Thursday, June 16, 2016

How to Purify Water While Camping


When camping, one of the most important items of need is access or the ability to obtain clean water. It will be your source of hydration, energy, and sustenance. While bottled water is convenient, it can add a lot of weight to your camping gear haul, not to mention the burden on the environment caused by producing bottled water. Learning to find a source and purify water when camping can eliminate a few gallons from your camping gear and can help eliminate plastic waste from the environment. And it’s easy to learn!

Purifying your own drinking water is simple, inexpensive, and, most importantly, ensures a safe and sanitary source of drinking water. Consider the following methods when purifying water while camping:

Finding a Source

If you are camping in a state park or campground, there will likely be a supply of water nearby, such as a well or spout in which you can find water. From there, filtering isn’t usually an issue, unless you are worried about taste. To find a smart supply of water in more rugged terrain, look for clear, flowing streams. Lake and pond water are stagnant and more likely to hold contaminants and bacteria. Collecting condensation from tree branches and leaves can be effective, but takes a lot of patience. Treated snow and ice are smart options for when you are winter camping.

Portable Filters
Portable water filters can be an effective, albeit more expensive option for purification. With effective maintenance, portable water filters are compact and easy to use and there is a variety of options on the market. Look for filters equipped with either carbon or ceramic filters or look for filters that treat water with iodine or other chemicals to kill viruses.

One option is the SteriPEN - a small, battery-powered device that emits UV light and destroys bacteria. All you need to do is dip the pen into your water bottle and stir for about a minute. The newer version of the SteriPEN comes in an even smaller, more travel-friendly design and includes a micro USB charging port, though it boasts 40 purifications between charges.


Boiling water can be the most effective way to purify water. In small batches, bring water to a rolling boil for at least five minutes to kill any microorganisms existing in the water. Wait for the water to cool, and remember that this method does not remove non-living contaminants, so you may need to filter it slightly beforehand. Boiling water is often the easiest for large groups like families and requires just a boiling pot over a campfire.

Image by Martin Cathrae via Flickr

Iodine Treatment

Another simple method for water purification is iodine treatment. It is often considered the most effective at killing most pathogens, although it will not remove sediment. Coming in the form of iodine tablets, crystals or liquid iodine, this is a process that is easy, inexpensive, and lightweight. Dissolve iodine in water while stirring constantly for at least 30 minutes. Use five drops of liquid 2% iodine for every quart of water and follow the manufacturer's details for iodine crystals and tablets. The iodine can leave a slight aftertaste, but neutralizing tablets are also available and effectively counteract the aftertaste.

When camping, water will be your biggest asset in keeping you energized, regulating body temperature, and in enhancing your physical performance. Make sure to keep a steady supply of water with you at all times and challenge yourself to learn how to purify water in the event of camping emergencies.

For more information on water conservation and protecting our resources, visit our website.