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.
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 …
- 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.)
- 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.
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.
- Tiny Pebbles
- Small Stones
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:
- Cut the bottom off of the plastic bottle, and hold it upside-down.
- Place a small swatch of cloth at the bottom (this will be where the water drips from).
- Add the charcoal.
- Add the sand.
- Add the tiny pebbles.
- Add the small stones.
- 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.
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: