You’re On Your Own

How to Make a Solar Still

Water is one of the most essential components of life. In most circumstances, you can survive without it for no longer than a week. In desert or extreme heat areas, your survival time can be cut down to two or three days.

You should always carry water when you travel, and your survival kit should include one gallon per person per day. However, if you find yourself stranded, lost, or otherwise in the boonies without water you can still get it where there appears to be none.

The solar still is often (almost always) touted as the most reliable method of obtaining water from a virtually non-existant supply.

However, some experts decry it altogether even going so far as to say that you will not get as much water from it as you lose building it. (see David Alloway’s “Desert Survival – Myths and Facts” he suggests you try it yourself and even tells you how to evaluate it) 

One attribute of the solar still is never disputed. The water it produces is clean and pure. At the very least, you can use it to purify dirty water, salt water, or even urine.

How to Build a Solar Still

What you need:
Plastic sheet 6×6 feet (2 meters x 2 meters)
Entrenching tool or shovel (or survival knife, hatchet, strong stick, etc.)
Receptacle (cup, coffee can, anything that can catch the water)
Small stone
Optional: 4-6 feet of plastic tubing (such as found in a fish tank)

Step 1: Find a very sunny location, preferably in a valley or depression where the ground can be dug with the tools you have available.

Step 2: Dig a hole three feet wide and two feet deep. For best results, the hole should be dug down to where it is damp.

Step 3: Place your receptacle firmly in the center of the hole so that it will not fall over.

Step 4: Place the end of the plastic tubing into the receptacle and run the other end out of the hole. (This will be what you use to drink the water that accumulates in the receptacle.)

Step 5: Lay your plastic sheet over the hole. Lightly press down on the center of the plastic sheet until it is a few inches over the receptacle.

Step 6: Put the soil removed from the hole onto the plastic sheet around the edges of the hole. This should be done in a fashion so that the hole is made air tight. (The plastic tubing should extend out of the sealed hole)

Step 7: Place the small stone in the center of the plastic directly over the receptacle.

Most sources say that condensation usually begins forming after a few hours of sunny conditions. Estimates vary as to the quantity of water you can expect, but many say as much as a quart (almost a liter) per day.


◊ Urinate in the hole between steps 2 and 3 – The urine will be purified into clean water.

◊ Put some chopped up green plants (especially succulents) into the hole.

◊ Pour seawater into the hole – If seawater is available, it is probably available in abundance so don’t skimp on it. Thoroughly saturate the hole until you have a puddle of saltwater in the bottom.

DO NOT add radiator fluid – the poisons will condense along with the water and KILL you.


October 8, 2007 Posted by | "How To" - Survival Skills, Water | , , , , , , | 4 Comments