Water purification priorities

There’s a few methods to purify water but I was wondering how they should be prioritized if you have all of them. Say you’ve been a good prepper and have the following…

– Water filtration (HydroBlu inline + backup LifeStraw)

– Water purification tablets (chlorine)

– A clear bottle for solar disinfection (SODIS)

– A hard canteen you can boil in, plus lighter/matches

– Bandana

The day is young, the sun is out, and you’re staring at a puddle. After you’ve scooped up as much as you can, what item or combo of items do you reach for first? And second, third, etc. Of course, you have no idea how long this emergency will last.

I’m writing a short guide for myself / my partner on how to prioritize gear use for safety and longevity. For instance, boiling requires fuel, so it wouldn’t be my first pick.


  • Comments (10)

    • 7

      It looks like we have two bottles right? I assign the clear bottle to be my dirty container and the hard canteen to be my clean container. Next I would take the bandanna and put it over the lid of the clear bottle (dirty) and dunk it into the puddle. The bandanna will act as a minor filter for sticks, leaves, and bugs. After that, attach the HydroBlu filter and have it filter clean water into the hard canteen (clean). I then would drink as much as my stomach could handle, filter more and fill the hard canteen (clean), and then fill the clear bottle (dirty) again to be cleaned by SODIS by strapping to the back of my pack and be in the sun all day, or to run through the filter again when my clean canteen is empty. 

      The reason I pick that as my go-to first option is because the filters that we are using in this example are fast and able to filter thousands of gallons. Boiling would take a long time to build a fire, boil, wait to cool down, and then repeat. The purification tablets take a while to clear all the bacteria out of the water and we probably only have a finite amount of those on hand. The SODIS is a great option, but will take an entire day of being in the sun to get one bottle of water and is very slow. 

      • 6

        Actual experience- purifying water long term.  In 1972 I was directing a archaeological dig in Canyon de Chelly .  We usually began working in June, when the canyon was drivable.  But that year more snow had fallen and the spring thaw persisted into June.  We could not drive to the site and decided to camp at the site.  our drinking water was the very muddy runoff, undoubtedly contaminated because there were people living in the canyon upstream, along with herds of sheep.  The water we could access was “too thick to drink and too thin to plow.”

        We would dip water into a gallon pail and let it sit overnight, decanting the clear(er) water into a pot which was then brought to  a boil.

        That is how we got our drinking water for a month until the canyon was drivable.  We had no after effects from the water or any other problems.

        That water was the most unpromising I have ever consumed.  Years ago i would drink freely from mountain springs, with no treatment whatever.  Never had a problem then, but I would be more careful now, with more people on the trails.

      • 1

        Thanks for the share. Gives me hope if I ever have to work with water too thick to drink. Ahh!

      • 1

        Thanks for the great answer! Thinking along the lines of ‘and’ rather than just ‘or’.

      • 4

        One further comment and then I’ll shut up – promise.

        Hiking in Arizona in the 50’s and 60’s, we regularly drank from springs and clear mountain streams with no incidents whatever.  Traffic was light then and today i would be more cautious.

        Downstream, chances for pollution and contamination increase considerably, but if a i were in really bad shape, I would drink up. your ailments can be cured once you are back in town….

      • 2

        You are right about that survival tip. If you are close to being rescued, it is better to drink the sketchy water than to die of dehydration. It usually takes a few days for you to start feeling sick and hopefully by then you will have been rescued and can get seen at a hospital.

      • 3

        From my vast experience watching “Naked and Afraid” episodes, vomiting typically starts a few hours after exposure to contaminated food or water, and quickly makes the person more dehydrated (and starved). Not a good deal. At least do something to decontaminate, such as digging a hole near a river and letting the earth be your filter as the water flows underground to your hole.

    • 2

      Valuable thread, including comments. Great reading. 

    • 3

      I have a question to add to the water purification thread:  I recently bought a GoSun Brew with the idea that it could serve as a backup water purification method in a short power outage (plus COFFEE).  Now that I have received it I see that the set temperature is only 203 degrees Fahrenheit – not true boiling. This is actually perfect for coffee but not so great for other purposes. 

      Can I still purify water in it by just letting it “cook” – longer? Or is this a no-go? I don’t know if it has to be at a full rolling boil.  If keeping it at 203 for a longer period is an option, how long should I let it sit at that temperature before it is safe to drink, assuming I didn’t use any other methods (bleach, iodine, etc)?

      • 4

        You will be fine. In the book. Medicine for Mountaineering, the author, an MD, recommends just bringing water barely to a boil.  He point out that milk is pasteurized by heating to 160 degrees.  The time water is kept at a high temperature is important