Water is possibly the most important thing your bug-out bag can contain. Unfortunately, water is heavy and takes up lots of volume. It is therefore difficult to carry enough water with you for more than a few days.
Your bug-out bag should have enough water for at least three days. But what happens if that water runs out, but you still find yourself in a survival situation? You had better find some water, and you had better have a way to make it drinkable. Drinking water that you find, without making it safe to drink, can make you very sick or worse.
There are four basic ways to make water drinkable: boil it, filter it, purify it with tablets or drops, or use household bleach. With each of these ways, once the water is made safe to drink, it should be stored in clean containers with clean covers.
Before you use any of the below methods for making water safe to drink, if the water is muddy or particularly cloudy, it’s good to pre-filter the water, if you can. To do this, pour the water through a clean cloth or bandana, to remove the larger particles. This does not make the water safe to drink, however, so you need to use one of the methods below.
To boil water, you first need some suitable water. If the water is too heavily polluted, you still won’t be able to drink the water, even if you boil it. Boiling it kills most things that may be living in the water, like bacteria, microbes, and parasites, but it won’t clean the water.
Next, you’ll need a container to boil it in. You can boil water in a pot, in a can, or even in a plastic bottle, if that’s all you have. It’s for this reason that we always like to have a little metal pot in our bug-out bag. A pot is good for cooking, boiling water, and even digging, if necessary.
Finally, you’ll need a fire or a stove to boil the water on. Some people like to pack small stoves in their bug-out bags, but we prefer to save the weight and space, and just make a fire. Obviously, the more water you’re trying to boil at once, the bigger the fire you’ll need.
According to the EPA, the water only needs to boil for one minute in order to kill most of the nasty little things that can make you sick or affect you negatively. You can also use that boiling water for your dehydrated foods, to make soup, or to make coffee or tea. And hot food, or hot coffee or tea, can really lift your spirits when you’re in a survival situation!
Another way to make water drinkable is to filter it. Filtering water requires you to have some type of water filter. This could be a water filter with a pump, a bottle with a filter, a filtering straw, or something similar. These devices can range from relatively cheap to quite expensive, and can be found in most stores that sell camping supplies.
Each filter will be good for a certain amount of water. Some devices are disposable, while some allow you to change the filters. You always want to use these devices with the clearest water you can find. Be sure to check expiration dates on the devices and/or replaceable filters.
Most water filters are good for hundreds of gallons of water, and they are our favorite way to make water drinkable. They are a quick and easy to use, and can have you drinking clean water in minutes or even just seconds.
Purifying Water with Tablets or Drops
A third way to make water drinkable is with water purification tablets or drops. With purification tablets or drops, you just put them in a container of water, and then wait. The amount of time you have to wait depends on the product, and can range from minutes to hours (be sure to check the packaging).
Water purification tablets or drops are convenient, because they’re inexpensive, and don’t take up much space. But a single package is good for a lot less water than a water filter, often only 5 to 30 gallons. Also be sure to check the expiration date on the package.
Purifying Water with Household Bleach
The last way to purify water is similar to using water purification tablets or drops. Instead, you use household bleach. The problem with this method is that, while it kills a lot of the bad things that can be found in water, it isn’t as effective as the methods listed above. If you have any of the above the options available, you would be better off using one of them.
To help make water drinkable with household bleach, the EPA suggests you put 1/8 of a teaspoon, or 8 drops, of regular, unscented liquid household bleach, for each gallon of water. Stir the water well, and let it stand for at least 30 minutes before use.
No matter which method you choose to use, you’ll want to use the clearest water you have available. If necessary, filter the water through clean cloth to remove larger particles, prior to using one of the above methods. As stated previously, water filters are our preferred method of making water drinkable, due to how quick and easy they are. But, when packing a bug-out bag and thinking about ways to make water drinkable, it’s always good to have more than one way to do it.