Water purification is perhaps the most important part of your go bag, there are many ways to achieve purifying water and I’m going to talk about several. These are by no means the only way but ways I have used and know to be solid. Before getting into the science of purifying water it must be said that you have to know the rule of 3’s when it comes to surviving any disaster.
Your probability of death increases exponentially when you go:
3 minutes without air
3 hours without shelter, you must maintain 98.6
3 days without water
3 weeks without food
That being said, humans have been drinking water from streams and ponds for thousands of years without any purification and we’re still here. So if it comes down to it drink water and deal with any medical issues later. If you don’t drink water and die of dehydration you’re not really saving yourself from a fever or intestinal issues. Most viruses can take a little while to develop and there’s the possibility you’ll be rescued before getting sick from the disgusting water you drank allowing you to get to medical attention and deal with problems. But if you don’t drink the nasty water at least fall down and die in an open space making the recovery teams’ job a little easier because you will die from dehydration.
1. Heat – The best most tried and true way to purify water is to boil it. It is said you should maintain a boil for 15 minutes then allow the water to cool before drinking it. In an emergency situation 15 minutes can be a lifetime. I have always brung the water to a boil (sometimes just a simmer) then allowed it to cool. Even thought I don’t give it the full time to boil the heating up of the water kills most of the nasties.
2. Chemical – There are two good ways to purify water using chemicals.
One is a product called Potable Aqua it is an iodine tablet that you drop into the water container you are carrying and wait till it dissolves, give it some time and then you drink. It is iodine so if you’re allergic to iodine or don’t like the taste move on to a different technique.
The second is using bleach. Pure bleach, no perfumes softeners or crap, just bleach. Keep some in a little bottle and write the following on the bottle with a sharpie: 2 drops per quart, 8 drops per gallon, 1/2 teaspoon per 5 gallons. I water is cloudy double the dosage. Allow 15 minutes to work, rotate every 3 months for fresh bleach. If you don’t like the taste of bleach, move on…
3. Filtration – Most purifiers will filter out 99.99% of bad guys and there is a difference between a filter and a purifier so know purification is best but it takes time to purify using the techniques above. These are filters. The upside is there’s no waiting time to these filters, as soon as the water passes through the filter it’s pretty much safe to drink, but with the convenience comes weight. There are three good items I’d like to recommend:
One is the Katadyn Water Filter I’ve used it on hikes and it’s never failed. The beauty of this filter is you can pump water out of a very shallow pool directly into what ever container you are carrying which allows you to gather large quantities of water and drink on the go. The downside is it’s heavy even at 11oz. That may seem small, but let me tell you three days in, it’ll feel like a cinder block.
Two is the Sawyer 3 Way Water Filer This is my favorite. It attaches right inline with the hose leaving my hydration bladder and filters as you drink another good part of this filtration system is it is guaranteed to work for 1 million gallons. I haven’t gotten there yet.