Bug Out Bag Basics–water, water everywhere…

by Gary Howes
Guns and Gunsmiths editor.

Probably the most important thing you need in any emergency situation is water. You need it for hydration (you can last a week or more without food, but only a few days at most without water), for cooking some foods or brewing teas from safe plants, and even for personal hygiene. OK, maybe you can go a long time without a bath, but if your friends start putting more and more distance between them and you, you know it’s time to clean up your act.


This Katadyn Gravidyn filter can treat up to 10 liters at a time—enough for a small family.

Even if you are surviving in your own home after an emergency such as a flood, earthquake, fire or visit from the in-laws, you still need a source of clean, safe water. I live in a very small community of about 75 homes and we have our own water treatment facility, but it relies on electricity to function and we all know how fragile the electrical grid can be. Fortunately our community is also next to a large freshwater lake, so one thing I keep in my garage is a large water filtration system by Katadyn that will remove giardia, cryptosporidium, and other “nasties” and can produce enough fresh drinking and cooking water for a small family every day.

But in my emergency bag kept in my Jeep, what do I carry?

Firstly I have a bottle of water purification fluid. Probably enough to treat several gallons of water. I haven’t tried it yet, but I am willing to bet that even though it may make the water from a suspect source safe to drink, it probably tastes lousy.

I also carry a large piece of clear plastic. It can not only provide emergency shelter from the rain, but can catch that same rain water so I can store it for later. I can also use it to make a solar still. I won’t bore you here with how to make a solar still–there are plenty of resources on the web and on TV that will show you that in case you don’t already know. Hint: your plastic needs to be white or clear–black plastic doesn’t work as a solar still, so keep those black garbage bags at home for the trash.


Katadyn’s Hiker Series Microfilter

My friends at Katadyn sent me a very cool water filter called the Hiker® Microfilter™ Water Filtration System from their Backcountry Series™. As you can see from these photos, it is compact and effective for purifying enough water for one or two people. It has some nice features for connecting it to bottles and water bladders, as well as a nifty solution to keeping the inlet hose out of the goop at the bottom of a pool. The system retails for $74.95 here in the US, but can also be found for a low as $55 online, so shop around. This now has a permanent spot in my backpack.


Ready for pumping! Note the weighted pre-filter and float system on the inlet hose.

I also recently added a LifeStraw Personal Water Filter that was on sale. A great alternative when you want to take a quick drink from a lake or stream and don’t want to unpack an entire kit to do so.

Of course you need two other things in your water arsenal–a way of carrying it, and something to cook in if you need to boil rice, rehydrate food, or make wild teas. I prefer to use a water bladder for carrying my H2O–it folds flat when it is empty, can be used in your backpack with the tube in a comfortable place for drinking on the go, it’s light and fairly tough. I guess some people still use canteens, but I find the extra bulk a nuisance.

The other thing I carry is a small camping pot for cooking. You would think it would take up a lot of space, but if you pack a bag of rice or beans and other soft stuff in it, it really takes up very little space.

The Lifestraw is great for a quick sip from a suspect water source.

So, this is what you will find at my home and in my emergency backpack. Now I’m asking you to use the comment box below and tell us your ideas for water handling, treatment and storage. My old pappy always told me “never call yourself an expert, because x is an unknown quantity and spurt is a drip under pressure” so I’m always willing to learn from others and to look for better alternatives and great ideas for survival preparedness.

Gary Howes

5 Responses to Bug Out Bag Basics–water, water everywhere…

  1. Excellent article, Gary. I agree with your pappy on experts! I spent sometime in Honduras, and one of the guys I was with had a filter system like you showed. We ran water from the Rio Platano through it and then added the chemical. I don’t recall it tasting that bad. I still have about a liter and a half of it I didn’t use that I keep as a memento. We ran out of drinking water on our second day because most of what we packed fell out of our boat on the ten hour trip up river. I carried a device similar to the life straw, but being in a VERY wet climate I was able to catch at least a gallon of rainwater a day.

    I’m no expert but that’s how we got by! I have used solar stills and boiled water in the past. When you’re out and about you have to remember water is life.

  2. Yes, great article as always Gary.

    My first purchase ever for water filtration was a Frontier emergency water filter. I thought it was a great idea but what had happened to the Frontier filter was the carbon filter inside broke in half I guess from being bumped around a slight bit in my storage container in my emergency backpack. I was always careful with it but it broke. To me this is not at all acceptable for a something you need to rely on, especially for an emergency water system.

    I was not a happy camper about it since it was brand new and cost $12 for it. I heard something rattling inside it one day and found it was the carbon filter tube itself (the part that is submerged into the water source) that crumbled/broke apart from around the internal tube that the external drinking straw attaches to. The carbon filter is glued to the outside diameter of the internal drinking tube (the part the drinking tube/straw attaches to) and that’s where the carbon filter broke off.

    What I did to fix/spare the filter unit was removed the internal carbon filter and cut off the broken end of the carbon filter, in which shortened the depth the filter that can be submerged in contaminated water. Then I glued the carbon filter back onto the internal tube and made a mark (a red felt line) on the outside diameter of the filter body just below the newly glued area. This red line/mark serves as a depth indicator so I don’t dip the filter assembly farther into the water than that line in order to avoid the possibility of contaminated water seeping through the glued area.

    Unfortunately before my Frontier filter had broke I had already purchased two more of them from the NRA because they had a two pack of them for just $13. They are still good/new/unused but it kinda worries me if I had to solely depend on them should they be dropped or banged around more than the very delicate carbon filter tube inside can handle.

  3. I have the exact LifeStraw water filter that is shown in this article. Never used it but bought it because it looks like it is made far more durable than the delicate Frontier emergency water filter and because it filters much more water than the Frontier filters.

    I have had my eye on the other LifeStraw family products such as the 1.0 since they filter copious amounts of water for camp set ups and emergency shelters, communities, etc. For the amount of water it can filter overall and for the cost of just around $100 it is a great value. They look lightweight and easily portable in a vehicle or something like that.

    Check them out here – it is well worth the time:

  4. I have an Aqua Pail 1000, made in the USA. It is capable of filtering/purifying 1000 gallons before needing replacing. Good for bulk volumes of water purification.

    Here’s a random link to an Aqua pail distributor:
    You will see here this write up about the Aqua Pail 1000:
    “AquaPail 1000 – Camper
    SKU: AP1000

    The AquaPail 1000 Camper is designed to filter 1000 gallons of water. The AquaPail is designed to kill 100% of all viruses and bacteria in the dirty water. There is also no waiting time for the water to be filtered. They filter 8 or more gallons of water every hour and comes in a 1.25 gallon bucket. This product is 100% environmentally friendly with no harsh chemicals and it requires no power at all. AquaPails are very convenient in an emergency and easy to carry for grab and go use.”

    A while back I actually seen in a previous GCA’s GunTech that Jack Landis interviewed an Aqua Pail rep at some trade show or something to that nature, but I had already had one before seeing the interview. Never used this Aqua Pail yet though.

    FYI a word of caution: Aqua Pail 1000 had a recall sometime ago (maybe 2 years ago) on one of their production runs, for whatever reason. Fortunately my Aqua pail was not made in the lot/batch/run that was recalled. If you have one I would check into the lot # on your Aqua Pail and see if it is OK or recalled.

  5. One more here …

    Just seen a water filter similar in design to the LifeStraw filter in this article called HFC1500 from TRS (Threat Response Solutions) survival but there’s more to it than LifeStraw.

    Amazon.com has this write up for it:
    “-Filters out waterborne bacteria (like e-coli), protozoa (like giardia), chlorine, benzene, chloroform, trihalomethanes, and numerous other pesticides and industrial waste products
    -Can attach to a standard soda bottle, but package includes a collapsible bag for storing water
    -Includes a small compass and signal mirror for emergencies
    -Also includes a syringe to backflush dirty water out and extend the life of the filter
    -The prefilter assembly keeps out large debris, and the extension hose allows you to reach areas that would otherwise be impossible to get water out of”.

    What was not mentioned is the plastic bag is 1/2 liter and can be attached somehow to the water inlet. With the bag filled with water and attached to the water inlet the bag can be squeezed in which pushes/forces water through and out of the filter’s mouthpiece. This is great for when there is only one filter and multiple people needing water. This avoids contamination from one person to the other by having the mouthpiece not used by everyone. This makes it also handy if you are using the filter to filter water for cooking or flushing a wound! Great idea!

    The pre-filter can filter up to 1500 liters at 550mls per minute.

    The HFC1500’s submersible end (water inlet end) has a female threaded coupling in which it’s water inlet’s cap threads onto when not in use. What’s more is the cap has a built in compass and mirror (for signalling). Great idea.

    Another advantage of the threaded end (for the cap on the water inlets end) is it attaches to standard soda bottle threads. The soda bottles serves as a canteen. Just scoop some unpurified water into the soda bottle and thread it onto the water inlet end of the filter. Great idea.

    Here’s the link to TRS:

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