DIY Water Filter: How To Make A Water Filter


If there is one skill that any camper, hiker, or backpacker should learn for survival, we would recommend how to make a DIY water filter, so that any water from the untreated source is safe to drink. 

High quality, store-bought water filters will ascertain that no harmful microorganisms or pathogens are seeping into your drinking water. However, sometimes using such filters may not be an option and you have to devise an effective way to filter and purify your water. 

In this post, we will show you how to make a water filter from scratch, using only stuff found in the wild, (with the exemption of cloth). Read on!

Collect Your Materials

You will be building a filter that solely relies on layers to clean up dirty water. Here are the items you will need:

1. Pocketknife

Cutting up stuff is what a pocketknife is for, and when it comes to making a DIY water filter, this is one of the tools that will come in handy. 

2. Birch Bark

To hold your filter together so it forms a cone shape, you are going to need a birch bark. The best way to cut the bark would be in a half-circle, as that way, you will be able to roll it into a proper cone shape. If you can’t find a birch tree, you can cut a plastic water bottle in half and use the top part to make the filter shape. 

3. Live Branch

Good campers normally follow camping ethics, and would not cut a live branch. However, this is a survival situation and you will need the branch to tie the cone in shape. Get a branch that is about one foot in length and as thin as a reed leaf.  

4. Charcoal

Charcoal is the most important item in a DIY water filter. The reason is that it can remove chlorine, volatile organic compounds, and other toxins from water without stripping it of essential salts and minerals. You will probably have it, especially if you have a charcoal camping stove. Just make sure it is not used so you don’t get ash in the water. 

5. Sand And Gravel

To filter out small dirt particles from the water, you will need sand and gravel. However, if you are stuck in a place that doesn’t have these, then you don’t have to waste your time searching for them as they are not the most essential part of your filter. The charcoal will do most of the work. 

6. Piece Of Cloth 

Even though you won’t find it in the wilderness, a piece of cloth could be the easiest material to obtain on this list, given that you will be wearing some clothing. A clean bandana or handkerchief will work best. 

How To Build A DIY Water Filter

Now that you have obtained the necessary tools of the trade, let’s now show you how to make a water filter by putting all these materials together. Ready?

  1. Roll your birch bark into a cone. Then grab your pocketknife and poke a small hole through the overlying part of the bark. If you are using a water bottle, cut it in half, and poke a hole into the bottle cap. 
  2. Feed the live branch through the hole you made on the bark cone and tie the ends off using a square knot.
  3. Spread your piece of cloth on a clean surface and place a few pieces of charcoal in the middle. Next, bring together the four corners of the cloth so that the charcoal settles at the bottom. Then, cover the charcoal with your hand and crush it into smaller chunks, preferably pea-size. 
  4. Put the cloth with the charcoal inside the cone/bottle with corners spread out of the cone/bottle. 
  5. Add your sand layer, preferably with the same thickness as that of the charcoal layer. Your cone/bottle should be almost halfway full by now. 
  6. Fill the remaining part with gravel. Do not fill the cone/bottle. Leave at least an inch of space so that even if water doesn’t drain quickly enough, it won’t spillover. 

How To Use Your Water Filter

With your water filter all set, it’s now time to get it busy. Here is how to: 

  1. Get something clean to catch the water you have filtered. You can grab a clean jar, pot, mug, or bowl from your camping kitchen. Just make sure it is large enough to carry all the water you are planning to filter. 
  2. Hold your filter over the collecting jar with the tip of the cone or the bottle cap pointing toward the bottom of the jar. 
  3. Pour water slowly into the filter, making sure it is not overflowing. If the level of the water reaches the top of your filter, halt and wait for it to go down. 
  4. Give the filter enough time to clean the water up. Seeping through the different layers may take some time, depending on the thickness of the layers and the amount of water you are filtering. 
  5. If the water is not clear, pour it back into the filter and slide a new container under the filter.
  6. Light your camping, hiking, or backpacking stove, pour the water in a pot, and boil it to make it safe for drinking. 
  7. Let the water cool for a few minutes before transferring it into a clean water bottle. 


Q: How Do You Make A Homemade Water Filter?


To make a homemade water filter, get a clean plastic bottle, cut it in half, and poke a hole in the bottle cap. Next, put a coffee filter or piece of cloth over the bottle’s mouth and tighten the lid over it. Then add charcoal to the bottom of the bottle, sand to the middle, and gravel to the top.

Q: How Do I Filter My Water?


To filter your water, place a clean jar underneath the filter to hold the filtered water. Pour the dirty water into the filter slowly, waiting for the water to seep into the gravel before pouring more. If the water is not clear, pour it back into the filter and catch it in a new container.

Q: What Household Items Can You Use To Purify Water?


Charcoal is one of the most common household items for water purification. It removes chlorine particles, volatile organic compounds, odor, and taste from the water. Just smash it into smaller chunks and filter your dirty water through it. Some people use cilantro herb too and is just as effective. 

Q: Can You Drink Rainwater?


Yes, you can drink rainwater. In fact, rainwater is considered safer than public water. However, only rainwater that falls directly from the sky is safe to drink. Rainwater that has touches plants or buildings should be filtered and boiled before drinking. 

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When you are out in the wild, you need to stay hydrated to keep your body performing optimally. Knowing how to make a water filter will ensure that you have clean water on the go, and almost all the materials we have discussed here can be obtained easily in the wild. Just make sure to boil the water afterward to make it completely safe to drink.

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