Water Treatment & Containment
You need to provide 1 gallon of water (3.7 liters) per person per day for you and your family if you don't have access to clean water or a faucet.
A half gallon (2 liters) is what you need for drinking each day - in warm weather or during periods of high stress or activity that amount could double. So understanding proper water treatment for drinking is super important!
What's left is for hygiene, which is critical for maintaining health and comfort. Don't skimp! You will need to wash your hands frequently especially if suddenly exposed to large groups of people in over-crowded situations.
A gallon of water weighs 8.3 pounds. A 3-day supply will weigh 25 pounds. That's probably already the total weight of your Bug But Bag! So carrying a 3 day supply may just not be possible.
Especially true if you are bugging-out on foot. If you have use of a vehicle then you have more options: water bottles, 5-gallon buckets, etc.
For weekend road-trips we bring our own water along and we use stainless steel Fusti 5 liter (3.9 gal) containers with spigots. These come in all sizes and are really useful.
We also have a 50 liter for two weeks supply of water for two, or in case overly thirsty in-laws stop over.
Understanding the Risks
So you need to find water - can you just mosey up to the nearest pond or lake or pool and start drinking? As delicious as that sounds, no, you can't, not unless you like to get sick.
There are all manner of things you need to be careful of when going for unknown water: bacteria, viruses, and chemicals. We have an article about that here which is required reading and the US CDC page here gives you more info.
It's easy to become a little crazy about the whole thing, but the bottom line is you should have a way to purify enough water to get you through a week or more.
The good news is you have several different options. Having more than one option is a very good thing...so keep that in mind while reading the list below.
Bacteria, Viruses, & Chemicals
Water can be treated at home should the need arise by using bleach, iodine, boiling, or swimming pool shock. The US Center for Disease Control has an excellent page about home treatment. Go ahead and look at that page now, and share it with as many people as you can. It's incredibly important information.
The only way to be completely sure your water is safe from bacteria and viruses is to boil it. Once the water has reached boiling temperature you have raised it enough to destroy them. However, this may not protect you from potential chemical contamination.
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Typical Price: $250 - $360
Water is so critically important. If you take anything from us, or take any recommendations from us, it's this - please get a Berkey filter for yourself and your family.
It can filter nearly any contaminant conceivable out of dirty water. We use ours every single day, and have for the last 6 years.
Please read our full Berkey Filter review and walk-thru, this is a critical component you need to have prepared.
Portable Water Filters
Typical Price: $187
Go Berkey Kits can take raw-untreated water from almost any source and purify it, removing bacteria, viruses, and chemicals. It uses a ceramic element in a gravity fed system to do the trick in the GO, or you can use suction with the smaller filter in the SPORT (or get the Sport by itself).
The only downside to the GO is it's size, it isn't really packable. It takes about 45 minutes to purify a gallon.
See our article about Berkey filters, and we we think they rule!
Typical Price: $16
This system is top-notch. Only weighs 2 oz! Filters up to 10,000 gallons (the secret is it's back washing system) with a 0.1 micron filter. That covers you for bacteria and viruses.
See our full Sawyer Mini review here.
Typical Price: $20
Probably the most popular of all portable water filters out there, and for good reason. Protects against 99.999999% of bacteria (including E.coli, Salmonella), 99.999% of parasites (including Giardia and Cryptosporidium), 99.999% of microplastics, dirt, sand and cloudiness.
Long-lasting membrane microfilter will last up to 1,000 gallons (4,000 L) of water, that’s enough drinking water for an individual for over 5 years!
Typical Price: $70
This is the virtual kitchen sink of water filters! It fits in virtually any backpack pocket and provides global protection from waterborne pathogens (VIRUS, bacteria, protozoan cysts), pesticides, chemicals, heavy metals and microplastics.
Fill with dirty water, then french press the filter down and drink the good. As powerful as it is easy to use.
Typical Price: $45
The BeFree integrated 0.1 micron filter removes harmful organisms like bacteria and protozoa like Giardia & Cryptosporidium. Filters up to 1,000 liters of contaminated water without using chemicals or other devices.
This is super easy to use, fill with dirty water and drink (try to pre-filter some of the heavy stuff our if you can.) Easy to clean by simply shaking or swishing the filter to clean debris, no backflushing or extra tools required. 100% PVC and BPA free.
Typical Price: $22
A the Hydroblu versa flow water filter can attached to a plastic water bottle, used inline with a hydration pack, used as part of a gravity system or bucket filter, or can be used as a straw to directly from a suspect water source.
See our full Hydroblu Versa Flow Filter review here.
Typical Price: $90
The MiniWorks use the Marathon EX carbon/ceramic element to ensure clean, reliable and taste-free water. Thanks to its innovative AirSpring Accumulator, it’s capable of pumping one liter per minute and the flow rate can be renewed easily and repeatedly in the field—no tools required. Removes of (99.9999%) of bacteria and protozoa (99.9%) from beginning to end of filter life in “worst-case” water.
Typical Price: $7
If boiling is not possible, treat water with chemicals. Try to filter sediment by using a coffee filter, t-shirt, or whatever you can to make it as clear as possible. Each Potable Aqua tablet contains 20 mg of Tetraglycine Hydroperiodide, which liberates 8 mg of titratable iodine when used. In 30 minutes the iodine will make the water safe to drink.
You have a million options when it comes to carrying water, but once you really consider some of the conditions you may face in a bug out situation, your options shrink pretty fast.
Remember, you need to be able to boil your water to truly ensure it is bacteria and virus free (if possible.)
Therefore we feel you must have at least one stainless steel container 32oz or larger. (Keep in mind that this would mean boiling water 4 times a day to meet your 1 gallon drinking needs.) Don't go too much larger though as weight could be an issue.
Typical Price: $20 and up
We use these everyday and they come everywhere we go since we gave up bottled water. You can boil water in these to purify it. You can store water in your trunk for months (beware of freezing temps.) Fill them up from your Berkey. They pay for themselves within weeks.
Check out our full Klean Kanteen review here.
Typical Price: $2.50
This is a 64 ounce container with a removable threaded 28 mm mouth piece, which is the same size as your standard water bottle, meaning you can attach a Hydroblu or Sawyer filter directly to the bag if you wish.
Having a backup water container that you can fold down and fill when needed is a smart idea, you might need water for washing or other reasons beyond drinking.
Typical Price: $50
One of the most trusted brands in water bladders. Step-up model from the originals, extra durable. Different sizes available.
Can be used with an in-line water-filter for quick collection. Holds nearly an entire days supply of drinking water. Fill up before leaving home if you can, it will be heavy at first, but you'll have at least 24 hours to find more.
Typical Price: $119
Store water long-term without plastics (less durable, can leach chemicals) and do as the Italians and use a Fusti stainless steel continaer. Traditionally used to store wine, milk, and olive oil: they can keep water fresh and uncontaminated for months or more.
Typical Price: $35
A cheap way to store 100 gallons of water is the waterBOB storage bag + pump system. It sits in your bathtub when full. Best to fill before a big storm hits that could flood or break water lines or wells. Can be reused if sterilized after each use with bleach. BPA Free.