Building a Bug Out Bag – Part III, Water

Building a Bug Out Bag – Part III, Water

In Building a Bug Out Bag Part I we discussed why building a Bug Out Bag is important and what type of bag to select.  In Part II we discussed the Transportation Items to consider for your Bug Out Bag.  Today we’ll discuss Water preparedness and Water items to consider including when building a Bug Out Bag.  Remember, this is your last ditch, carry on your back, walk away from trouble Bug Out Bag…not what you hope you can get to your bug out location if your car, SUV, or semi-submersible speedboat makes it.

Water PreparednessWater:

Water is the one thing that you won’t be able to carry three days worth with you if you are forced to resort to bugging out by foot.  Three days worth of water would weigh over 25 lbs per person at one gallon per day or 12.4 gallons if you’re planning on just a half gallon per day.  You should carry as much water as you can comfortably carry though.  You can buy survival water boxes and pouches, but as long as there’s a functioning tap and you have canteens (or 1 to 2 liter soda bottles that you’ve washed out with soap and water) there’s no need to buy ‘survival water.’  Make sure to rotate your stored tap water frequently (no less than twice a year and more often if it is subjected to high temperatures).  You can also pack bottled water but the disposable bottles aren’t very durable so make sure that you carry a more durable water container or canteen to fill up as you bug out…preferably one that’s unbreakable or even capable of boiling water in.

Because you can’t carry enough water to sustain yourself for the full three days you must carry ways to make suspect water sources potable.  I recommend that you carry at least two methods of ‘purifying’ water.  Water ‘purification’ generally fits into one of the following categories:


Appropriate treatment options for a Bug Out Bag include the following (note that these treatment options will not remove pollutants including heavy metals from water):

Boiling:  Boiling should almost certainly be one of your purification options because boiling doesn’t take as many specialized supplies as the other water ‘purification’ methods .  However, remember that boiling takes time, could potentially compromise your location (if you’re laying low) through light and/or smoke being visible.  Make sure that you have a metal container like a canteen cup capable of holding your water as you boil it.  If you don’t want to spend any money than just clean out a tin can and use it as your boil pot.

Water Purification Tablets:  Tablets are available from camping stores and the camping aisles of many national chain discount stores.  Read the instructions carefully and expect a ‘taste.’  Treatment generally takes about 30 minutes.  Monitor your tablet’s expiration dates.

Chlorine Drops:  Common, unscented liquid bleachin a dropper bottle is another treatment option that’s cheap to put together with a new dropper bottle from the drug store and that bottle of unscented liquid bleachyou should have at home anyway…no, not for laundry but to purify water if you bug in.  Chlorine will lose it’s effectiveness much more quickly than water purification tablets so I encourage you to spend that little extra money if you want a treatment option and but the tablets.  You can read more about treating water with chlorine HERE.

Note:  There are also battery operated UV treatment options like the SteriPEN.  I’ve chosen to steer clear of relying on battery powered options.


Filtering water has the dual benefit (depending on the individual filter’s capability) of removing pollution and biological contamination.  Additionally, filtering has the benefit of making potable water much more quickly than most of the treatment options.  If you chose a filter option make sure to pre-filter through a densely woven cloth or coffee filter (at the water intake) to keep your filter working at top efficiency.  There are a number of different water filter options available but I’ve narrowed the selections down to the three worth considering:

Straw Type Emergency Water Filter:  These are generally inexpensive, disposable filters for drinking directly from contaminated sources using the filter as a straw.  I have several of these and am a little leery of their use but carry one when I’m traveling by plane and can’t carry a full Bug Out or Get Home Bag.

Water Filter Bottle:  These multi-use bottles allow you to scoop water directly from the contaminated source and drink filtered water immediately.  These filters tend to look a lot like a sports bottle and are relatively durable.  They cost two to three times what the straw filters do but are much more durable and are worth a look.  The top of the line filter bottle is the Berkey Bottle.

Backpacking Type Filters:  These filters weigh a great deal more than the other filter options mentioned but are much more long lasting.  With these filters will provide you a more robust capability that will last  long after you reach your bug out location.  Katadyn is a quality manufacturer.  I use the Katadyn Hiker Pro Microfilter.

Check back tomorrow for Building a Bug Out Bag – Part IV when we’ll discuss Food Preparedness for your Bug Out Bag.

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