We live in uncertain times (case in point: COVID-19 virus). We are busy preparing for our long terms goals and objectives and with that mindset, we often forget that tragedy, global war or domestic insurgency and natural calamities can strike us anytime and anywhere. For certain others, they are always contemplating and pre-empting a doomsday scenario or an emergency situation that they may find themselves in one day.
Regardless of which ‘school of thought’ you belong to, one thing is certain: you need to contemplate a survival plan that may need to be implemented anytime, if things go south. The number one item that you will definitely need to stay alive and kicking is safe and clean drinking water.
If there is no clean water available, then you cannot expect to drink out of a muddy puddle or an open stream of water close by (if these are accessible). These open water sources will be a breeding ground for parasites and impurities and all you can expect to get in return by drinking it are water borne diseases (which causes over 2 million preventable deaths each year worldwide). This, as we all know, in a crisis situation, will do you far more harm than good!
In a situation like this, you need to find a way to purify the water source available and get rid of all the toxins and bacteria. You can achieve this if you made a survival filtration/purifying system part of your survival plan. You also need to appreciate that there is a difference between a water filter and a water purifier. Water filter helps you clean all the microbes present in the water whereas a purifier will take it a notch up and can help you eliminate impurities more extensively, including viruses.
You need to prepare a survival plan today to avoid a panic situation later. Keep these aspects in mind:
- Water, particularly which is affected by unforeseen emergencies such as flooding or grid failure exposes you to organisms which are injurious to your health, and that too at a very bad time!
- Water can be treated to purify or clean it in several ways such as: purification chemicals (process of chlorination), boiling it for a good time and then distill and recapture the steam, filter screens, reverse osmosis, ultra violet light or boiling. All these methods have their specific advantages and disadvantages which need to be weighed carefully before adopting them.
- The best and easiest way to purify open water into drinkable one is by using filters, as part of your basic prepping.
- We strongly recommend that you get, at least, two of the filters that we are suggesting, in all of your emergency kits. As there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach here, it is best to have maximum protection available.
- Always keep a portable water bottle (ideally 16-24 oz) in your bags always. This will ensure that you have immediate and ready access to safe and clean water, if disaster has struck.
- Given you understanding and exposure to viruses (and particularly in light of the Corona virus that is prevalent these days), you may need to expand your choice of filter. Before we got struck by the Corona virus, the presumption was that a virus protected filter would be optional or a ‘nice to have’ item; not any more.
- Filter life is something a lot of filter manufacturing companies vouch for and is one of the important considerations when people buy them. Same with the capacity of water that can be filtered.
- Think through the different items of filtration available in the market and how can different products work together to give you a customized solution.
- Do you have storage drums or tanks available for saving clean or dirty water which can fit well with your filters?
Types of Survival Water Filters
The aim of this guide is to educate you about the different types of survival water filter/s available in the market. All these filters have varying functionalities and they suit specific types of situations. Perhaps, you will need more than one type of these filters. This will give you the peace of mind that you have protected yourself against all possible eventualities that you can think of (or as a back-up), given your current or future circumstances.
Always remember the basic rule: if you do not have filtered and clean water on a permanent basis, then you do not have safe water to drink. If the water is impure then you are massively risking your life and health by being exposed to all kinds of bacteria, heavy metals and protozoa. In a worst case scenario, this can eventually be fatal for you or your loved ones.
As part of your survival plan, let us look at the three different types of water filters that you can get:
In-Line Water Filter
Drinking water filters comes in different shapes and sizes and if you are someone who values convenience, then an in-line or an under-counter water filter can be the right choice for you.
An in-line water filter essentially works by incorporating itself into the water supply available in your home, office or other indoor set ups. For example, if you intend to install it at home, then you add it to the cold water supply tap in the kitchen. This can be achieved by connecting the filter directly to the water pipe which can be found underneath the kitchen main sink. The water that passes through the ceramic candle within housing walls is filtered by this water filter, prior to reaching the tap. This is one of the most efficient and visually discreet manners in which you can clear your drinking water. Needless to say, you can also save al lot of space on your kitchen counter as this filter is sneaked in neatly under the counter.
These filters are working 24/7 without requiring any emptying of containers or any switching or activation of the filter manually. This gives you the convenience and peace of mind to just pour out your tap water with the comfort and peace of mind that it is safe to drink at all times.
These in-line water filters are usually backed by ceramic candles technology which guarantee you a removal of 99.9%+ contaminants from your tap water including but not limited to: heavy metals, chlorine, bacteria (such as coli), giardia and cryptosporidium (which are water borne cysts). These ceramic candles inside the filter need to be replaced approximately every 6 months, thus giving you a long term solution to safe and healthy drinking water. The replacement of these candles is fairly straight forward and can be achieved by screwing out and screwing back in with a new one.
Most of these filters would need a compatible counter-top for installation to work, either through a dedicated cold water tap (by adding to the tap set-up) or three way mixer tap, which will give you cold, hot and filtered water.
So if you intend to buy a product that gives you little fuss, is durable and runs for long and ensures you clean drinking water, then the simplest choice is an in-line water filter system.
Pump Water Filter
Pump water filters (or camping water filter) are not very compact but they are reasonably sized to fit in to your backpack. To activate this filter mechanism, you have to create a connection by means of a lead line between the water source and an outlet hose into the recipient of water. The water is drawn into the recipient (a bottle or a reservoir for example) by means of a hand pump. It is very important to ascertain the different mechanisms of these pumps as their flow of water and specifications, differ from product to product.
Pump filters have varying mechanisms and techniques such as ceramic, fiber or filtration. This is usually combined with an activated carbon filter or a block activated carbon.
The fiber filters perform precisely as straw filters’ (or water filter straw) by restricting the impurities from mixing with your clean water. Ceramic filters also offer mechanical filtration with porous features backed by holes of 0.4-1 micron. These holes allow the water to pass through while blocking the contaminants (such as asbestos which can surely contaminate your water).
Having said that, the slight disadvantage of this mechanism is that, certain small bacteria can still pass through these holes and mix with your water. Moreover, these filters do not block organic items from contaminating the clean water. That is where the activated carbon filter comes in (as used by many manufacturers) which has millions of very fine pours in between the carbon atoms it has.
So each gram of the activated carbon would cover an area of about 2000 square metres, allowing blockage of contaminants on this surface before water flows through safely to you.
Pump water filters (with an activated carbon filter) gives your water an improved smell and taste. They are long lasting and do not need to be changed before 12 months (cartridge is replaceable). The filter needs to be replaced within the specified time however, otherwise, the filter becomes infected with bacteria too, which has been trapped in it for quite some time.
The natural minerals in the water are preserved by this filter and not blocked in the process. The quantity of water required can be efficiently processed without requiring excess storage. Pump water is ideal in extracting water from small openings and shallow water areas, however, it is a tedious task to pump and requires a certain amount of exertion. This may not be ideal for smaller kids or old aged persons.
Gravity Water Filter
Gravity water filters, are in the league of their own, as they do not need electricity or consistent water supply to function. It is particularly for these reasons that they are ideal choices for campers, emergency peppers’ or trekkers. It is also a good choice for those who are travelling in remote places which do not have readily available clean drinking water.
These gravity water filters are generally created from two containers which are positioned one above the other. For this filter to function, water needs to be poured into the first container. The gravitational pull then allows water to travel through different filtration mediums and then transfer into the other container, at a lower level. The second container will have a tap attached to it which will assist in refilling the water recipient. A reservoir is filled up and hung at a suitable location and then set the clock ticking.
Gravity filters are generally designed with a collective sequence of ceramic and activated carbon filters. These filters work together to provide you with safe and pure water, free of harmful ingredients. The flow rate will vary from product to product but generally ranges from 2-5 minutes for a full bag.
This mode of treatment can be frustrating at times and certainly takes up a lot of time. However, any back country trip will most probably feature this gravity filter, for effective reliance on getting treated water.
However, once you set it up properly, you would notice that these filters are easy to use, efficient in processing clean water and do not really consume a lot of energy that you can spend on other tasks.
Gravity pump filters are relatively more convenient than the pump filters as there is no need to assert squeezing efforts in moving the water through. This is particularly helpful when you are catering to a large group of people and where water is a scarce resource, in which case, this filter seems to be the best option available out there.
Just ensure that the dirty bag of water is well zipped prior to putting it into your pack. You can test the seal locking by rotating the pack up side down to see if there is any leakage or not.
As compared to your standard pump filters, gravity filters are about the same dimensions but are much more efficient in filtration that its counterparts. Sometimes and in certain areas where water is more contaminated and mixed with external particles, you need to ensure that you back flush the filter system (which can be performed any time and doesn’t require any add on equipment) to ensure a good and strong flow of water.
Gravity water is proven to remove contaminants such as chlorine, protozoa, viruses, parasites and bacteria from open sourced water. They are also efficient in blocking man-made contaminants such as herbicides or pesticides which may affect the quality of the water.
These filters, however, are space consuming as compared to other filter systems and has various parts attached to it. The first container (if not stored or managed properly) can cross contaminate the second container. The process of obtaining clean water is slower than the pump filters and it may be difficult to spot places to hang these reservoirs. Finally, its element requires field cleaning as part of routine maintenance and seeps and shallow water places are not the easiest places to extract water.
How Portable Filters Work?
There are two key functionality aspects to consider whenever you purchase a filter. First is on the time frame i.e., how much time do you prefer to wait for your drinking water and secondly, how much effort you are willing to put into it. As explained, there is no single solution to the varying scenarios in which you can extract safe and healthy water outdoors and each has its own merits and demerits as we have been discussing throughout this guide.
Two key methods by which you can make your water ‘potable’ are: filtering and treating. These purification techniques are used by portable water filter or mini water filter.
Filtering purifies the water by passing it through structures made up of ceramic or fiberglass. There are small holes in these filters which allow water molecules to distill through it. At the same time, it restricts the passing of contaminants such as bacteria and protozoa. In certain filters, they also have an in-built carbon activation system, which enhances the smell and taste of water.
Water treatments purify the water by eradicating the harmful contaminants. Their biggest advantage is that they can also work equally effectively against viruses, in addition to bacteria and protozoa.
We have already seen above how in-line filter, pump filter and gravity filter function and their utility and drawbacks, as they are used in varying scenario. Let us look at all those and a few more options a bit more up close to understand their functioning and usefulness.
Your pump filter’s efficiency will be as good as yours whereas, in case of a gravity filter, it is meant to do the work for you, but the collection of water still needs to be done by you.
This pump derives its effectiveness from your pumping. The faster you pump the more efficient it is (generally recorded at one liter every minute but may vary with the impurity of the water being pumped, state of the filter and the effort exerted in pumping). If you were thinking of conserving all this energy in an outdoor activity or for any other reason, then a pump filter is a bad choice for you.
With regards to pump filters, they have a variant called squeeze filters which functions quite similar to them. The difference is that these squeeze pumps do not need any additional weight or housing material that a pump filter usually requires. Squeeze filters, as the name suggests, work by squeezing a bottle or pouch which pushes the water past the filter and then eventually into your collector. These are very commonly used by back packers/hikers given the ease and convenience of using them and their portability as well, given these can be ‘squeezed’ in to back packs.
These filters (also commonly referred to as “lazy-man’s outdoor water filter”), as explained, provide drinkable water in a fairly quick time frame (more or less same as pump filter but without the effort required in pumping it). The water is collected in a bag which is hung vertically at a clean spot.
Water can also be treated through ultra violet (UV) purifier devices, which runs on batteries. In terms of processing efficiency, this method can purify 1 liter of water in about 90 seconds. These are easy to use, however, you have to ensure that you pre-filter your water (especially if it is taken from a high debris source) before exposing it to UV rays. A cloth or shirt may need to be used to filter out the debris. Once debris is extracted, you need to circulate the UV light around the water for about 90 seconds. This purifier is pretty handy which can be used on the go while you are travelling or taking those long walks on the trails.
Chemical solutions or tablets such as chlorine dioxide or iodine can also be used to treat your water, when you are outdoors and on the go. This chemical treatment is slightly time consuming and varies with the type of chemical that you are using (can range from anywhere between 15 minutes to 4 hours). It is indeed a good back up option when you are out in the open and your primary filter doesn’t work for whatever reason.
Just be careful using these (as with all the chemicals) and always follow instructions that come with them.
A less popular (but commonly heard of) treatment is boiling. What you need to achieve is a ‘rolling’ boil (which is meant to eliminate the filtering step) for at least a minute (and much more if you are at high altitude) to ensure that all the contaminants have been removed. This is an effective method for removing bacteria and viruses however it is not considered to be the ideal solution.
This method is impractical where you require large quantities of water or frequently for yourself or family. This will require a lot of equipment to carry and nobody likes the boring wait for the boiled water to cool down.
Find Water Sources
Sources of water can be found within a dwelling (e.g. water heater tank, melted ice cubes, toilet tank water, liquid from canned fruits and veggies or those used in swimming pools and spas) or outside it (e.g. well water, rainwater, rivers, streams, natural springs ponds and lakes). Never drink water which has a suspicious smell, color or taste or which you suspect is contaminated with fuel, flood water, livestock, human sewage or anything else that smells or looks toxic.
Always be on the lookout for the latest news from your local officials regarding advisory notes or precautions, which may require you to close down your main water valve to prevent contamination and impurities diluting your water piping system.
Source Water Quality
Drinking water protection framework is in place in every country, at varying levels involving regulations, regular and reliable testing, mandatory licensing of water sourcing activities and public engagement. The idea is to uphold the water quality being consumed by humans, used in industries or generally by the environment.
‘Source protection’ is the first step in protecting the water quality sourced from the surface or ground water from where the municipal drinking water systems receive their supply.
It is extremely important to establish that the water is being sourced from a place which is free of contaminants or is under a desired level as established by the regulations concerned. Water quality relies on the ecosystem and local geology. It is also dependent on the sewage system, industrial pollution and use or over use of water bodies/heat sink.
The most common drinking water source is your tap water which should routinely gets tested to ensure water quality standards. If you are ever in doubt about this, always contact your local community/water provider service.
Best 5 Portable Water Filters
Here are the best 5 survival water filter/s out there in the market, that we have shortlisted for you. We aim to provide you with the essential features and description of each of these so you can make an informed decision:
SimPure Water Filter Straw
This straw water filter has an advanced ultra-filtration technology. It has a cleaning capacity of up to 0.1micron which guarantees you the removal of 99.999% protozoan parasite, bacteria, chlorine, VOCs and micro plastic.
The product is manufactured with strong food grade plastics, FDA certificated BPA-Free ABS and filtration capacity of 0.1 microns.
It can easily filter up to 1000 liters (264 gallons) of water. It comes in a great compact size (6.7” x 1.2”), is super convenient, light weight and easy to carry. It is perfect for outdoor activity or even in an emergency situation.
This product will make your rivers, streams, ponds, lakes, and glaciers an excellent source of pure and safe drinking water.
MoKo Portable Water Filter
This portable water filter is ideal for outdoor activities such as hiking or camping. It easily converts rainwater, lake or river water into clean and safe potable water.
This product has been tested and approved by TUV SUD Institute and is in compliance with the highest standards set by WHO.
It comes with an advanced activated coconut shell carbon filter, which has a cleaning capacity of up to 0.01 Microns. It works well in removing chlorine taste and smell, natural deposits and waterborne contaminants.
It has a highly efficient flow rate of 600 ml (0.13 Gallons) per minute. Its replaceable carbon filter can be re-used up to 3,000 Liters(660 Gallons and also has a back-flushing filter. This is good value for your money!
FS-TFC Portable Mini Personal Water Filter
This mini filter is light weight and great for back packing, hiking, camping, backcountry travel and emergency situations. It is also suitable for water sources such as streams and lakes and can be back or directly flushed.
It has a triple filtration involving Sediment Pre-filter ,0.1 micron membrane filter straw and activated carbon fiber. These features make the filtered water safe to consume in all conditions and gives it an improved smell.
Sawyer Products SP160
This gravity filter product has a pour size of 0. 1 micron, is dual-threaded (allowing easy push and pull cap onto the filter) and comes with a 1-gallon reservoir. This is compact in size (can fit in your palm and weighs only 2 ounces). It also has a light weight and wide spaced bladder which makes for easy filling. It also has a cleaning plunger and coupling and a gravity hose with adapters.
Membrane Solutions Straw Water Filter
Membrane Solutions has an advanced safety filtration membrane technology with 4 step filtration: coarse filter screen, Polypropylene nonwovens, coconut shell activated carbon and hollow fiber ultra-filtration membranes. It removes all visible solid contaminants (99.99999%), improves the smell and ensure a safe water source in all conditions.
It is portable and can be carried in hand, pocket, bags, back packs or survival kits. Pore size is 0.1 microns which gives great filtering accuracy. It can be disassembled and cleaned easily enhancing its longevity. It is ideal for recreational and sports usage such as hiking, camping, scouting and even for emergency situations.
Filtering your water (on a consistent basis) is a must in an emergency and something that you cannot defer or do without. There is no one ideal filter that will work in all situations and that is why we bring you this guide to help you navigate what is available in the market and what suits your needs or situation.