cumbrian river provides valuable water

Test your metal

What do you truly need to survive? Have a think about it for a minute……

So what did you come up with? A knife? A Ray Mears? I’d certainly take a Ray!

I can make lots of things from natural materials. String, shelter, cutting tools, medical items, food, snares and even fishing hooks. However, there is one item I can in no way recreate and that is a metal container.

Humans can survive for three days without water, however, after 24 hours it becomes challenging to operate, especially in an arduous survival scenario. You will soon become faint and make poor decisions that may well lead to further complications and inevitably you will die. You may also perish if you drink contaminated water.

Water is an essential consideration. Another essential consideration is whether that water is “clean” and free from contaminants.

The subject of filtering and purifying water is beyond the scope of this blog and may be covered in future. However, let’s identify the basics.

Water has five possible contaminants

We shall briefly identify them below.

  • Particulates – These are basically the little bits of debris that we can see. To remove these, we need a filter. Something as simple as a Millbank bag or at a push a cotton bandana will do nicely.
  • Chemicals This takes little explanation and is certainly a consideration when I am in arable farmland or near industrial sites. Generally, not something to concern us with when in a wilderness setting, well let’s hope not!
  • Bacteria This is certainly a risk and includes some nasties, Legionella and E Coli to name a few.
  • Viruses – These are the smallest and the deadliest, Poliovirus and echoviruses for example.               
  • Protozoa – Think cryptosporidium and Giardia.

So, there you have the five contaminates we face when processing water with the aim of making it potable.

Potable water

We have many modern methods including:

remove most things with 0.1 micron being a general industry standard. They are easy and reliable, however, it is important to understand the limitations of the filter you are using, they are not all equal.

UV light from devices such as steripens will eliminate 99.9% of bacteria, viruses and protozoa but will not deal with chemicals and particulates.

Boiling, which, as we know, will kill all, but will not deal with chemicals and particulates.

All of the above, with the exception of boiling, are a finite resource. Meaning that eventually your filter or UV pen will come to the end of its usable life.

They are also relatively fragile and do not respond well to very cold environments.

You must NEVER allow your filters to freeze, this will damage the filter and render it useless. I sleep with my filters inside my sleeping bag in cold weather to prevent this.

I like this simplicity and reliability. It works all the time, every time and is fool proof.

Best kit for the job?

So do we carry a big old saucepan every time we head outdoors? Well of course not. However, it is easy to swap out your plastic water bottle for a metal one.

“But they weigh a tonne”! Well not really.

Stainless steel – is heavy, but it is also almost indestructible. Which for me, is a good thing. I am a bit “rough” on my gear.

Aluminium – is very light, and relatively cheap. For limited use it is fine, unfortunately we would not recommend long term exposure to it and it is also very soft and soon deforms and dents.

Titanium – The god of metal! A bit dramatic, but for folk who put things on their backs and walk with them weight is everything. Titanium is very strong and very light. Unfortunately, it can also be cost prohibitive for some.

So, in conclusion, having the ability to cook and boil water is paramount. Anyone who does not carry a metal container into a wilderness setting has a screw loose!

It sits in the top five key items for me and my ability to survive and thrive.

learn more about water purification on the following course: