Filtering Water When in Remote Locations

December 27th, 2013

Just because it’s beautiful does not mean the water is clean.

streaming waterImage via Manuel Calavera (Flickr)

Filtering Water When in Remote Locations

If you’ve been following me online, you know that I love nature. I love to spend time outdoors enjoying all this beautiful planet has to offer, especially bodies of water. If you’re a hiker, or a camper, or somebody who loves to explore remote locations, you know the importance of having safe drinking water in great supply with you. Whether you’re out on a day hike, or planning to rough it for a couple of days, you cannot survive without clean drinking water. This seems simple enough, doesn’t it? Just make sure you have enough water with you. It’s not as simple as it may seem, however.

It’s a Matter of Weight

When traveling to a remote location, whether by foot or by vehicle, you cannot have cases of bottled water with you. You don’t have the ability to carry that much weight, nor the space in which to pack it. It’s simply not a viable plan to lug a ton of heavy water jugs on a trek. You need to find a way to get the water you need using lightweight, compact options.

The Best-laid Plans…

The best-laid plans can also go wrong, no matter how seasoned you are. You might have the perfect portable way of filtering water to ensure you have plenty of H2O at your disposal. You might also become trapped in a remote location due to unexpected weather, or you might get lost. The best-laid plans do always see themselves through to fruition. You need a backup plan in case of emergency.

Don’t Just Drink

If you’re thinking, “No problem, Lynn, there are plenty of streams where I hike,” think again. Unfortunately – and I really mean unfortunately here – there are numerous pollutants that are finding their way into our earth’s fresh water supplies. You can reach down and refill your canteen with stream water when you’re thirsty, but you cannot be guaranteed that it won’t make you sick, no matter how far from civilization you are.

Ways to Filter

We know that it’s wise to filter your tap water; well, it’s wise to filter any natural water as well just to add an extra layer of protection to ensure that you are consuming safe drinking water. There are many ways of filtering water from the outdoors; therefore, even in remote locations you have access to clean drinking water to keep you properly hydrated until your return to civilization. Some ways to filter your water in a remote location are:

Water Purification Tablets – These outdoor gems should be a part of any hiking kit. Used by the U.S. Military, water purification tablets fit easily into your backpack and can be the difference between life and death should you become stranded. These tablets disinfect water, converting an unsafe water source into safe drinking water, and they may be all you need. Just follow the directions on the tablet package. Keep reading, however, just in case…

Cooking Pot and Lighter – Water purification tablets might not be enough, so another must in your backpack is a cooking pot and some matches or a lighter to ensure you can start a campfire… unless you’re really good starting a fire with sticks! Even though you have the water purification tablets, you still might find a need to boil your water before drinking it. Remember, you want to make sure you’re consuming clean drinking water so you don’t get sick while out in the remote country. Keep going…

Cotton Cloth, Empty Plastic Water Bottle, Pocketknife – These are three other musts because, depending on how remote you are, you might not be able to find clear water. What I mean by that is you might only have access to muddy water or water filled with sediment. You cannot just consume that; you’ll need to filter it first, and these tools will help you do that. Here’s how:

  1. Add your water purification tablets per their instructions to the water you’ve collected.
  2. Take your pocketknife and cut the bottom off your empty plastic water bottle.
  3. Turn your plastic water bottle upside-down so the mouth is at the bottom.
  4. Collect some small rocks or pebbles and layer them in your plastic water bottle about two to three inches high.
  5. Fold your cotton cloth and place it on top of your pebbles in your water bottle.
  6. Place another layer of pebbles on top of your cloth.
  7. Find some sand or dirt and fill your plastic water bottle the rest of the way with that.
  8. Take the water you’ve disinfected and run it through your plastic water bottle filter into a clean water collection receptacle, such as your canteen.
  9. Continue to run the water through the filter until is it clear.
  10. Boil your filtered water in your pot over a campfire – unless your water purification tablets direct otherwise – for at least one minute at a rolling boil to kill any remaining bacteria, parasites, or viruses.
  11. Keep your clean water in a container covered to prevent any environmental or insect contamination.

This might sound like a lot of trouble but it’s worth it. You cannot just drink without filtering water first. Even in the most remote locations, the water might still be contaminated. Carrying these few lightweight items in your backpack will make the difference between life and death should you find yourself in need of water in a remote location. Of course, you can also pack a Sport Berkey Water Bottle and filter your water that way, too. Pack the other necessities just in case, however. You might find yourself still with a need to run muddy water through a handmade filter!


Written By: Lynn Taylor

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