As many of you who read the blog regularly, you’ll know that I consider the three basics to any survival situation as shelter, fire and water. Of those three water is likely the most important, and today we’re going to be looking at what I believe to be the 6 best options for purifying water in a survival situation.
The first option and easily the most reliable is simply going to be to boil your water. As I’ve talked about before in my bug out essentials post, a metal canteen and cup should definitely be 1 of 10 essential items in every bug out bag.
Having a canteen that is metal allows you to gather and purify water all in one container which will save time, space and weight. I’ve mentioned before here that I really like the Klean Kanteen as a metal canteen brand. The other popular brand amongst avid survivalists is Guyot. Whatever brand you decide on I’d just like to add that I like a nice wide mouthed design. This makes it much easier to fill.
Once you have your canteen, simply add a metal cup like this titanium one from TOAKS and you have a complete water purification system and cook set in one.
The next most common way of purifying water after boiling it is to simply use water purification tablets often made of iodine. Purification tablets like these offer a quick, easy and lightweight way to get water ready for cooking, cleaning or washing. What is also great about water purification tablets is the low price. These can be found for under $10 on amazon which is perfect for tossing in the bug out bag and forgetting about it.
Their are really only two downsides to tablets – the first of which being taste. Because iodine is used to purify the water you’re left with something that doesn’t exactly taste like a crisp mountain river. There are additional drops that aid in removing this taste but they never fully seem to get rid of it. The other issue is really just quantity – it’s hard to carry enough tablets to support any sort of long term situation if they are your sole means of purification. For the average bug out bag however a bottle of this is going to be more than enough to provide clean water for up to a week.
A newer product on the market, and one that I haven’t actually gotten the chance to review yet the Lifestraw might make an awesome addition to most people’s bug out bags. It’s lightweight, under $20, simple to use and can filter up to 1000L of water on a single straw.
I’ve heard of many people using this to filter some pretty nasty water and have never gotten sick. The one thing I will mention however is that unlike boiling or using iodine tablets, the Lifestraw does NOT protect you from viruses. It does remove all the common bacteria however (cholera, salmonella, e coli, etc.) which are the major contributing factors to a number of common illnesses you can get from drinking unfiltered water.
With that in mind, in a non-survival situation make sure to always combine this with some sort of UV sterilization method to make sure you’re killing viruses. Boiling the water will also kill viruses. However, in a survival situation this may be all you have and it is definitely better than nothing when it comes to filtering water quickly and efficiently.
Another newer product on the market is the Sawyer Squeeze filtration system. For “coolness” factor this product probably takes the cake on this list. The filtration system is simply a cap that can be screwed on to most water bladders and bottles that does all the work for you. You simply fill up your bottle or bladder with water, screw on the cap and squeeze. The pressure from squeezing pushes the water through the filter and out through the cap which allows you to drink straight from it or fill up secondary carrying pouches.
What I really like about this system is that it pairs really well with hydration bladders which I am a big fan of. Unlike the LifeStraw where you really are restricted to only drawing water directly from a source into your mouth, with the Squeeze system you can carry water for long periods of time in the bladders and fill up bottles, clean pots and pans, wash hands, etc.
I also can’t get away without mentioning the awesome price. For under $40 you can usually get the filtration system and 3 hydration bladders (0.5L, 1.0L and 2.0L) which is simply an awesome bargain for anyone.
Next up on the water purification list is what some might deem a magic wand. The SteriPEN’s Adventurer uses the power of UV light to kill any and all viruses, bacteria and protozoa in your drinking water. Do to the fact that is actually kills viruses a SteriPEN has a distinct advantage over a lot of the filters on this list. In addition to killing viruses, a good UV SteriPen also weighs next to nothing and can easily be packed away in your bug out bag or worn on the belt pouch for easy access.
The biggest downside to this system is the price – at around $75 it’s hard to justify simply for a bug out bag. If you’re an avid camper or hiker it might be worth it to invest in one, but if you’re simply looking for something to toss in a bag and forget until SHTF you may want to look at one of the cheaper options. The only other downside to this is that you can only process up to a liter of water at a time – which means it’s great for personal use but could get a little time consuming if needed for larger tasks.
Last but not least we come to a product I’m very familiar with and have come to love in Katadyn. Offering a variety of models and price points Katadyn is really the best of the best when it comes to backcountry water filtration.
While definitely the most expensive means of filtration on this list, a pump water filter is really your only option when it comes to obtaining large amounts of clean water. While the other products on this list are great for individuals, if you have a family and need a large amount of water this should be your guy.