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.
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.
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.
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.
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.