in most cases, you’ll have to remember to replace the cartridges.

UV Light

A UV light purifier uses germicidal ultraviolet light to treat water. Essentially, it alters the DNA of living organisms so that they’re unable to reproduce. It’s typically a one-button operation. You press the button, stir the UV light device around in the water and wait for it to let you know when the water is purified.

Pros: When it comes to destroying bacteria, there’s hardly anything more effective than UV light. It has the ability to get rid of 99.99% of microorganisms. Another bonus of using this method is that it’s environmentally-friendly. It doesn’t emit any by-products like some methods.

Cons: UV light can only remove microorganisms. It can’t remove other contaminants such as salts, heavy metals, and chlorine. Also, this method is only effective if your contaminated water is clear. This means that the water will need to be pre-filtered if it’s murky or contains floating particles.

Chlorine Tablets

Chlorine can help to reduce pathogenic microorganisms, including those that have been known to cause dysentery, cholera, typhoid fever, and Legionnaires’ disease. Chlorine tablets are similar to iodine tablets in that you drop them into a container and allow them to dissolve.

Pros: Chlorine tablets are extremely to use. They can save you a significant amount of time because you don’t have to worry about maintenance. Chlorine tablets are also pretty affordable.

Cons: While chlorine can be effective for water purification, if it’s consumed in high doses then it may be harmful. Also, chlorine can make your water taste and smell different. The strength of the taste and odor is highly dependent on the quality of your water.


As you can see, there are several water purification techniques. And each one comes with its own pros and cons. Ultimately the one you choose will depend on your own personal needs and preferences.


1.Boil Water Response – Information for the Public Health Professional

2.How Water Purification Tablets Work

3. Water Purification

4. What is a UV Water Purifier and How Does It Work?

5. Disinfection with Chlorine

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