By John Peterson
The absolute most important resource for survival is water. Whether you’re on a hike in the back country or an extended trip overseas, the clock begins ticking when you run out of safe drinking water. Severe flooding, storms, and civil unrest can strike at any time, or your vehicle can break down and you’re simply stranded. You can be caught by surprise without a means of obtaining the 1 gallon per day of drinkable water that every adult needs.
Your health and survival will begin evaporating even faster if you ingest even a few drops of contaminated water. Almost no natural source of water in the world is free of contamination, even the clearest, coolest mountain stream. These contaminants include the protozoans (single-celled organisms) and cysts – nasty intestinal parasites such as E Coli, Giardia, and Cryptosporidium. Getting infected with any of these is no joke, as I found out once on an overseas trip. Some of these sicknesses come on fast and incapacitate you, greatly diminishing your chances of survival.
With this in mind, it makes absolute sense to invest in a form of water purification. One surefire method for purifying water is to boil it. But if a fire and a pot are not available, there are several other, excellent, filtration and purification options for defeating these diseases.
The super-compact LifeStraw water filtration unit is what its name implies: a straw that you use to drink directly from a questionable water source. As the water passes through, the LifeStraw kills 99.9% of protozoa and 99.9999% of bacteria. It weighs only 2 oz. and takes up barely any space in your go-bag or airline carry-on.
For extended situations lasting days or even months for multiple people, the Katadyn Pocket Microfilter is the ultimate water filtration “weapon of choice”. This is an upgraded model of the filter we were issued in the U.S. Army Special Forces. It’s a super tough unit that can put up with rapid, rigorous pumping to purify large quantities of water fast (up to 1 quart per minute). You can draw water directly from a stream or lake.
An alternative means of water purification is inexpensive Potable Aqua Chlorine Dioxide Water Purification Tablets. I have carried these for years. They’ll work as standalone method or in combination with either of the above systems. Also, if you lose your LifeStraw or in the unlikely event the Katadyn unit breaks, you have a backup purification system. You’ll still have to filter out large sediment, but these tablets will kill almost anything that could ail you. Worth having in your pack or carry-on as cheap insurance.
None of these products is expensive, and having one or more of them on hand can save you from a bad experience ranging from very uncomfortable to fatal.