Story by Jason Houser, Photos by Jason Houser and 12 Survivors
Many people take fresh water for granted. We can simply go to the faucet, turn the water on and clean water is dispensed and ready for human consumption. But what if you did not have fresh, clean water to drink? Would you be able to survive?
The ability to have clean water to drink in a survival situation is mandatory. A person can only live for about three days without water – which all depends on the amount of activity a person is doing, as well as the ambient temperature. A person that is more active and not properly nourished would succumb quicker.
Even the best laid plans can go south in a hurry. Whether you are hunting deep in the mountains, taking a stroll through the woods, camping or just about any other outdoor activity, away from civilization, problems can arise.
Much of the globe has abundant water sources, unless the region is experiencing a drought. Ponds, rivers, lakes, and streams are all good sources of water. However, it is best to get water from a moving water source.
Also, do not wait until you are thirsty to find water, by then it might be too late. If you know you are going to need water soon, it is best to make it a priority to find the water and prepare it for safe consumption.
For this article, let’s assume you know where a water source is and concentrate on making it safe to drink.
One of the oldest, and maybe most reliable, ways to kill parasites, bacteria and other pathogens in water is to boil it. This can be done over a campfire or stove in a metal, ceramic or glass container. A rolling boil for 5 minutes will kill most dangerous organisms, but 10 minutes is ideal to ensure that nothing survives.
But, let’s face it, if you are in a survival situation, you might not have the means to boil water. That is where having other methods to filter and purify water comes into play.
Dioxide/Sodium Chloride tablets, like those manufactured by Potable Aqua®, are widely used and trusted to be effective towards bacteria, viruses, and cysts.
These tablets are easy to use, with the only drawback being the wait. To use, simply remove a tablet from its foil packaging, with knife or scissors, and quickly insert into 1 quart – 1 liter of contaminated water. Allow it to react for 4 hours, in an area away from sunlight, before drinking.
Keep in mind that these types of tablets have a shelf life, which is marked on the package. The tablets from Potable Aqua expire 4 years after they are manufactured.
Other options are small, portable water purifiers, that can fit in your pack or even your pocket. There are several on the market that I am sure are great but, for this article, we tested a couple from 12 Survivors.
The first one we tested was the small Pocket Water Purifier. This simple to use purifier simply fits on to any standard water or soda bottle. If you don’t have a bottle, all you have to do is place the end of the filter into the water source and begin to drink. For dirty water, you can attach a prefilter – that is included – to the end of the straw before use.
This particular filter has been tested by TUV SUD (a company that provides inspection and certification services) to reduce 99.9999% of bacteria and to help prevent illnesses such as Salmonella, Giardia, Cholera, Diarrhea, and others.
Weighing in at 2.1 ounces, this small – but effective – filter has an output flow rate of 0.4 Liters per minute, with a filter capacity of 1500 Liters (396 gallons).
The big brother to the Pocket Water Purifier is the Hand Pump Water Purifier.
This particular purifier allows you to pump water into the unit, which will filter out bacteria and cysts, and then the water is pumped into another container for use.
This purifier is a little bigger but still only weighs 12.8 ounces. It is capable of filtering 22 gallons of water through the ceramic filter and 1,320 gallons through the carbon filter, at a speed of .5 liters per minute. This pump has the same 99.9999% capabilities at eliminating bacteria as the smaller Pocket Water Purifier. Also, this pump can filter down to 0.1 microns, through the ceramic filter.
Both of these filters are built to withstand the outdoor lifestyle and are easily portable. I personally used both of these filters on some questionable water sources and had no issues at all.
If you find yourself without tablets or a portable purifier, mother nature can help – via the sun’s UV rays.
To begin, make sure the water you are using is free of contaminants such as dirt, mud, or debris. If needed, filter the water by pouring it through several layers of cloth to catch as much sediment and debris as possible. UV rays will not be able to penetrate cloudy water, so make sure it is as clear as possible.
It is best to use clean, clear bottles – such as water or soda bottles. Tinted bottles will block too much of the UV rays.
Fill the bottles 2/3 full of water and shake for 20 -30 seconds. This will saturate the water with oxygen, which will help to kill the germs. Then, finish filling the bottles to the brim with water and lay them down in the sun – do not stand them up. Laying them down allows the UV rays to penetrate to maximum depth. If possible, lay the bottles on a reflective surface to optimize the UV exposure.
If the sky is mostly sunny, with only a few clouds, then 6 hours of sunlight will be enough. However, if the sky is more than 50% cloudy, then it will take 2 days to purify the water. The ambient air temperature is not a factor, it is the strength of the UV sunlight that is significant. If you are not sure how long to wait, it is always better to wait longer than needed, than to rush the process.
My advice is to purchase a collapsible water bottle for storing water. Many companies sell collapsible water bottles for this purpose, including 12 Survivors. They can easily be folded and stowed away until needed.
Fifty to seventy-five percent of our bodies are made up of water and seventy percent of our planet is covered in it. It would be very hard to overstate the importance of water in our daily lives.
Although the rule of threes states that we can go three days without water, it doesn’t mean that we can go strong for three days without water. Dehydration, and its negative effects, can begin to set in within the first day. In any survival situation water should be one of your immediate first priorities.
Hopefully, you never find yourself in a situation where your life depends on having a way to purify water, but it is always better to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. K&G
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12 Survivors Hand Water PumpHeight: 8.5 inchesDiameter: 1.8 inchesFilter Capacity: 80 Liters (22 Gallons)Filter Elements: Antibacterial Granular Activated Carbon Filter and Diatomite Ceramic FilterMaterial: Aircraft grade aluminum and BPA free food-grade plasticOperating temperature F/C: 32 to 122 / 0 to 50Output Flow Rate: .5 liters per MinuteWeight: 12.8 ouncesMSRP: $125.98
12 Survivors Pocket Water PurifierHeight: 6.5 inches Diameter: 1.2 inchesFilter Capacity: 1500 liters (396 gallons)Filter Elements: Antibacterial Granular Activated Carbon and Hollow Fiber UF MembraneMaterial: ABS and BPA free food-grade plasticOutput Flow Rate: .4 liters per minuteWeight: 2.1 ouncesMSRP: $13.98
Reservoir 17 Collapsible Water BottleRF welded seams provide extreme durabilityCompletely BPA, PVC, and Phthalate freeAbility to place a standard bottle cap on Reservoir with included adaptorOnly 1.2oz carry weight when emptyAbility to Collapse down to a smaller size to pack away when not in useGear loops for hanging on the pack or other locationsMSRP: $7.68
Potable Aqua® Chlorine Dioxide Water Purification TabletsRequires a 4-hour treatment time for effectiveness.Effective against bacteria, viruses, and cysts, such as cryptosporidium.No aftertaste – improves the taste and odor of waterProven effective against Giardia Lamblia, Cryptosporidium, and viruses.Great for camping, hiking, international travel, and emergencies.Ideal for use with hydration packs.Available in 20 tablets and 30 tablet sizes.MSRP: $9.99
12 Survivors(817) 225-0310www.12Survivors.com
Potable Aqua(262) 677-4121www.PharmacalWay.com
Hand Water Pump 12 SurvivorsPocket Water Purifier 12 SurvivorsAmazon.comCollapsible Water Bottle12 SurvivorsPotable Aqua® Chlorine Dioxide Water Purification TabletsAmazon.com
Jason Houser has been involved in the outdoors from a very young age. Growing up in an outdoor family, he has had the opportunity to spend much of his time doing what he loves. Jason has a been a fulltime freelance outdoor writer since 2008 and is currently the host of two shows, Bone Wild TV and Trapping Across America TV, both air on the Pursuit Channel.
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