Introduction: MacGyver Style DIY Tip Based on a Survivor Man Episode

Picture of MacGyver Style DIY Tip Based on a Survivor Man Episode

This is a tip from the show Survivor Man on The Discovery Channel!

This video will teach you how to kill bacteria in dirty water, in the wild, with only a plastic bottle, a string and a lighter or match.

Original video link

Step 1: Finding Water in the Wilderness Without a Stream or Running Water

Picture of Finding Water in the Wilderness Without a Stream or Running Water

If you're on a hike or camping and get lost, what do you do if you don't have water? Sure you can go a short while without it, but what if you're lost longer than a few hours? This instructable will teach you how to take almost any water source and make it safe to drink to stay alive.

For this instructable, we're assuming all you have is a lighter (or matches), a piece of string and an empty water bottle. Any container will do as long as it holds water.

If you can't find a stream or source of running water, look for a mud puddle. If you can't find a mud puddle, try to dig a hole deep enough so water seeps in the hole.

NOT SHOWN: As an added way to filter the dirt, you can place a shirt or piece of material over the opening on the bottle and use it as a filter to prevent large pieces of dirt from entering the bottle as you fill it.

Fill the container with water from the hole.

Step 2: Tie the String to the Bottle

Picture of Tie the String to the Bottle

Using the string, tie it to the neck of the bottle so you have something to hold it away from your body with.

Step 3: Start a Small Fire

Picture of Start a Small Fire

If you have a lighter or matches great! Gather some dry leaves, pine needles or dead grass, twigs, sticks and branches to build your fire. If you don't have a lighter or matches, you'll need to use a more advanced instructable to start a fire with other objects. This instructable assumes you have at least a lighter or matches to light your fire.

Step 4: Hold the Bottle of Muddy Water Directly Over the Flame

Picture of Hold the Bottle of Muddy Water Directly Over the Flame

Once your fire is started, hold the plastic bottle directly over the flame. The water inside the bottle will prevent the bottle from melting. Make sure the flame doesn't go higher than the water level in the bottle or it WILL melt above the water level!

Keep the bottle over the flame until it begins to boil. Let the water boil for several minutes to kill any germs or bacteria in the muddy water.

Step 5: You Can Now Let It Cool and Drink the Water

Picture of You Can Now Let It Cool and Drink the Water

Once the water cools down, you can drink it. It won't be the best tasting water you've ever had, but it will keep you alive!

This instructable is based on a tip from the show Survivor Man on the Discovery Channel.

This is Colin's very first instructable so please rate it if you enjoyed it!


ccadvocate.sask (author)2012-08-20

My concern is that most of these bottles shrink when you put boiiing water into them. the picture showed no lid. If the bottle did not shrink and eject all of the water, I wonder if the water got hot enough to kill the microbes. I will try this myself soon.

Musicman41 (author)2010-04-10

I have a better idea.  Unless you are in the absolute wilderness with absolutely no one around, find a road or trail (preferably a road.)  Start walking down this road or trail.  When you see a town, house, or anyother form of civilization, walk to it and ask somebody for water.  Or, if no one is home and it is urgent, enter the house, take some water, and leave without leaving a trace.  What someone doesn't know can't hurt them.  Just dont die from a renagade guard dog!

freeza36 (author)Musicman412011-12-19

although that is not a very "acceptable" thing to do, if it is a dire situation you should do it.

FubarFrank (author)2011-11-15

Though it seems that it has been some time since a comment has been posted on here I feel that I must come to Les Strouds defense with this nice video of Bear Grylls, actually drinking his own urine which I must urge, is most likely just water and a good act. In no way, has Les ever implied nor done this (on camera at least). Here you go.

freeza36 (author)FubarFrank2011-12-19

Bear Grylls is nothing but a faker. Once the cameras are put down he walks right on over to his tent where he eats pre-packages food

crazycommanche=US= (author)2010-12-27

dont use plastic it releases chemicals.
use the bottom of your shirt at least to stop some of the dirt going in.
also use fabric to filter it agiain as your drinking it.

the concept is there but the materials were incorrect

exactly right.... if water looks like mud, you shouldnt drink it.

YoHurricane (author)2011-04-17

If you're desperate for water, you don't need to worry about lead and stuff - those things are long term, lifelong exposure concerns. But sheesh, at least filter the water, and use a can, not a plastic bottle. THis instructable is bad news.

Musicman41 (author)2010-12-05

I thought I should be a little more productive and give a better way to obtain clean(ish) water. Mind you, a filter is often better and should be used if available. Find running, clear water, such as a river or stream. Obtain water from this and put it into some kind of container. A water bottle is not preferred because it can leak poisonous and cancerous chemicals when heated. Paper cups work well and so do metal of course. Paper cups will only burn to the water line and no further. Start heating your water on a fire. Once it has reached a full boil, wait ten minutes, then take the water off the fire. It should be safe to drink.

Musicman41 (author)2010-12-03

That is exactly why he did it, it was shocking. He did not do it to teach how to survive, he did it to shock.

Rupnok2 (author)2010-11-20

did you just stir up the mud....There are lot's of things that you would not wish to drink in that sediment. If the mud looks that bad did a hole next to the water source, or at least let it settle.If you ever *have* to do this, you can stand to wait a few more minutes to let it settle. Don't do this unless you have to. Make sure the water is fully boiled. I saw some post about sickness below, and I'll drop this tip, In a survival case being sick is a bad thing. Another thing to avoid....if the water your getting from is sitting and you are not in a Wet Zone....take pro-caution...
On a =D can do this with almost any container. I've boiled eggs in dixie cups with the youth of the outdoor ed class.

prometheus442 (author)2008-09-06

I agree that this would disinfect the water, but there are a lot of other, inorganic things in water that you have to worry about. For instance, look at the periodic table of elements and their boiling temperatures. some of those things, such as lead and mercury, have higher boiling temperatures than water, which means that they will probably still be left in the water. Also, it's probably not a good idea to use your ordinary plastic bottle for this project because the heat will cause certain chemicals to be knocked off of the inside of the bottle and make it's way into your body. These chemicals can cause headaches, diarrhea, etc. I know this because when I moved to Chicago, I was not able to drink the tap water, so I distilled it and mistakenly poured the hot water into 2-liter pop bottles. Pretty cool though. And those chemicals probably wouldn't kill you in the short term.

 I concur. The best thing to do may be to boil the water then use a catchment system such as a jar which has a mesh so water can get in and condense but cannot go back down to catch the steam then drink. It will be 100% clean.

Musicman41 (author)2010-04-10

Even though you see something on tv, DO NOT TRUST IT WITH YOUR LIFE.  Somethings taught in Survivor Man are unlikely or blatently wrong.  There was an episode where he drank his own urine to "get water"  This was made entirely to shock the audience, not educate it.  After talking to a wilderness survivor teacher from the military, they said the exact oppisite.  DON'T DO ANYTHING YOU SEE FROM SURVIVOR MAN UNLESS YOU HAVE ANOTHER RELIABLE SORUCE TELL YOU IT IS SAFE!.

YoungPyro19 (author)2010-03-22

Nice video.
Great instructable.

rockhoppermedia (author)2008-03-24

I teach survival, I am looking at providing a instructable response to this situation. The immediate effects of illness especially gastro intestinal will hasten dehydration and death. If you do survive a pathogen you will shorten your lifetime and not be able to enjoy retirement.

You're all missing the big picture... if you don't have access to WATER you WILL DIE from that way before dealing with being a little sick (if you would even get sick) If my option is boil the water, drink it and live or die without it you do the math.

lingd6 (author)rockhoppermedia2010-03-11

 well, thats nice to know......

rockhoppermedia (author)2008-03-23

My god how dangerous, there are still contaminants on the thread of the bottle, the outside is not sterile. You need to filter the water also before boiling. Even placing a sock, piece of cloth around the hole before submerging. Should really be careful. I would have filtered the water first then boiled. With cold charcoal as a filter, re filter the water and boil for a rolling boil. then you carry out the safe test, for poisoning which is quite long winded. Personally if you find a small hole full of water empty out all the water then dig down and keep digging till water starts to come through, this is called a gypsy well and the water will be a lot cleaner. This is such a reckless thing to publish.

Lets keep everything in perspective..... This is a life saving tip to prevent dying due to lack of water. Do you really think you would care if you got a little sick or got the runs from it? You would still be alive and that's the point.

if u think a "little sick" from the runs is ok, you have never encountered amoebic dysentary. it will turn you "wrong side out". it will quickly dehydrate you and you might not survive. the warning is warranted. most people carry water treatment in their survival kit anyway. if you don't you should. this type of illness is encountered by the military and they are trained to avoid and also to treat it. i hope u never encounter it as it is not pretty. one soldier got it by drinking unsafe water, and they had IVs in both arms to keep him hydrated. he was seated on the hopper and got to pull the chain about every few minutes. unless you are in a survival situation for real, don't ever try this. i enjoy Les Stroud and frequently learn something even though i have been a life long survivalist. i was making up kits before they were socially acceptable.

lingd6 (author)kadris32010-03-11

 That 9 year old could get parasites, therefore possibly having an extremely unhappy stomach.

octo137 (author)2010-01-01

 there are ways to do stuff like this that purify far less water in a longer amount of time, but the water is more pure. That 9 year old kid could have gotten some serious sickness from the water.

joeyisadog (author)2007-11-02

i agree with cpotoso, plastic is not only bad for you... but for me it instantly makes me feel sick... that plastic taste, disgusting and surely will weaken you and cause health problems very soon... try my "drink your own pee" instructable if you're worried about bacteria or plastic leeching

junits15 (author)joeyisadog2009-10-03

well this is more like a last resort

lukeyj15 (author)joeyisadog2008-11-21

Well in Australia they want to ban glass in pubs after midnight. So plastic only after 12am

struckbyanarrow (author)2009-04-19

you sound mike my pastor :D wooo!

Cracknel (author)2008-08-24

Heated plastic releases toxic substances. I don't recommend you drinking that water.

Fenris The bbw (author)2008-05-05

I doubt this is safe. There was a study recently, I don't remember the exact details, but it said that even leaving a water bottle in a car for a while made it unsafe to drink from.

whitish (author)Fenris The bbw2008-07-06

define unsafe. people aren't dropping dead from drinking out of water bottles left in the car overnight. i just today drank from a bottle left in the car for at least a week.

theRIAA (author)2008-06-08


professorjb (author)2008-05-06

Hello, I am a big fan of Les Stroud (survivorman), but sometimes he leaves out some very important points in his survival lessons!! Since I am also a Microbiologist, I can promise you that unless you bring the water to a rolling boil, then time at least 15 minutes, there will still be some very dangerous microbes and possible pathogens in the water. Only extreme boiling will kill nasty critters like Giardia, typhus, and the little Amoeba that causes Amoebic dysentery. This survival technique should only be done if you have been without any liquid for 24 to 48 hours. The best alternative to this, is to carry a sheet of clear plastic, a length of tubing and a can. Build a solar still in the ground and let the sun distill clean pure water for you. In no one has already done so, I will do an Instructable on this later this summer if there is enough interest.

meritsetgo (author)2008-04-24

Do not even try this at home kids, not even worth it in a survuval situation, plastic when heated releases really nasty stuff that will mutate the cells in your digestive tract later on, you could find better and faster ways to drink water. just never heat a plastic bottle (including baby bottles, nalgene bottles, etc) so just because it was featured on tv does not mena it is safe. Years ago survival tips included eaten raw eggs because they were naturally "safe" now we know they can be contaminated with salmonella and must be consumed cooked. remember dinosaurs no longer drag their tails so things do change...

nitram_cero (author)2008-04-17

I don't know much about plastics, but I think that heating most of them liberates toxic particles into the water... which you end up drinking. I know it's for a survival-only situation, but drinking from it can cause serious problems.

moomoocows (author)2008-01-17

Good instructable except he's wearing a patriots jersey

Mjmccul (author)moomoocows2008-01-18

I'm from New England.

suggsugg (author)Mjmccul2008-04-04

this is kind of random, but do you do youtube, because I could swear I've seen that name in a comment before

Mjmccul (author)suggsugg2008-04-05

I do. But my better account is "uTubegangsters". My friend comments with it though.

drummonkey92 (author)Mjmccul2008-01-18

im from wales, but the pats won me 50 dollars wen i was in florida for the superbowl a while ago!!

captainpyro1 (author)2008-03-23

yeah i agree, if your going to drink this stuff due to a life of death situation, you would think that you'd actually try to filter it... a t shirt is preferable to a sock or underwear, usually- the thread count is higher and will filter just a little better...

bowmaster (author)2008-01-19

You should boil the water for at least 5 mins. Good instructable!

socerplyer (author)2008-01-19

water looks still disgusting but it does work I don't think it taste as bad as put purification tablets in the water too ......\V/,3,|2,'/ c,(),(),| thas in 1337 leet is "very cool"

nerfer192 (author)2008-01-18

go pats!

Johnsons on fire (author)2008-01-18

You are supposed to keep it at a rolling boil for 10 or 15 minutes (not sure how long) Otherwise pretty cool!

maker12 (author)2007-11-28


theRIAA (author)2007-09-26

i heard prisoners make ramen noodles this way.

maker12 (author)theRIAA2007-11-28


darkmuskrat (author)2007-10-20

I can't believe he actually drank that. Also, just fill the bottle up to the top so no air is left in and you can keep the bottle in the fire and it wont melt. (I'm not sure if this would kill as much bacteria but because you could keep it in the fire longer it may)

Broom (author)2007-10-01

Sep 27, 2007. 10:29 PMbotronics: The string will not filter out any of the pathogens at all. All it will do is clean out the dirt - but the bacteria, viruses, and chemical contaminants will travel through. Alas. And it will take hours to do this, to boot! Sep 27, 2007. 6:24 PMMr. Rig It and Sep 26, 2007. 3:52 PMtheque: Same problem. Your shirt/socks will only make the water prettier, but not healthier. As for the ground water issues (heavy metals, pesticides, etc), cpotoso said it right: if you're out in the wilderness with no water, a slight increase in the carcinogens in your diet is NOT your worst problem! There was a recent case of a woman who nearly died of dehydration when she was lost for several days in the woods. She found streams, but was unwilling to drink the water unfiltered, so she was strictly relying on dew gathering. Even giardia & the worst parasites the earth has to offer are a better deal (and slower problem) than death by dehydration! Good instructable.

botronics (author)2007-09-27

If you got a second bottle, the string can be a wick and act as a filter. The long string should act as a long filter column, like chromatograph. But may be a long wait if you are thirsty.

About This Instructable




Bio: Professional magician, COO of Gray Water Ops, Media Consultant for eight Delmarva Broadcasting Company radio stations, dad and husband.
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