MacGyver Style DIY Tip Based on a Survivor Man Episode

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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!

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    65 Discussions

    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.

    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!

    1 reply

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

    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.


    1 reply

    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

    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

    1 reply

    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.

    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.

    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.

    O.o
    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 note...you can do this with almost any container. I've boiled eggs in dixie cups with the youth of the outdoor ed class.

    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.

    1 reply

     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.

    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!.

    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.

    2 replies

    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.

    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.

    1 reply

    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.