A survival prep ‘must have’ that is high on the priority list is a drinking water filter.
We cannot survive long without drinking water, in fact you would likely not survive a week without it – they say 3 to 5 days would be it. Having a water filter will assure safe drinking water extracted from almost any water source and will eliminate the risk of becoming a victim of rapid dehydration resulting from diarrhea, a very uncomfortable experience that I’m sure most of us have had at one point or another from drinking ‘bad’ water.
Microorganism Contamination In Sparkling Clear Water
What does a good drinking water filter remove from dirty water, or even clean-looking water? Don’t be fooled, crystal clear water flowing in a sparkling stream or lake may seem harmless and look ready to drink, but in fact may contain dangerous germs including protozoans, bacteria, or viruses.
You may have heard of the protozoan named Giardia lamblia, a nasty little parasite that is very common in lakes and streams, and if ingested will rapidly multiply in the small intestines, and I’ll leave it at that… not pleasant. Those who have gone camping in their past, have likely experienced this little parasite at one time, and it probably inspired the purchase of a good water filter afterward. Protozoans are fairly large, 1 – 15 microns, and are easily caught in most all typical consumer grade water filters.
How about E-coli or Salmonella, both a type of bacteria and can also be found in the water of lakes or streams. Bacteria is much smaller, about 0.2 – 5 microns, but most good quality water filters will catch them. These bacteria may be present one day and gone the next – you never know. It all depends on what is going on upstream or perhaps runoff from a recent rain. Most good quality consumer water filters will be capable of filtering down to 0.2 or 0.3 microns.
Viruses are the most difficult to filter due to their extremely small size, 0.02 to 0.2 microns. Viruses such as Hepatitis A, Norwalk virus, or Rotavirus may be lingering in the water you intend to drink. When choosing a water filter, check the specifications to see if it can remove viruses down to 0.02 microns. You will pay more for this particular category. Most marketed water filters seen to be in the 0.2 micron range, and are seemingly adequate for most circumstances.
Water Filter Ratings Confusion
Micron ratings can be confusing because there are various standards and methods of ratings (absolute versus nominal, US standard versus International standard), all of which are used by clever marketing to advantage one over the other. It’s probably best to look at both the micron rating as well as the percentage of removal. For example, Filter-x may claim 0.2 microns and will remove 99.9% of bacteria such as E-coli, while Filter-z may not indicate a micron rating but instead claim to remove 99.99% of bacteria such as E-coli. In this example, I would choose Filter-z. That additional decimal point is very significant! Trust me, if Filter-x could have claimed that, they would have.
Water Filter Types
There are several varieties of drinking water filters. Some are designed to install directly into the existing home plumbing, be it attached to the kitchen sink faucet, a cartridge mounted underneath the sink in-line with plumbing, or even larger systems that serve the entire home (many of these large systems are strictly water softener systems).
There are two types of water filters that I have in mind, and both are independent of existing plumbing. As an insurance policy I recommend keeping a large free standing unit for daily consumption and at least one small portable unit.
The large free standing unit is of course meant for longer term use, such as in the home or on the campsite. We happen to have a Big Berkey Countertop Water Filter which we always take with us during our occasional week long visits to our favorite get-away lake in the Trinity Alp Wilderness area of Northern California where we used to camp, but lately have indulged in renting a cabin. The filter is a gravity fed unit whereby you fill the top chamber with water, and it slowly passes through filters into a bottom chamber. We use this water for drinking, brushing teeth, making ice cubes, cooking, etc… and have never gotten sick while using it.
Smaller, portable filters are perfect for your vehicle’s 72 hour kit. Don’t be caught without one. They are also perfect to carry in your backpack if hiking or going on a day trip excursion. There are many varieties, sizes, and shapes, but all are small and light weight. I have several, one for each of our vehicle kits, and another in our camping supplies.
So, do not delay, be prepared, do a little online research and at least purchase a small portable unit to have on hand. Check the ratings and reviews before you pick one.