There once was a time when you could drink water in the wild, with a fairly good chance that it would be safe to drink. The basic rule of thumb was that running water was safe, while stagnant water wasn’t. But all that’s changed, as people have contaminated streams even high up in the mountains, making them unsafe to drink from.
The problem isn’t that people have used those high mountain streams to dump chemicals into; but that they’ve used them as a bathroom. Human waste, too close to the water, has allowed harmful bacteria to grow and multiply in some of nature’s most pristine water. Today, you’ve got to assume that all water is tainted in a survival scenario, purifying it before drinking it.
The question then becomes how to purify that water. There are a number of methods available, including:
- Using a straw type water filter
- Using a bag type water filter
- Using chemical purifiers
- Boiling the water
But if you think it through, not all those methods are the same. The use of a straw type filter is convenient, but you can’t fill a water bottle that way. Besides, any straw type filter is going to eventually become clogged, rendering it unusable. Likewise, chemical purifiers eventually run out, leaving you without the means to purify water. Besides, have you ever tasted water that has been purified with water purification tablets? I think I’d rather die of dehydration.
Boiling water is a secure method of purifying water, although it is time-consuming. Still, if you’re in camp anyway, putting a pot of water on the fire to boil makes sense, as it saves your other methods for situations where you don’t have time to boil that water. Using a metal water bottle, rather than a pan from your mess kit, means that you won’t have to transfer the water to the bottle, once it boils.
Using heat to purify water can be made easier, by the simple expedient of using a WAPI. That’s a “water purification indicator” if you haven’t seen one yet. It’s a plastic capsule with a wax bead inside. Placed in the water, when the water is placed over the fire, the wax bead melts once the water has reached 160°F, indicating that the water is hot enough to be pasteurized and all the bacteria is dead. The WAPI can be reused, once it has cooled.
Bag type filters are great, in that they allow you to refill your water bottle. But like the straw type filters, most will become clogged after a while. If you’re going to use one of those, you either need to carry spare filters or buy one with a backflushable filter, so that it will continue to work for a long time.
Ideally, you really need to have multiple means of water purification available to you, both at home and when you’re on the go. Just putting one of these in your bug out bag isn’t enough. You’ve got to make sure that you have multiple means available to you, just in case something goes wrong along the way.