Posts Tagged With: backpacking water filter

Best Practices for Your Third Most Critical Survival Priority

by Todd Walker

Using the “B” word will automatically rain hell and brimstone on any online discussion. What’s the Best knife, sidearm, rifle, or water filter? Try it for kicks and giggles. Type that four-letter word in front of any piece of gear and watch the internet explode.

Best Practices for Your Third Most Critical Survival Priority -

Photo courtesy of Iris Canterbury

When it comes to survival priorities, the same spirited debate rages.

In the Pathfinder System, Dave Canterbury ranks water as the third wilderness survival priority. Self-Aid and Shelter take the top two spots respectively. Of course, survival priorities are always dependent on the situation and shouldn’t be written in stone.

Here’s Dave’s full list…

  1. Self-aid
  2. Shelter
  3. Water
  4. Fire/heat
  5. Signaling
  6. Food
  7. Navigation

The subject of this article is the third priority – the substance which every system in the human body is dependent. A dehydrated body can not help you do all the stuff needed to keep you alive if you’re day hike turns into a week-long survival scenario.

Water is easy to find in the eastern woodlands. But it may not be fit for consumption.

That crystal clear stream you’re about to sip from may hold a rotting carcass 100 yards upstream. Also keep in mind that, yes, bears (and other critters) do crap in the woods along rivers and streams… which eventually washes into the pristine creek and into your cupped hands.

Introducing waterborne pathogens to your gut is a sure way to decrease your survivability in the wilderness. You need to assume that every water source in the backwoods contains the following invisible nasties (and more)…

  1. Giardia – A single-celled, microscopic parasite which causes a diarrheal illness called giardiasis. The parasite is passed through the feces of infected animals and humans. Symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, bloating, gas (not your normal campfire baked-bean induced gas), weakness, and stomach cramps. Symptoms show up within 1 to 2 weeks.
  2. Cryptosporidium – Crypto, as it is commonly known, is a parasite responsible for causing the most waterborne illnesses in the U.S. according to the CDC. Symptoms of watery diarrhea, dehydration, stomach pain and cramps, fever, and vomiting begin in 2 to 10 days of infection and may last up to 30 days.
  3. Escherichia coli (E. coli) – Some E. colia bacteria are beneficial to your intestinal tract. Then there’s the pathogenic, diarrhea kind transferred through water and food contaminated from human or animal feces. Remember that bear fact? Unfortunately, s**t happens. And ignorant humans have the bears beat!
  4. Salmonella – Most folks infected by this bacteria develop diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps within 12 to 72 hours. Not good for a 72 hour survival scenario. Oh, and it can spread to other body systems causing more long-term damage.

Bottom line… Don’t drink untreated water! … unless you have no other option in an emergency survival scenario. Dying of dehydration is worse than giardiasis after you’ve been rescued. But we’re talking camping not survival, here. Consider all backwoods water sources contaminated. Period. Even when brushing your teeth at camp, use disinfected water.

We’ve established the fact that the human body needs water to function properly. So what are the best (yeah, I used the B-word) practices to make water safe to drink?

Boiling Water

We took our youth group to a Catholic church in the early 80’s as a cross-cultural field trip. The priest met us at the door and invited us in. One of our really, really country boys asked the priest how holy water was made.

In all seriousness, the priest told us that they pour water in a pot, place it on a hot stove, and…

“boil the hell out of it.”

My Basic Class partner, Dave Williams, boiling 32 ounces of water

My Basic Class partner, Dave Williams, boiling 32 ounces of water in under 5 minutes

Boiling Times

There are lots of confusing, un-scientific info floating in the preparedness pool. So how long should you boil water to make it safe to drink?

a.) 10 minutes, b.) 5 minutes, c.) 1 minute, d.) depends on altitude

Answer: None of the above.

I’m not certain how long priests boil water before it becomes holy, but all you need to do is bring water to a boil to render the parasites, viruses, and bacteria harmless. In fact, 185º F for a few minutes will deliver the damage needed to kill the nasties. We boil in the backwoods because thermometers aren’t convenient to carry. Bubbles tell us when it’s done.

Research from the Wilderness Medical Society states that keeping water temps above 160º F for 30 minutes kills all pathogens through pasteurization. Bet you don’t carry a cooking thermometer in your pack. Even at high altitudes, once your water reaches the boiling point of 212º F,  you’re done. Boiling past zero minutes is a waste of fuel and life-giving water via evaporation.

In a perfect world, you whip out your metal container. Fill it with water and bring it to a boil. Take it off the heat immediately and allow the water to cool. Now you have potable water.

Water boiling challenge

Water boiling

What I carry is the Pathfinder Stainless Steel Cook set. The 32 ounce bottle nests inside the 25 oz. cup for easy storage in my haversack or backpack.

If you’re ever in a situation without a metal container, ask yourself this question…

What would MacGyver do?

Creative Containers

There may be resources in your pack which you’ve never considered could hold water for boiling. These items will help channel your inner MacGyver.

Dave Williams' duct tape water bottle at the Pathfinder School

Dave Williams’ duct tape water bottle at the Pathfinder School

  • Duct tape
  • Emergency space blanket
  • Trash bag
  • Backpack cover
  • Tarp
  • Rain suit or poncho
  • Dry bag
  • Hat

These pieces of kit will melt over a fire quicker than the Wicked Witch of the West from the Wizard of Oz. But the important thing is that they hold water and you can make fire… and rocks litter the ground. Now you’re ready to boil water.

Stone Boil Method

Hot rocks from your campfire will boil water. Be sure to not use river rocks in the fire. The trapped moisture inside these stones are prone to explode when heated sending hot, sharp shrapnel flying. Use dry rocks.

Below are a few fellow YouTubers I respect demonstrating the stone boil method with improvised containers.

Hats off to IHatchetJack for this one…

Master Woodsman using a trash bag to boil water with stones…

Larry Roberts using a burn and scrape wooden container…

No-Boil Methods for Clean Water

You can’t boil water without a heat source. This fact places urgency on the need to carry at least 3 different methods to start a fire. We covered my favorite methods here.

However, even without fire, potable water is available in nature.

Water from Trees

Here are 4 trees found in the eastern woodlands that can be tapped in the same manner as our northern neighbors harvest sap for maple syrup. This hydration source is available when the sap is running in early spring.


A young Sycamore (Right) and River Birch (Left) growing near the roadside

Sap from the trees contains sugars and clean water that can be consumed without filtering or boiling. Collect the sap by boring a hole or notch about a 1/2 inch into the tree. Insert a 4 inch spigot made from a hollow stick or river cane as a conduit for the sap. Use a container underneath the spigot/spile to catch the runoff.

Use your Possum Mentality and collect any plastic water/soda bottles you come across. They can be used to collect sap without ever tapping the tree with a spigot. Darin from East Woodland Survival has an interesting technique I really like…

Water from Plants

Another great seasonal (spring, summer, and fall) source of clean water is found in wild grape vines. Sever the end of a large diameter vine near the ground over a container. It’ll start slowly dripping water into the container. Speed up the process by reaching as high as possible up the vine and cut a notch in the vine. The notch breaks the vacuum in the vine to increase the water output.

Don’t forget that your mouth is a container. Lay under the vine and drink directly from the plant. Be sure you can accurately identify grape vine from poison ivy and oak!

Rain Water

Rainy weather is a two-edged sword. It makes fire craft difficult but can provide needed emergency hydration.

With access to a tarp or rain gear, configure a “V” shape to collect rain and funnel it to a container.

John McCann of Survival Resources shows you how to do this in a homesteading situation easy enough. The same can be done in a survival scenario with sticks and ingenuity. His contraption collects and amazing amount of rain water!

A more primitive rain catchment technique is to harvest tree bark in half-pipe sections set up like a bicycle rim configuration with a collection device positioned at the axle. Tulip poplar, willow, and other non-resinous tree bark can be used.

Water Filters

Modern water filters are convenient and effective for removing parasites and bacteria but not viruses or chemical contaminants. I personally carried the Sawyer Mini on our recent backpacking trip on Eagle Rock Loop. It’s lightweight, easy to use, and effectively removes 99.9% of pathogens and is rated to clean 100,000 gallons of water.

sawyer squeeze water filter

DRG’s new squeeze! This is the larger Sawyer filter pictured.

Filters can be constructed from natural materials in the backcountry. My friend, Joshua Shuttlesworth, has a tutorial on building a Tripod Water Filter you should check out.

Remember to always assume wilderness water sources are contaminated. Drink without disinfecting water in the woods and you could pay a hefty price. Don’t trust what you read here or watch on YouTube videos. Get out and develop the skills needed to quench your thirst!

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,


P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there… 

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.


Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, Doing the Stuff, Potable Water, Preparedness, Self-reliance, Survival, Survival Skills, Water | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 26 Comments

6 Life and Survival Lessons Learned from Backpacking

by Todd Walker

6 Life and Survival Lessons Learned from Backpacking -

I flipped to “Fat Guys in the Woods” on The Weather Channel last night as DRG was reading her book. She glanced over the pages and asked…

“Is that Fat and Afraid?”

I belly laughed!

After climbing that first mountain, the name fit me.

6 Life and Survival Lessons Learned from Backpacking -

Are we there yet?

My brother’s boys and I drove eleven hours to tackle Eagle Rock Loop in the Ouchita (pronounced wosh-i-taw) National Forest in Arkansas. Our map called the mountainous section of the loop “vigorous”. Understatement of the year! Brutal was more like it for this old man.

This wasn’t a self-imposed survival adventure. We backpacked and camped with modern gear. Here’s what I took away from our journey.

Lesson #1: Fitness Matters

The only way to train for mountains with no switchbacks is to climb mountains with no switchbacks. Baseline fitness is helpful but may not be enough.

6 Life and Survival Lessons Learned from Backpacking -

Jake got the last laugh with his light pack

We parked at 4:30 P.M, strapped on packs and hit our first mountain 50 yards from the truck. Jake, the youngest of our trio, was point man. And perhaps the smartest. His pack weighed 15 pounds! He’d seen what heavy could do to soldiers patrolling mountains in Afghanistan. And his buddies were fresh out of boot camp and physical specimens.


Car camp!?

Had I reduced my pack weight by half, I still would have struggled to climb the mountains. I won’t lie. I secretly contemplated turning back halfway up and car camping. My young, strapping hiking partners were patient with their old uncle with frequent stops for me to catch my breath and cool the burn in my gluts and thighs.

6 Life and Survival Lessons Learned from Backpacking -

Kyle instigated this trip

If you subscribe to the popular bug-out-on-foot theory, have you tested your load out and physical abilities on the terrain you plan to walk?

Lesson #2: Water Matters

Bring more than one method to obtain potable water.


Water Filters: Kyle carried a Katadyn filter which he and Jake used. I used my Sawyer Mini, which weighs 2 ounces, to fill my 2 liter bladder in my backpack. A small 16 ounce Sawyer mylar bag was my backup when I sucked the hydration bladder dry. I consumed about 4 litters per day due to the strenuous activity and summer heat.


Around morning and evening campfires, I boiled water in my 64 ounce bush pot for cooking, hot cocoa, and coffee. Boiling was impractical on the move. Water filters are the way to go on rest stops.

Lesson #3: Feet Matter

When your only means of conveyance is your feet, take good care of them.

We crossed 3 mountains on our first full day of hiking. I noticed a hot spot on one of my toes going down the last mountain. Upon inspection, I had forgotten to trim my nails which turned out to be the source of the toe pain. My Swiss Army Knife scissors quickly solved the issue.

6 Life and Survival Lessons Learned from Backpacking -

River crossings were unavoidable. At low water levels, we rock hopped. A few crossings ended in wet feet. I carried three pair of wool blend socks. One for wearing, one for drying, and one as a spare.

Cooling off with my Five Fingers

Cooling off in my Five Fingers

Also consider packing a lightweight pair of camp shoes or sandals. I wore my Five Fingers around camp and for protection while exploring the rivers. Even though I run barefoot at home, I couldn’t afford a wound to my only means of wilderness transportation.

Take time to keep your feet dry, clean, and protected. Always break in new boots or shoes well ahead of your journey.

Lesson #4: Sleep Matters

“One of the hallmarks of the veteran woodsman is the way he contrives to make himself comfortable in camp”. ~ Warren H. Miller

Follow the 4 W’s of campsite selection when choosing your spot to bed down… remember to look up. We had to fell a 5 inch dead standing oak on our last campsite. It may not have caused us problems but you never know how the wind may change. It provided ample firewood for us and to the next pilgrims who find our site.

6 Life and Survival Lessons Learned from Backpacking -

All three of us prefer hammocks to tents. Hammocks not only offer comfortable bedding they also serve as a camp recliner by sitting perpendicularly like a swing.

You need good sleep hygiene to restore the body. Six to seven hours is about all I get at home. For some pleasant reason, I typically sleep a good 8 to 9 hours in the woods… barring abrupt disruptions from wild visitors.

I don’t worry too much about large animals. It’s the little critters that bug me… mosquitos and no-see-ums being the main culprit.

Use bug netting or insect repellent.

6 Life and Survival Lessons Learned from Backpacking -

All Natural BugShot

I’ve just discovered a natural bug repellent called All Natural BugShot that kept the biting insects and ticks away. If you’re not crazy about applying DEET based repellents to your skin (or melting your plastic gear), check BugShot out. I shared my thoughts in a short video review on our trip. I recommend it!

Lesson #5: Bears and Bacon Matter

I was flip-flopping about whether to bring the dry cured bacon into bear country.

On this special trip with my brother’s sons, I went with bacon. One and a half pounds in fact. That amount gave us 2 thick strips each morning to get our day started. We also cooked a dozen dehydrated eggs in bacon grease over two days. We were smoothing it over the campfire kitchen!


We never sighted actual bears but did walk over scat on the trails. Carry bear spray.

Here are a few bear precautions to take. I found this research site, North American Bear Center, interesting and informative in addressing commonly held myths about bear-human encounters.

A bear’s sense of smell is over 2,000 times better than humans. Knowing this, take precautions and practice good camp hygiene. Place all food and cooking utensils in a bear bag and hang it at least 10 feet off the ground and 4 feet from the nearest tree trunk.

My bear bag system contains the following:

  •  30 liter dry bag, 50 feet of paracord
  • One carabiner
  • Finger size stick off the ground

All food and cookware go inside the sealed bag and is hung 100 yards down wind from camp. I use the PCT (Pacific Coast Trail) method to hang the bag. I’ll show you this trick in a later blog.

I know this about my body but I over packed food anyway. When hot from physical exertion, I don’t eat much. We stopped for lunch breaks but never ate a meal just a few snacks of dried fruit or trail mix. And very little of that. Our largest meals were in the evening after cooling off.

Lesson #6: Family Matters

Though I’ve known Kyle and Jake since their birth, I never had the chance to connect with them as I did on this wilderness adventure. We connected by being disconnected.


Kyle made slate name tags for us

We lost all communication with the outside world miles before we reached the trailhead. No phone calls, texts, social media stuff, or blog reports. And not one among us frowned.


Welcome to Camp Walker!

We embraced being off-line and soaked in all nature could offer. We ate snake pan-fried in coconut oil, dined on homemade bacon, told campfire stories, laid still watching moon beams pour through leaves overhead, dried our wet bodies on rocky sandbars warmed by campfires, found the richness of life in our adventure, and confronted our fears and fatigue to discover how little it takes to make us happy.

6 Life and Survival Lessons Learned from Backpacking -

Going primal, gig in mouth, in search of bullfrogs

That, my friends, was the most valuable lesson of all!

Get out there, and, as always…

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,


P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network. P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there… 

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, Doing the Stuff, Potable Water, Preparedness, Self-reliance, Water | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Sawyer Water Filter: Dirt Road Girl’s New Squeeze

by Todd Walker

A coffee shop and the Army Surplus Store were my two favorite hangouts while Dirt Road Girl was hospitalized during her battle with cancer last year. When I got a break, I’d walk a block, grab a cup of joe, cross the street, and browse cool man stuff.

Last week DRG and I visited the surplus store again. On the door was a 8 1/2 x 11 inch sign stating, “ATTENTION PREPPERS – WE HAVE SAWYER SQUEEZE WATER FILTERS IN STOCK!”


DRG needed a portable water filter for her 72 Hour Bag. I carry a MSR water filter in my bag. But what if we had to split up. Or she had to get out of dodge own her on? She needed her own filter that was simple to use and lightweight.

I love my MSR MiniWorks EX. It’s easy to clean in the field with no tools, attaches to my MSR Dromedary Bag, and removes bacteria and protozoa including giardia and cryptosporidia. The only drawback is it’s weight – about a pound with the accessories.

Pound, smound! One pound doesn’t seem like much, but I wanted to make DRG’s bag as light and efficient as possible. Every ounce she shaves off saves energy.

We picked up a Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter. It weighs 3 ounces.

sawyer squeeze water filter

DRG’s new squeeze!

With my yellow jacket stings shrinking, I set to the woods to do some testing. The weight, box and all its contents, was hardly noticeable in my test bag. I brought along my new Pathfinder cook set. A separate review is coming on this bad boy, I promise!

For three ounces, this is what you get:

  • The filter ~ Hollow-fiber membrane with a pore size of 0.1. The MSR pore size is 0.2. Both are effective for filtering out parasites and bacteria.
  • Three mylar squeeze bags ~ 16 fl. oz.: 9 x 5 / 32 fl. oz.: 11 x 6 / 64 fl. oz.: 12 x 8 inches
  • A 60 cc syringe to back flush the filter (with clean water) to maintain proper flow as needed. You could also use this item to flush wounds in the field and other redundant uses.
Only three ounces dry.

Only three ounces dry.

Out of the Box Simplicity

There’s no breaking in this filter or big learning curve. Just fill one of the mylar bags with ‘dirty’ water from a creek or pond, screw on the filter to the bag, and start drinking. I filled the 64 oz. bag and filtered the water into my 32 oz. Pathfinder bottle in under a minute.

One hand squeezing, one hand holding the camera.

One hand squeezing, one hand holding the camera.

It’s important to wipe excess unfiltered water from the bag before transferring to your clean container. Drops of unfiltered water containing bacteria, protozoa, and cysts could cross-contaminate what you think is safe drinking water.

The filter comes with a pop-up spout found on some water bottles. This allows you to drink directly from the filter with a mylar bag of unfiltered water attached. Or you can squeeze water into a clean mylar bag or container for later use. The filter will also fit standard treads of water/soda bottles. I tried a cheapo brand water bottle and the male treads would not tighten in the filter. ‘Standard’ threads do fit.

Keep in mind that this filter, like all other filters on the market, will not remove viruses. Have a way to treat viruses via chemicals or boiling. Don’t roll the dice with water. Keep chemical treatments and fire in your kits.


This little Sawyer is rated (guaranteed) for 1,000,000 gallons. That’s not a typo. One Million! I have no way of ever testing to see if they are right. I don’t think DRG will ever get close to that number. It would take a lot of Platypus bottles to equal a million gallons. No way we will ever squeeze that much water. It may become a family heirloom.

I’ve seen videos of the Sawyer used at home to filter water from a 5 gallon bucket. I like this guy’s gravity inline filter set up:

<iframe width=”640″ height=”360″ src=”; frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen>

You can’t live long without water. Whether you’re an ultralight backpacker, prepper, or outdoor enthusiast, you’ll want to have a safe, effective way to create potable water. The Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter is a great way to do that.

Before storing your filter after use, back flush the filter with a diluted bleach water mx from the included syringe. This will help dislodge any clogs and clean up any nasties left from dirty water. Shake all the excess water you can from the filter. You can even blow through clean end to help this process.

Enjoying a cup of wild ginger tea with DRG's new squeeze!

Enjoying a cup of wild ginger tea from DRG’s new squeeze!

I would recommend this lightweight, simple-to-use water filtering system. For under $50.00, you can add one to all you kits. I’m buying one for my get home bag. I may add one as a back up to my MRS filter in my B.O.B.

Stay hydrated, my friends!

Anyone have a new squeeze and want to share tips and experiences? Please leave comments if you do.

Keep doing the stuff,



Be a SmartPrepper and follow us here on our blog, Twitter, and Pinterest. We’d also appreciate a ‘like’, comments, and shares on our new Facebook page. Any information on this site may be shared freely, in part or whole, with a link back to this site crediting the author. Thanks for sharing the stuff!


Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, Gear, Preparedness, Self-reliance, Survival, Water | Tags: , , , | 14 Comments

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: