Hydration is the key to life in survival scenarios. Without water, you can survive at the minimum for a few days, but it’s not always readily available. In most survival scenarios, fresh drinking fluids will be scarce and, at best, potentially contaminated by foreign agents. Fortunately, there is a solution to finding water by virtue of human ingenuity. Utilizing some common resources, a person with some basic knowledge should be capable of crafting their own water still to use the power of the sun to gather some condensation. The best part is that the evaporation process should ensure that the liquid is mostly cleansed of pathogens and contaminants within the still.

One caveat – in cold weather scenarios or situations with low humidity, this is not a viable method for gathering and purifying water. However, if it’s a hot and humid climate, then this type of distillery is your best bet to survive.

Solar Still Materials List

Creating a solar still is a fairly simple process. But, let’s start with the basics. The first items you’ll need to gather are:

  • Plastic bags or sheets
  • Weights or anchors
  • Unpurified water or other liquids in containers
  • Small empty container to catch condensation
  • Digging tool

These are the basic materials required for creating a basic still. But, what are they for?

The plastic sheets/bags are the base component of any still. Clear or semi-transparent plastic allows sunlight to pass through them, creating a greenhouse effect inside the still. The size of the bags or sheets also determines how large you can make the still.

The weights or anchorage (anything heavy basically) are used to prevent the wind from destroying the still. Wind is a powerful force, and if it is not being weighed down by something heavy, it will be destroyed. Ensure the objects inside are clean and that they allow you to create a conical/pyramid shape in order to maximize the effect. By ensuring the cleanliness of the weights, you prevent them from tainting the water that’s produced, and you also ensure that nothing sticks out that could puncture the plastic. My recommendation is to use stones as they are readily available.

Building the Still

Having gathered all of these, you can now start building the solar still. Look for the ideal location – you’ll want to find a sunny area that also offers some defense against the wind.

Start by digging a hole no smaller than 2′ by 2′ (your plastic sheet should be larger than the hole – for this example, about 3′ by 3′) and at least 1½ feet deep. A smaller hole won’t collect much water. Place your empty catch container in the center, and any open containers of liquid around it. Depending on your location, you can also add fresh vegetation, wet soil, and even urine to create more moisture inside the still.

Next, cover the hole with your plastic sheeting, and ensure that it is well anchored with your weights. You want it completely sealed to prevent any humidity from escaping. You can use dirt from the hole you dug to seal the sides as well – but be sure to leave as much of it uncovered and exposed to sunlight, as the sun and heat are what will create the condensation inside, just like a greenhouse. Finally, place a small rock in the center of the plastic sheet above your empty container to weigh it down just enough to form an indentation. This inverted cone will direct the condensation into the empty container.

Unfortunately, this is where your patience will be tested, as you now have to wait for the water to evaporate and fill the container up. Thankfully, once the process of evaporation is complete, the water is ready to drink. Keep in mind that although it might taste strange or smell odd, it’s safe to drink. Odors from the dirt, vegetation, and plastic are trapped within the unit, and the scent particles can end up in the water (however, this is not dangerous).

You could even run a tube from the catch container up through the sealed edge so you don’t have to open the still to drink. This is a great solution if you plan on sheltering in place for a while.

Surviving in a real-world scenario is not often as simple as it sounds. Finding water can be nightmarish when it comes to a life or death situation. But, by ensuring you’re prepared and by knowing what basic materials you need to create a reusable source of water, you will maximize your chances of survival. Most of these items are easily acquirable in many scenarios.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Emmanuel "Dash the Bomber" Barbosa

Emmanuel Barbosa, AKA Dash The Bomber, is currently serving in the 7th fleet, and has over 8 years of experience in the military. A writer with a penchant for the humorous and informative, he loves to share his stories with those who would be willing to listen. Having served in deployments that have taken him around the world, Dash has seen and heard about many things that would be hard to believe. A loving father and a faithful husband, he is dedicated to protecting his family and country. For fun he enjoys cosplaying, videogames, and writing for online magazines.

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