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Emergency Water Purification When You’re Desperate And Dehydrated (And Your Forgot Your Water Filter)

Emergency Water Purification When You're Desperate And Dehydrated (And Your Forgot Your Water Filter)

Image source: Screen grab/Ultimate Survival Tips

If I had to choose from among the worst possible scenarios of being marooned in the wilderness, it would be one of these two predicaments …

  • First, I’m stuck in an area where there doesn’t seem to be any readily identifiable sources of water.
  • Second, I successfully found water, but since I wasn’t able to properly filter it before drinking, I’m now lost AND sick from those nasty waterborne parasites, known as cryptosporidia.

One of the reasons why the inability to hydrate with clean water is easily one of the worst possible killers in a survival scenario is because you really only have 72 hours (maximum) to come up with a solution — and if you drink the wrong stuff, then you’ll end up dehydrating yourself even faster than if you hadn’t even taken your first sip.

But perhaps the biggest problem is dealing with the symptoms leading up to terminal dehydration. Not only will you burn through your energy quickly, but it doesn’t take long before delirium and confusion sets in.

Emergency Water Purification When You're Desperate And Dehydrated (And Your Forgot Your Water Filter)

Image source: Pixabay.com

That’s why it’s an absolutely critical skill — if not, THE MOST critical skill — for you to be able to find water and, as we’ll be discussing in this post, filter it. Now, keep in mind that the filtration system we’ll be constructing in this post is actually quite simple, as compared to the ones you’ll see in other survival tutorials. The reason why I’m keeping it simple is because …

  1. This should NOT be your primary method of procuring potable water, and should be used for emergencies. In other words, you already should have water filters in your survival kit. (The Paratrooper Filter is a great one to carry; it’s tiny, and you can fit several into a single survival kit.)
  2. Since this is for dire situations, it’s better to make it fast and simple, because you don’t know what state your body will be in at the point when you might need it.

Let’s get started …

No. 1 — Get a Small Fire Going

Let’s kill two birds with one stone on this step: Your first task is to collect water into a metal (or possibly glass) container. Also, DO NOT sip from this “no-drink-container” until it’s been sanitized, no matter how thirsty you feel.

Paratrooper Filter: Ultra-Small Water Filter Turns Dirty Water Clean, In Seconds!

Next, you’ll want to get a small fire going. When the fire is finally up and running, this will give you an opportunity to boil the water that you collected into a non-plastic (for obvious reasons) container. The cool part about this is the fact if you were very desperate, then once the water is boiled, you could actually sip that water without any filtering.

It sure would taste nasty, and you’ll be chewing on heaven-knows-what, but at least you can rest assured that 100 percent of all present cryptosporidia have been wiped out, according to the folks at the CDC. The water will be dirty, but at least it’s a sanitary kinda’ dirty.

Once the water has reached a rolling boil for a good five minutes, then set aside the container and let the fire consume the wood and allow it to change into charcoal material. Once you have a small sandwich bag full equivalent of charcoal to work with, then smother the fire by spreading it out or throwing sand on it.

No. 2 — Set up Your DIY Filter

While you were waiting for the fire to die down, a great way to take advantage of that time would be to go out and find a plastic bottle (really, any size will do).

Use your best judgement on this one, but depending on the size of the bottle, you’ll need to acquire the appropriate quantities of the following items, including a rubber band, cordage or wire and a bandana or piece of cloth.

  • Charcoal
  • Sand
  • Tiny Pebbles
  • Small Stones
Emergency Water Purification When You're Desperate And Dehydrated (And Your Forgot Your Water Filter)

Image source: Pixabay.com

Now, basically what makes the magic happen is the charcoal. In fact, even commercial-grade filters use carbon, which is what charcoal fundamentally is. Let’s put it together:

  1. Cut the bottom off of the plastic bottle, and hold it upside-down.
  2. Place a small swatch of cloth at the bottom (this will be where the water drips from).
  3. Add the charcoal.
  4. Add the sand.
  5. Add the tiny pebbles.
  6. Add the small stones.
  7. Place a larger swatch of cloth at the top, and then secure it in place with your cordage/rubber band/wire.

At this point, you now have a working filter and water in a “no-drink-container” that’s been completely sanitized of any living thing that would try to kill you from the inside. Lovely.

No. 3 – Use Filter, Repeat, and Then Hydrate at Your Leisure

Pour the water from your “no-drink-container” into your filter, which is situated to drip down into the container you plan on drinking from.

Ultra-Small Water Filter Makes Dirty River Water Clean, In Seconds!

The water will still appear very dirty on the first few times you run it through your filter; however, this isn’t a problem, for two reasons …

  • Since you were able to boil the water, all possible cryptosporidium are quite deceased at this point. All that’s left will be sediments and some traces of hard metals.
  • It will take 2-5 cycles through your filter in order for the water to start looking clearer (potable), but this is largely because your filter materials will initially have small dirt particles in there. Basically, your first few cups are going to be cleaning out the filter itself.

Also, remember that even with manufactured filters, you should cycle water through it a few times before drinking water from it.

Just keep in mind: It’s quite stellar that we are able to craft a DIY survival water filter in the boonies with nothing but litter and natural materials, but this should not be your go-to option. This DIY filtration system should be used in the event that you find yourself in a pinch and need to hydrate urgently.

What advice would you add on making an emergency water filter? Share your advice in the section below:

Clean Water Is Becoming More Rare Than Oil. Read What To Do Here.

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6 comments

  1. By burning wood, you are making ash, not charcoal. Ash will leach caustic soda into the water. Old time soap making used water run through ashes to make lye.

    • Ash is the light grey flaky stuff that puffs in the air. Charcoal is the black solid hunks left behind. You can draw with charcoal, it will leave black streaks. Ash turns to powder the second you try to touch it. Any campfire will yield both. You can intentionally build wood fires to yield more charcoal by basically building a kiln, but any wood fire will yield at least -some- charcoal. You can certainly make lye out of ash, and make soap out of lye. Absolutely. But ash is not the same as charcoal.

      If you wish to make lye it is best to use a wood bucket. Cut a hole like a spout near the base of the bucket. Line the inside with a thick bed of straw. Shape the straw kind of like a funnel. Put a second wood bucket below the hole of the first. Place ashes on top of the straw. Pour a bit of water in. Water will leach lye out of the ash, drip through the straw, and fall into the second wood bucket. It is vitally important not to use metal containers with lye. Well, at least not aluminum containers since lye is so dang reactive. Ceramic, wood, or glass are much safer.

      Both soapmaking and charcoal-making are fun things to try. Meat smoked with your own charcoal and prunings from fruit trees is delicious. Chip the prunings into small wood chips and soak for an amazing flavor. Make the charcoal out of wood you have no other use for. Steer clear of using pine, though, unless you are trying to make tar (very useful for sealing but not for cooking or filtering). I buy store bought lye to make soap since it’s a guaranteed purity, but it’s always good to know (and try) how to do it the old way. Just remember to let soap sit for a couple of weeks to finish out the reaction.

  2. This article makes a few (perhaps unwarranted) assumptions. First of all, where does the boiling container come from? Is it something already in your pack or is it a can from the side of the road? Second, the filter cloth, the sand and the pebbles and rocks should be free from any harmful bacteria as well. If in doubt, I’d suggest boiling all of them vigorously. The same might apply to the plastic containers (filter, no-drink, and drink containers) if you’ve found them along a roadside. The charcoal is for eliminating bad taste, not for killing off bacteria. There may be some (limited) benefit from pouring boiling water through the filter media but will the plastic container handle that heat?

    I have more questions than answers, but I want people to BE safe, not just THINK they’re safe drinking questionable water that has been haphazardly “cleaned” by a dubious filtering process.

  3. I have used this way for over 40 yrs and it works. I have camped and drink water from many lake,creeks and have never gotten sick

  4. Hello Kevin! This is a must-have skill as this can be a life saver. Thank you for this extreme survival tips. The step-by-step guidelines are really cool. Superb post!

  5. I feel like the biggest dope – when I was reading this and saw the image at the top I thought “okay, where are you going to get the charcoal to make a filter like that”. I wasn’t even aware that you could make charcoal by just… burning wood. Because that’s essentially what charcoal is. I didn’t even realize that until now I thought charcoal was some kind of magic rock or something.

    You taught me something I don’t think you even intended to teach me with this post. Thanks! Lol 🙂

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