SURVIVAL: How to make and carry a survival hydration system


  • By: Leon Pantenburg
  • Posted on: March 16th, 2014 

What do you need to stay hydrated? There isn’t a do-it-all, indispensable water filtration/purification system, as far as I’m concerned. But here is how to put together an integrated survival water system that may work for you.

Start with where you anticipate being. Water will be harder to find in arid areas, but standing water in a swamp may be harder to purify than what you find  in a desert spring.

A sport bottle with filter may be the best, quickest way to purify water for drinking.

Here’s what I’ve come up with, and this system may cover all your bases.

  • For quick conversion of questionable water into something safe to drink, a sport bottle with a built-in filter is superb. Typically, these hold about a liter, and all you do is fill it with the questionable water and suck on the straw. With some water treatments, you frequently must wait a period of time while the chemicals work. If you or a child is dehydrated, he/she needs water ASAP. There is instant gratification with a good sport bottle.
  • If you’re traveling along a creek, near a lake or along some other dependable water source, a sport bottle works great. Replenish the bottle as necessary, and reduce the water weight.
  • There are no chemicals involved in a good sport bottle system, so ingesting iodine, chlorine bleach or other additives shouldn’t be a concern.
  • The bad news is that any bottle or bladder system can be affected by freezing.

The Rest of the Integrated Survival Water System

No single item can guarantee that you will be able to purify water for drinking. (I’m not sure anything can purify some of the vile liquid that remains standing after a flood or tsunami!)

This Nalgene rigid water bottle and platypus soft water bottles are part of an integrated water system for backpacking, hunting or other wilderness travel.

This combination of water bottles works well. The rigid Nalgene in the middle is used for drinking and storage and the Paltypus soft bottle are used to store extra water in the pack.

Here’s what I carry as part of my water purification system, and so far, everything has served me well. (Many of these items are multi-use):

Polar Pure or Potable Agua: These are chemical purifiers, and require a certain time period for them to work. I used the Polar Pure system exclusively on a nine-day canoe trip in Minnesota’s Boundary Waters and the system worked really well.  Potable Agua comes in capsules and is easy to carry and use. Either Polar Pure of Potable Aqua goes on every outing.

  • Platypus flexible water containers. These collapsible water containers are available in various sizes as water storage units and they roll up into a small, lightweight pack when empty. I generally carry two or three extras in my daypack, since they weigh next to nothing and don’t take up much space.
  • Nalgene bottle: I like the wide-mouth, and modify mine with a paracord loop and duct tape. The loop is designed so the bottle can be carried on my belt, or tied to a cord to lower into a stock tank, depression or water source that is hard to get to. Don’t think you can just tie something onto the lid retainer – chances are it will break at some point, and as these things go, probably when you need it the most.
  • Tin cup for dipping water out of hard-to-reach places and/or boiling: Tin cups are great!
    You can use them for a multitude of tasks, including boiling water. Boiling water is probably the safest, most effective method of water purification available, providing you have a heat source.
  • Six-foot piece of aquarium tubing: I got this tip from survival expert Peter Kummerfeldt. Peter recommends including the tubing in case you find water in a crack or crevice and can’t get to it. Just stick the tube in the water and suck it out.
  • Coffee filter and bandanna: If you can filter the mud and debris out of the water, it will make any filter last that A high desert spring at Smith Rock State Park is a water source in an otherwise arid area.
  • Large garbage bag: Another multi-use item. Use this to catch rain, or as a reservoir for holding water. I wouldn’t waste my time or the materials to make a solar still. My experience is that solar stills don’t work well enough to justify construction.
  • Water filter: Some lightweight method of filtering and purifying water can be incredibly useful.


p>All these tools are not going to help you if you can’t find water in the first place. So before you go anywhere, check the topo map, see where there might be water, and plan your trip accordingly.

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Updated: March 25, 2014 — 6:47 pm

The Author


Leon Pantenburg is a wilderness enthusiast, who doesn’t claim expertise as a survivalist. As a newpaperman for three decades, covering search and rescue, sheriff’s departments and outdoor emergencies, Leon learned many people died unnecessarily or escaped miraculously from outdoor emergency situations when simple, common sense may have changed the outcome. Leon now teaches common sense survival techniques to the average person in order to avert potential disasters.

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