Introduction: Make a Solar Still to Survive

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If you are lost in the wild, with no water, this is an easy way to get water from the ground.

Step 1: Find a Location

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Find a flat location larger than the still, which will be about 2 feet by 2 feet.

Step 2: Dig a Hole

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Dig a hole with whatever is available that is about two feet across and one and half feet  deep.

Step 3: Add Some Vegetation

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While not neccessary if you are in a humid location, tosssing some vegetation into the hole will add more moisture, and therefore, more water.

Step 4: Add a Container

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Find a container to collect the water in, and place it in the center of the hole. I used the jar from my home-made survival kit.  

Step 5: Cover the Still

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Use a piece of plastic to cover the hole. Make sure that all the edges are sealed with dirt or sand.Put a little dirt or sand or a rock in the center, so the plastic sags in the middle, over your container.  

Step 6: Wait

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Wait 24 to 48 hours for your still to create some water. Do not open the still or you will let out all the moisture.   

Step 7: Drink the Water

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After you have waited 24-48 hours, you can open the still, and drink the water.  


MartyJ1 (author)2016-09-22

There are two tricks to this method. First, try not to disturb the thing once you have built it. If you have a long tube, use it as a straw from the central collector to the outside. Or, make one part of the edge more easily removed and replaced, to reach in to grab and replace the collector. Second, add questionable water by pouring it on the ground around the edge. It will filter through the soil and then evaporate out as clean water under the plastic.

GaleW1 (author)2015-12-12

I know this is taught lot of places, but in my experience you will waste more water in the form of sweat than you will collect. Unless you are putting it over wet sand/earth the chances of gathering any usable amount is slim to none. Think about it, the picture shows putting a few plants in the hole to gather the moisture from, how much water do you think you will get from a bucket full of brush, at most maybe a half cup. So unless you are staying in the same area for several weeks, it is not worth the effort.

CEDRICWARD (author)2015-03-15

Saw this technique on a survival program. If you are near the seashore, you can put seaweed in the hole as it has a lot of moisture in it. If you are near a lake, you can use any vegetation that grows in or near the lake as it too has lots of moisture in it.

Peeing in the hole is also excellent as urine is mostly water and you can also drink it straight if you don't let it develop bacteria in it.

The most important thing is to make sure the items you use to collect the water are CLEAN. You can always boil the water you collect to be extra sure it is clean.

zombiechemist (author)CEDRICWARD2015-05-04

urine will prevent dehydration

You can drink urine 1 to 2 times in
an extreme emergency but remember, urine is how you pass waste products out of your
body. There is more water than waste products in a well hydrated
individual however the ratio goes down as your hydration levels go down.
Hence your urine will become darker colored as you become more
dehydrated. To turn around and put those waste products back into your
body and force it to process and filter them again causes more work and bogs
your body systems down. This forces your body to need more water to
complete the body processes and once again try and pass these waste products
yet again, in addition to the new waste products created by the increased
workload. It is a process of diminishing returns and eventually your body
will shut itself down.

So Just be Careful

da_fisher (author)2011-11-23

wow! you have alot of snow! that means its like december and all the water in the air is frozen, so you may not get as much water... try it near a lake or near an ocean of some kind like an island. i can garentee you will get more water- its especialy needed here though- almost a year of drought..... and burn ban.... and im a pyro

sking16 (author)2011-10-30

When making these stills make sure that you line up the sag in the top with your container, so the water drips into it. I find it works best if you bury the container almost level with the bottom of the pit. Make sure your pit is slightly V' shaped. I have had reasonable results with solar blankets, and army ponchos, as long as its air tight and smooth surface.

javandyck (author)sking162011-11-10

Thank you! I see the whole thing now. The water condenses on the film/cover and then drips into the container. Clicks in my head.

javandyck (author)2011-10-13

I see that you put a sealed jar into the bottom of the hole on top of the grass. How does the water get into it?

georion (author)javandyck2011-11-10

safety issue-- no water was harmed in the making of this instrutabile!!!! OK?

dimmaz88 (author)2011-10-14

Great stuff, I like to learn these kind of tricks. You just never know..

Wouldn't it work better with a black piece of plastic?

jrh065 (author)dimmaz882011-10-26

Clear plastic lets the sun through to heat the ground and evaporate the water. Hot mud and cool plastic is the goal.

Sunnedaez (author)2011-10-18

This is a great thing that the military teaches soldiers to do when their in a place where water is not available for filling their canteens. This works and produces some very clean drinking water as long as the plastic is clean. So if you have to do this be sure the plastic material you use is as clean as possible.

Peytonomore (author)2011-10-17


desperado dave (author)2011-10-17

Advantage of using clear plastic vs. black is that you can see how much water you've collected without disturbing still...AWESOME JOB!

blacksmithsurvial (author)2011-10-14

or creann wrap

alancasey (author)2011-10-14

You can charge the still with undrinkable water (Sea water or even pee) and drink the collected water safetly

ilpug (author)2011-10-13

In general, clear plastic works better. You have a lot of wrinkles in your plastic, so that would decrease your efficiency.

zazenergy (author)2011-10-13

wow, never knew this! that's really cool.

tjesse (author)2011-10-12

Love it! This is a classic survival skill. Anything that you can "set and forget" is important for saving energy for other things.

arkangel1975 (author)2011-10-12

Great descriptions!

one thing that might make it work a bit better, use the most transparent piece of tarp you can find but not one with a weave pattern. Use like an plastic paint sheet or trash bag, these seemed to work the best as I remember from my boy scout days.

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