How to Find Water in the Wilderness for Survival

Knowing how to find water in the wild is probably the most important survival skill you can have. 

While you can go a few weeks without food, you can only go a few days without water. At least before you begin to succumb to dehydration.

But how do you find water in the wilderness? 

Where should you look?

This answer varies greatly depending on where you’re located, but in this article, we will discuss the best methods for finding water in a survival situation. Let’s begin.

How to Find Water in the Wild

Finding water in the wild isn’t always an easy task, but it can be done if you know where to look. 

Since humans need about 2 quarts of water a day for optimal survival, it’s important you learn as many methods as possible for locating sources of water in the wild.

This will greatly increase your chances of survival.

You should also learn how to properly purify your water to rid it of any bacteria, viruses, or parasites that could be present. This way you can avoid catching any waterborne diseases such as cryptosporidiosis or giardiasis.

However, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. 

It’s important that you first learn the common signs of nearby water to avoid searching in the wrong area. After that, we will then discuss the best methods for locating water in the wilderness. 

Once you’ve learned the common signs of nearby water and how to extract it from the wild, we will then go over the process of purifying water in the wild to make it safe to drink. 

Common Signs of Nearby Water

Finding water in the wild isn’t easy. But if you know what to look for, you can greatly increase your chances of finding water in the wilderness. 

Here are some of the most common signs of nearby water in the wild.

  • Mosquitos
  • Bottom of a valley
  • Swarms of insects
  • Lush green vegetation
  • A more vibrant blue sky
  • Animals or animal tracks 
  • Low-lying clouds and fog
  • Noise from crickets, frogs, etc.
  • A group of trees in a grassy terrain
  • Water-loving trees such as Syracuse, Willow, and Cottonwood
  • Birds flying in a certain direction in the early morning or late afternoon

Of course, none of these signs will guarantee that water is nearby. But if you’re going to search for water in the wild, you might as well search in the right locations. 

Now that you know how to locate water, let’s discuss the best methods for extracting that water from mother nature.

Create a Solar Still 

a solar still held down with rocks

If you’re located in an area with water below the surface, you may be able to create a solar still to collect safe drinking water. A solar still is a contraption that utilizes the sun’s rays to evaporate water in the ground to create condensation. This condensation is free of impurities such as bacteria, viruses, and salt. 

To create a solar still, you’ll first want to dig a small hole in the ground, place a waterproof container at the bottom of the hole, and then lay a plastic sheet over the hole with an airtight seal to eliminate condensation from escaping. 

You can create an airtight seal by covering the edge of the plastic sheet with sand, dirt, rocks, or anything heavy you can get your hands on. Without an airtight seal, some of the condensations will escape and slow down the process of collecting safe drinking water.

Make sure the low point of the plastic sheet is directly above the waterproof container. You can accomplish this by naturally sloping the plastic sheet or by weighing the center of the plastic sheet down with something such as a small rock or sand.

How big should your solar still be?

Most solar stills that are created in the wild are about two feet deep and three feet wide, although they can be much larger if you don’t mind expending the energy to create them. Just look at the solar still Mythbusters made below.

Make sure the solar still is placed in an area with constant sunlight throughout the day. This way you can be certain your solar still is making as much safe drinking water as it possibly can.

Where should you place your solar still?

The best location to create a solar still would be close to a river, stream, or any large body of water such as a pond, lake, or even the ocean. 

Find a Spring 

a seepage spring coming out of rocks on the ground

Finding a spring in the wild is probably the best way to access safe drinking water in a survival situation. 

Unfortunately, not all springs are safe to drink from. 

Just because a spring looks safe and is flowing with crystal clear water, this doesn’t mean the water is not contaminated by nearby pollutants such as pesticides, industrial chemicals, or human waste. You also have to be aware of disease-causing pathogens in the water such as bacteria, viruses, and parasites.

Even if you find the source of the spring, the water may be already contaminated before it comes out of the ground. This is especially true if the water is coming from a seepage spring and not a concentrated spring.

What’s the difference?

A seepage spring, also known as a seep, is a type of spring where the water seeps through the ground over a large area. This type of spring has no defined discharge point and is more likely to fall victim to low flow rates and contamination. You will typically find most seeps at points of low elevation such as a depression or valley.

A concentrated spring, on the other hand, is typically located on a hillside where the groundwater is breaking through a single discharge point in the ground. A concentrated spring can emerge at low elevations, but it will be more prone to contamination since it could be affected by run-off water from unknown sources.

I highly recommend that you always do your research on what’s nearby in your area before attempting to drink directly from a spring. You never know when there could be fracking, agriculture, landfills, or even industrial waste nearby that could be contaminating the water supply in the aquifers below. 

Even if you’re completely certain there is nothing nearby that could contaminate the groundwater below, I would still send a water sample off for testing to make sure the water is 100% safe for drinking. I would also take a sample at multiple times of the day/week/month to see if anything changes as the quality of spring water can change from second to second.

However, if you find yourself in a survival situation, then you’re not going to have the ability to test the water for contamination. And while I recommend that you boil spring water before drinking it, I know some of you mad men and women out there want to go full survival mode and drink straight from the spring as our ancestors did.

I just hope you know what you’re getting yourself into… 

Catching a waterborne disease such as cryptosporidiosis or giardiasis is not a fun

experience to have. You may not die from beaver fever, but you’re not going to like it.

If you refuse to take my advice, here are the best signs that a spring may be safe to drink from. 

  • No humans are living in the area 
  • Salamanders are living in the water
  • The spring emerges from the bedrock 
  • No puddle or pond is covering the spring
  • There is healthy vegetation around the spring
  • No animals are grazing or excreting in the area
  • There is no contaminated water uphill from the spring
  • You can see the spring water coming out of the ground
  • There are no bird droppings near the source of the spring
  • The spring water has a consistent flow throughout the year
  • There are no landfills, agriculture, or other sources of contamination nearby

Of course, none of these signs will guarantee the safety of spring water. But if you find yourself wanting to drink directly from a spring, it will at least give you some comfort in knowing what to look out for.

However, even if you’re able to safely drink from a spring, this doesn’t mean there aren’t any bacteria or pathogens in the water. Your body could simply be used to them in small increments. 

Personally, no matter what the spring looks like, I would still boil the water or drink it through a portable filtration device to ensure my safety. After all, why take the chance? 

Find a Large Body of Water

If you stumble upon a large body of water in the wild such as a pond, river, or lake, then you’ll be able to access drinking water anytime you want. Of course, you’ll have to filter the water and boil it before you can safely drink it. Especially if the water is stagnant. 

If the water you’re collecting is mostly stagnant, try to collect it from the least stagnant part of the pond, creek, or lake. This will make your job easier as there are fewer contaminants to filter out or purify. 

Wrap a Plastic Bag around Leaves on a Tree or Bush

If there is limited water in the area, you may have to get creative to find safe drinking water in the wild. This is where science comes in handy. 

Similar to how humans sweat, leaves go through a natural process where water evaporates from their pores called transpiration. If you wrap a plastic bag around a large group of leaves in the sun, you’ll eventually return to a plastic bag filled with moisture from the leaves. 

Here is how to collect the transpiration from leaves:

  1. Locate a tree branch with a lot of green leaves that will be in direct sunlight for most of the day.
  2. Cover as many leaves on the branch as you can with a plastic bag. Secure the end of the bag with a twist tie or rubber band to ensure no water can escape. 
  3. Wait 2-3 hours and then come back to see how much water has been collected.
  4. Drink any water you’ve collected and set up the plastic bag again. Maybe this time on another branch. 

It’s that simple! No need to boil or filter the water before drinking. The tree acts as a natural water filter so all you have to do is drink! Just make sure the plastic you’re using to collect the water isn’t contaminated with chemicals or anything else that could harm you. 

You can also use a bush or any other form of vegetation to collect moisture from transpiration, just make sure you avoid any plants that are poisonous such as nightshade or white snakeroot. 

Soak Up Cotton with Dew 

Another clever way to collect water in the wild is to soak up the dew from vegetation by wearing cotton around your ankles. 

Simply wrap a large piece of cotton (such as a t-shirt or a towel) around your ankles and walk through the grassiest vegetation you can find that’s covered with morning dew. Make sure to do this as early in the morning as possible while the ground is still covered in dew from the night before. 

Once your cotton cloth is soaking wet from the dew, wring it out over a container and drink whatever comes out. Make sure to avoid walking through anything poisonous to avoid unnecessary contamination. 

Dig a Hole

a hole dug in the ground for drinking water

Drinking water out of a muddy hole may not be the most appetizing way to drink water in the wild, but if you don’t have the resources to build a fire or boil your water, then you’re going to have to take your chances with what you got.

After all, it’s better to get sick from drinking contaminated water than to die of dehydration. This reminds me of the common saying “it’s better to be carried by two than to be carried by six”. Which means that it’s better to be carried on a stretcher than to be carried in a casket. I agree.

Fortunately, there is no need to drink out of a stagnant body of water just to avoid dehydration. Instead, simply dig a small hole two to three feet away from the body of water until you reach below the water table. Mother Nature will then act as a natural water filter and begin to fill up the hole with water. This is often referred to as an Egyptian well.

While this won’t be 100% effective at filtering out contamination, it will provide cleaner water than what’s typically available above ground. Just make sure to allow the water to sit for a few minutes after the hole fills up to allow the sediment to fall to the bottom. 

Once the water begins to clear up, scoop it out of the hole with a container of some kind (or even your hands if you have to) and drink away! If you have a portable water filter, make sure to drink out of a container and not directly from the hole. You don’t want your filter getting clogged up with mud. 

Tap a Tree

a tree tap in a maple tree with bucket of sap underneath
A tree tap in a maple tree

Next time you’re trekking in the wild and unable to find water, you might want to look and see what trees are available in your area. It’s possible you can tap a tree and drain some of its water out for safe drinking.

Here are the five trees you can tap for safe drinking water:

  • Birch
  • Maple
  • Hickory
  • Sycamore
  • Walnut

Unfortunately, you can only tap trees during certain times of the year. Late winter and early spring is typically the best time as the temperature is freezing at night and warmer during the day. As the temperature begins to rise during the day, the water is pulled out of its roots and into the tree.

The main benefit of drinking tree sap (also known as tree water, Birch water, Birch sap, etc.) is that it’s packed with minerals such as calcium, manganese, potassium, and zinc. Drinking tree sap also helps with a wide variety of health benefits such as improved digestion, lowered blood sugar, and prevention of tooth decay.

However, the best part about drinking tree sap is that it’s completely safe! You don’t have to boil or filter the water as the tree acts as a natural water filter all on its own. The tree sap even has a sweet flavor as it contains a naturally occurring sweetener known as xylitol.

But how do you tap a tree?

This mostly depends on what kind of tools you have available.

The best way to tap a tree is to use a power drill with a 5/16 or 7/16 drill bit. The second best way is to use a knife. You’ll also need a container, a rope, and something to use as a spout. If you don’t have any of these materials, you can always make your own with things you find out in the wild. 

To keep things simple, here are the directions on how to tap a tree in a survival situation. 

  1. Find a section of the tree that’s facing the sun most of the day and isn’t too close to a previous tap. At least six inches away is preferred. 
  2. Cut a small hole into the tree until water begins to trickle out. No more than two inches deep. 
  3. Use your knife to transform a small branch into a spout that will fit into the hole in the tree. 
  4. Insert the spout into the hole at a slight downward angle to ensure the water flows properly into the container.
  5. Place a container at the end of the spout and use a rope to hold the container to the tree. You can also use tree roots or a vine if you don’t have rope available. 
  6. Once you’re done collecting tree sap, remove the spout and plug the hole with whatever you have available. Clay typically works best. 

While tree sap is naturally sweet and great to drink on its own, it can also be made into syrup or wine if you have excess tree sap available. Simply boil the tree sap until all of the water is removed and voila, you have syrup!

Ring Out Mud in a T-shirt 

Desperate times call for desperate measures. 

And there is nothing more desperate than having to drink muddy water that’s been filtered through a t-shirt.

But when times get tough, you have to do what you have to do. And if the only water you can find is mixed in with a bunch of mud, then you better get a fire ready (and possibly a water filter), because things are about to get messy!

First things first, take a cotton t-shirt and lay it out flat. Then find the wettest mud you can find and place it in the middle of the t-shirt. Wrap the t-shirt around the mud and wring out as much water as you can into a container. Repeat as many times as necessary.

Make sure to filter the water and boil it before drinking. This will eliminate any possible disease-causing pathogens in the water such as bacteria, viruses, and parasites.

Melt Snow

melting snow for safe drinking water in a steel pot connected to a propane heater

Snow can be transformed into safe drinking water by melting it in a pot and then boiling it to eliminate any possible contamination. 

If you don’t have a gas stove available, then you’re going to have to create a fire and melt your snow in a pot overhead. You may want to cover your pot with a lid if you want to avoid having your water tainted with a smoky flavor. 

If you do use a lid, make sure to lift it often to check and see if the water has started boiling yet. The water needs to boil for 1-3 minutes to eradicate any possible disease-causing microorganisms in the water.

Once the water has boiled for 1-3 minutes, take it off of the fire (or portable stove) and filter it through a cotton t-shirt or cheesecloth to remove any sediment that may be left over in the water. Now you simply have to wait for the water to cool down and it’ll be safe to drink!

Look for Plants with Water

Humans aren’t the only thing on this planet that needs water for survival. 

Plants need water too. 

Fortunately for us, some of these plants like to hold onto the water they consume so they can access it when they need it. This is great news for us as we can utilize these plants for safe drinking water.

Fair warning though, not all plants that have water inside are safe for drinking. You need to know which plants contain safe drinking water and which plants contain poisonous water. 

Here are the best plants that contain safe drinking water


Some of the vines you encounter in the wild can be cut open for safe drinking water.

The hard part is knowing which vines contain safe drinking water and which vines are bitter or poisonous. 

The best way to tell if a vine is safe to drink from is to cut it open and see what color liquid comes out. If the water is clear and has no smell, then it’s probably safe to drink. However, if the water is cloudy or has a foul smell to it, then you should probably leave it alone as it could be poisonous. 

If you live in North America, the most popular vine that can be used for safe drinking water is the Grape Vine, also known as Vitis Girdiana. This vine has thin layers of bark on the outside so it can be easily identified when found out in the wild. 

To drink from a grapevine (or any vine that has safe drinking water), start by cutting a notch as high up on the vine as you can reach. Then cut a notch at the bottom of the vine and place a container below to collect any water that drips out.

If you cut the bottom of the vine first, a process known as capillary action will draw the water up the vine instead of allowing it to flow downwards. Not good. 

You can also drink directly from the vine if you’re extremely thirsty and don’t want to wait to fill up your container. Just make sure to avoid direct contact with your lips on the vine as some vines are coated with a protectant chemical to prevent insects and animals from trying to eat it. This protectant chemical can cause painful irritation so it’s best to avoid direct contact.

I don’t think this is a problem with grape vines, but I would still recommend caution as you never know.

Here’s a video showing you the proper way to drink water straight from a vine.


a fishhook barrel cactus that can be used to obtain water

Contrary to what you may have seen in an old western movie, it’s not safe to drink water straight out of a cactus. Nor can you scoop water out of a cactus by simply cutting off its top. It’s completely fictional. 

Sure, you may be able to obtain a small amount of drinking water from the Fishhook Barrel cactus, but it doesn’t work quite how you would imagine. Instead of being hollowed out and filled with water, a Fishhook Barrel cactus is filled with a white sponge-like substance that’s saturated with a small amount of bitter water. 

To obtain the water from a Fishhook Barrel cactus, you’ll have to squeeze the water out of the spongy substance by placing it inside a cotton cloth and ringing it out. It will take a lot of effort to obtain a small amount of water, but if you’re suffering from dehydration, it may be worth it.

Unfortunately, cactus water is filled with acids and alkaloids that can be dangerous to your health. Especially if you’re drinking the cactus water on an empty stomach.

Not only are these acids and alkaloids harsh on your kidneys, but it can also cause you to suffer from vomiting, diarrhea, and even temporary paralysis. 

The only reason it’s possible to drink a small amount of water out of the Fishhook Barrel Cactus is that it has far fewer acids than alkaloids than other variations of cacti. Most cacti will discharge a white cloudy substance when cut into that’s extremely poisonous if consumed. I wouldn’t even touch it. 

All it takes is for you to accidentally rub your eyes and you could end up going blind. 


Green bamboo thickets offer a quick and easy way for survivalists to obtain safe drinking water in the wild. All you have to do is cut a notch into the bottom of each section of a green bamboo stalk and collect the water that subsequently pours out. 

There’s no need to filter or boil the water that comes out of a green bamboo stalk as it’s always clear, odorless, and perfectly safe to drink. Make sure to obtain your water from the bottom sections of a green bamboo stalk first as they will contain more water than the sections higher on the stalk. 

Here’s a good video that shows how to collect water from green bamboo. 

Banana or Plantain Trees

If you find a banana or plantain tree in the wild then you’ve just stumbled upon an easy way to obtain safe drinking water.

Unfortunately, to extract the water from a banana or plantain tree, you have to first cut the tree down. The good news is that the tree will grow back over time, but you’ve just eliminated the possibility for you (and other survivalists) to obtain bananas or plantains from that tree in the near future. 

If you’re going to cut down a banana or plantain tree for drinking water, make sure to only do so in dire situations. Unless you’re on the verge of dying from dehydration, it’s probably not worth it to cut down a tree to simply obtain some water. Especially if you don’t know if someone planted that tree there on purpose. 

To obtain water from a banana or plantain tree, cut down the tree so that the stump is around a foot tall. Then you can use your hands to scoop out a bowl-shaped hole from the pulp in the tree stump. The water will soon begin to fill up the bowl-shaped hole and you can scoop it out as necessary. 

The water may have a slightly bitter taste at first but it does get better over time. Just make sure to cover up the hole on the tree stump when you’re done obtaining water so that the bugs and critters stay out of it. As long as the hole stays properly covered you should have a safe water source for drinking over the next 3-4 days. 

Dollar Bush

a dollar bush that can be used for drinking water

Mostly found in the Namib desert region, the Dollar Bush (also known as Zygophyllum Stapfii) is a leaf succulent that can be used to help quench your thirst when you’re in desperate need of water. 

All you have to do is grab some of the Round leaves on the Dollar Bush and squeeze them in your hands over a container or directly into your mouth. the water may be a little bitter tasting but it’s completely safe to drink.

The reason the Dollar Bush contains so much water in its leaves is that they hold onto the moisture from the morning mist. While most plants would draw the water into their roots and that would be that the Dollar Bush draws moisture into its roots and then sends it back into the leaves.

This is perfect for anyone traveling the desert as it allows you to rehydrate even if you don’t have a cup or container of some kind. 

Collect Rainfall 

Even though this doesn’t technically count as finding water, collecting rainfall is a great way to have drinking water ready when you need it. 

The best way to collect rainwater for safe drinking is to position a plastic sheet (such as a tarp, rainfly, or rain poncho) horizontally with a slight slag in the sheet to allow the build-up of water. You can either scoop the water directly off of the plastic tarp or you can position the tarp at an angle and have a container set underneath.

If you decide to go with the first option, then you need to make sure your plastic tarp is properly secured. If not, the build-up of water may cause it to collapse. If you decide to go with the second option, then I recommend you perform a test run first to make sure the tarp works as it should and the rainwater goes into the container.

All you have to do is collect some water from a nearby creek or lake and pour it onto the tarp and see where the water goes. Wherever the water falls off of the tarp is where you need to place your container.

Just make sure to avoid collecting rainwater off anything that isn’t 100% clean and free of contamination. While some homesteaders like to collect rainwater off of their roofs, this probably isn’t a good idea as there could be dirt, debris, chemicals, rust, bird feces, and who knows what else up there. This is especially true if your roof is covered with shingles or Terracotta as there are chemicals on both that could leach into your rainwater. 

You also need to pay close attention to what you collect your rainwater in. Something such as a water barrel can become contaminated over time with bacteria, parasites, chemicals, and even small traces of metal. 

This is why I recommend that your plastic tarp and container are completely clean. Otherwise, you’re going to have to filter your water and boil it before it will be safe to drink.

How to Filter Water in the Wild

If you’re stuck in the wild and don’t have a safe water source to drink from, then you’re going to need to build a DIY water filter to remove most of the unwanted impurities in your water. 

Fortunately, the most important item you’ll need to build a water filter is some form of a container with a small opening on the bottom. You can also use a knife to make this small opening. 

All the other items required to build a water filter can be easily found in the wilderness. Except for the charcoal which you’ll have to obtain once your campfire is done burning. 

Items required to build a homemade water filter:

  • Sand 
  • Gravel 
  • Charcoal 
  • Cotton cloth 
  • Waterproof container 

The only item on this list that isn’t necessary is the cotton cloth, but it does make things a little easier as it helps keep the charcoal out of the water. Although you can use larger rocks as a substitution. 

Here are the directions to build a DIY water filter:

  1. If using a 2-liter plastic bottle, start by cutting off the very bottom of the bottle (where it begins to round).
  2. Take a knife and cut a small opening in the bottle cap. The bigger the opening the faster the water will drip out. 
  3. Flip the bottle upside down (so the bottle cap is at the bottom) and place a clean cotton cloth (or medium-sized rocks) inside the bottle to prevent the rest of the materials from being able to fall out of the filter. 
  4. Crush your charcoal into a fine powder and pour it on top of your cloth (or rocks) until there are about 3-4 inches of charcoal in the bottle. The finer the charcoal the more impurities it will remove from the water. 
  5. Add a layer of fine sand on top of the charcoal that’s about 2-3 inches high.
  6. Add a layer of gravel on top of the sand that’s around 2 inches high. 
  7. You can also add a small layer of larger-sized rocks at the top if you don’t have enough gravel.
  8. Prime the filter by running water through a couple of times to ensure everything is working as it should. If the water comes out clear and free of odor, your filter is working properly!

Once you’re done filtering your water, you still need to boil it to eliminate any leftover contaminants that could be present. 1-3 minutes at a hard boil should do the trick.

But wait… If you still have to boil your water after filtering it, what exactly does a water filter do?

The top half of a homemade water filter (the sand and gravel) removes larger particles in the water such as sediment, silt, and insects. The bottom half of a homemade water filter (the charcoal) reduces or eliminates the taste and odor of the water, as well as removes unwanted contaminants such as chlorine, pesticides, and volatile organic compounds (man-made chemicals).

However, a DIY water filter is not capable of eliminating all harmful chemicals, bacteria, and viruses that could be present in water, especially water you’ve obtained in the wilderness. The two most dangerous pathogens you have to worry about are Cryptosporidium and Giardia Lamblia.

Both can be removed by boiling your water at a hard boil for 1-3 minutes. 

Why You Should Boil Water in the Wild

The best way to ensure that your water is safe to drink is to boil your water at a rolling boil for 1-3 minutes. 3 minutes is required if you’re at or above 6,500 feet in elevation.

But what about if I filter my water first? Do I still need to boil the water before drinking?

Yes, any water that’s obtained from an unsafe source should be boiled for 1-3 minutes before drinking. Even if you run the water through a filter first, you should still boil the water to eliminate any harmful bacteria, viruses, or parasites that the filter may not be able to remove. 

Alternative Ways to Purify Drinking Water

Here are some alternative methods for purifying water in the wild if you don’t have access to a fire or portable propane stove to boil your water.

Iodine Tablets

Iodine tablets (also referred to as chlorine tablets) are often used by campers, hikers, and even members of the military to treat contaminated water. 

The problem with iodine tablets is that they can’t be used to get rid of Cryptosporidium. 

Another drawback of using iodine tablets is that it negatively affects the taste and even change the color of the water. To deal with this problem, most iodine water treatment tablets come included with an extra bottle of neutralizer tablets. These tablets are used to neutralize the taste and color of the water.

Iodine tablets are also not recommended for pregnant women, people with thyroid problems, or for anyone with hypersensitivity to iodine. 

The benefit of using iodine tablets as a form of water treatment is that it only takes 35 minutes to fully disinfect contaminated water and make it safer to drink. When compared to chlorine dioxide tablets that take 4 hours to fully treat water, you can see how this could be a big difference when suffering from dehydration.

Chlorine Dioxide

Chlorine Dioxide tablets unopened on a table next to the box they came in

Chlorine dioxide is a form of water treatment that’s similar to iodine, but only much stronger.

It can be used to eliminate Giardia, Cryptosporidium, and practically any other waterborne pathogen that could be residing in untreated water. 

As mentioned before, it can take up to 4 hours for chlorine dioxide tablets to fully treat water and destroy the harmful pathogens residing in it. However, the liquid version of chlorine dioxide can fully treat water in only 15-30 minutes, depending on the cloudiness of the water. 

The liquid version of chlorine dioxide comes in 2 separate bottles that are labeled Part A and Part B. One bottle contains a mixture of chlorine dioxide and the other contains a phosphoric acid activator. To use the water treatment, simply combine a small amount from each bottle in a separate container for 5 minutes and then pour the mixture into your contaminated water and wait for 15-30 minutes. 

Once the time has passed and your water is fully treated, you can then drink the water without the worry of a nasty aftertaste or the risk of cryptosporidium. The taste of your water should also be fairly pleasant as chlorine dioxide is known to act as a neutralizer. 


While it’s unlikely you’ll have access to bleach in the wilderness, it’s possible that you could bring a small bottle of bleach with you when you go outdoors if it’s all you had available.

Now, if you’re anything like me, you probably thought it was a big joke when you first heard of using bleach to disinfect drinking water. 

But nope, it’s a real thing!

You can use a small amount of bleach to disinfect your water and eliminate any harmful pathogens that may be in there. 

However, when using bleach to disinfect your drinking water, you have to make sure you use the correct amount. If you use too much or too little then you risk either poisoning yourself or getting sick because you didn’t eliminate all of the disease-causing pathogens in the water. Both are not fun.

Here is the correct amount of bleach to use to disinfect your drinking water.

Volume of waterHow much bleach to use
1 quart/liter of water2 drops or 0.1 mL
1/2 gallon of water4 drops or 0.2 mL
1 gallon of water8 drops or 1/2 mL
The above directions are for 5%-9% sodium hypochlorate

Make sure to double the amount of bleach you’re using if the water is cloudy. Don’t forget to wait at least 1 hour for the bleach to disinfect the water before drinking.

In addition, if the water is cloudy or full of sediment, you should first pour the water through some form of filter such as a bandana, t-shirt, or coffee filter before disinfecting the water with bleach. While bleach can eliminate any bacteria or viruses that may be present in water, it won’t be able to remove any dirt, silt, or sediment that may reside in there.