My Water Procurement Kit

As I mentioned in my article on how to pack a ruck, water is one of the 4 basic needs for survival in the field. However, water is heavy, and if you are going to be in the field for several days it is not desirable to carry all of the water that you will drink. Don’t get me wrong, it’s certainly possible, but if you’re carrying 50 pounds of water in addition to 40 or so pounds of your other gear, you will get fatigued very quickly. For this reason it is important to have the tools and skills necessary to disinfect water in the field. There are many ways to do this, and this video is an excellent primer on a few of these methods. Today, I will show you what I have in my water procurement kit and how I use it in the field.

Contents

My kit consists of a clean cotton rag, 1-liter nalgene, Sawyer Mini filter, Steripen Ultra UV Purifier, and a makeshift funnel that I made using some duct tape.

  • Clean cotton rag: I use this to strain the water that I put into my nalgene. It doesn’t stop microscopic particles, but it will catch bigger stuff like bits of dirt and sand. This extends the life of my filter a little bit.
  • 1-liter Nalgene: Used to collect water. I use my nalgene instead of canteens for this because 1) the neck is bigger, taking less time to fill, and 2) it is transparent, and I can see how clear the water is (or isn’t) to determine if I need to filter it. I also use the nalgene to store all of the rest of the items in my water kit.
  • Sawyer Mini filter: I’m aware that there are larger, better filters out there. I still prefer the Sawyer mini because it is small and compact, and also because it is reusable almost indefinitely. One thing I strive for with my kit is a minimized logistics footprint. If a filter takes disposable cartridges, that is one more thing that I need to pack or stock up on to keep it working. With the Sawyer, I can backwash the filter to clean it once it starts to get clogged. Since it is good for 100,000 gallons of water (more than I will drink in my lifetime), this means that it has virtually zero logistical requirements unless I break it. And while I have the included water pouch pictured here, I can also use normal disposable water bottles that have the same thread pitch. It’s also only $20, so there’s that.
  • Steripen Ultra: This is an ultraviolet (UV) purifier. It works by emitting UV light for a set amount of time to kill virtually all bacteria, protozoa, and viruses, which cannot be caught by a filter. I love this purifier because, again, it is logistically simple. It has an internal battery that can be recharged via an included USB cable. It has enough battery power to last me a week or two in the field without needing a charge. And if I will be in the field longer than that, I will have solar panels with me that I can use to recharge it along with my other batteries. In my opinion this is superior to iodine tablets because they are consumable items, and it’s far more discrete than boiling because I don’t need to build a fire or carry a stove.
  • Funnel: I made this funnel out of duct tape, I use it to pour water into my canteens. I use a duct tape funnel instead of a store-bought one because I can fold it flat for compact storage.

My Water Procurement Process

Bodies of water are exposed areas, tactically speaking. Because people tend to live close to bodies of water there is a serious risk of compromise near them. For this reason, you don’t want to hang out near your water source longer than is necessary. Additionally, the more people filling up water, the higher the chance of compromise. Patrols larger than a fire team should send a 2-4 man watering party (at least 1 on security while the others fill the containers) to fill everyone’s canteens, then bring them back to be purified in the patrol base.

I have two 2-qt canteens designated as my “dirty” containers. I hand these off to the watering party to fill in the stream/swamp/lake. They are marked with black tape to keep them distinguished from my “clean” canteens.

Note the black tape around the neck. Never drink out of your “dirty” canteens, and never collect dirty water in your “clean” canteens.

Back in the patrol base, I get to work. I pour dirty water into the Sawyer Mini’s water pouch until it is full, straining it through the cotton rag. Then I screw the Sawyer Mini onto the pouch and squeeze the water through the filter into the Nalgene. I repeat this process until the Nalgene is filled to the 1L line. I now have 1 liter of filtered water.

The next step is to purify the water. I turn on my Steripen Ultra, insert it into the nalgene, and stir it around. The Steripen detects the water and automatically starts a 90 second countdown timer. When the time is up a smiley face appears on the display to let me know the water is now safe to drink.

Finally, I use the funnel to pour the clean water into my “clean” canteens. I repeat the process until all the water has been filtered, purified, and poured into my canteens and camelback. I stow the components back into the Nalgene and replace it into my buttpack. The “dirty” canteens get compressed and shoved back into my ruck.

Summary

This has been an overview of my water procurement kit. Bear in mind that this is simply one solution to a problem that has many possible answers. Consider also that this system works for my specific area (coastal NC forests and swamps), and that different areas may require different methods of water procurement. Do your own research and your own experiments to find what works for you and your operating environment. Feel free to share your solutions in the comments below!

Because this is such an important part of sustaining yourself in the field, I will have you filter/purify your own water during the Jäger Course. We will be covering a couple different methods using common off-the-shelf options, and you will put in enough reps that you become confident.

To quote Camelbak’s slogan; “Hydrate or die!”

Published by vonsteubentraining

Mike is the owner and chief instructor of Von Steuben Training & Consulting (VSTAC). A self-described “Tactical Scholar,” he spent 6 years in the Marine Corps as a radio operator and small-unit tactics instructor. He has dedicated his life to honing the tactical prowess of himself and his fellow patriots, guided by the wisdom of his commanding officer, Jesus Christ. He can be contacted via email at vonsteubentraining@protonmail.com

11 thoughts on “My Water Procurement Kit

  1. Hi,
    I would substitute the Nalgene bottle with a stainless steel variety, gives you the option of boiling water over a fire as well in the event of loss of filter or no power for the Steripen. Yes, the transparent bottle is nice but the inside of a metal container with adequate illumination reveals whats in the water just as easily. You can also add a bottle hanger into the mix for suspension over a fire, they cost about $3 and weigh almost nothing. Like the idea of packaging everything into the bottle until of course you are using it. Nice article, practical and informative. Thanks.

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  2. Thank you for your article! Always worth the time to read. Your wife needs to write something again, always enjoyed her articles as well.

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  3. A friend was NavyEOD attached to a SEAL team, during training a SEAL decided the mountain water “looked good” and didn’t use his SteriPen, was so thirsty he didn’t want to wait the 90 seconds. Sick within 24hrs, immobilized after 48 and had to be hospitalized. Food for thought, but water is life and dirty water is death. Great write up brother, your methods are different than mine but I’m willing to use them and they make sense.

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      1. You’re welcome! I use the GraylGeopress and carry a stainless canteen. If space is available I’ll carry a SawyerMini as a back-up. You made a good point though, the Grayl has a smaller filter life and can’t be back-flushed. The stainless/fire is no good if in a non permissive environment (but I’ll try to cheat it with a small alcohol stove or Dakota fire pit). I just like the Grayl for speed and being able to filter/store in one container, or pour into the stainless and refill in the Grayl to carry two liters. But I’m in FL and water is everywhere, so I haven’t had the chance to try your camelbacks/nalgene/2qt canteens. I think you have a great system and I’d definitely use it though.

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  4. Great article, thanks for sharing your system!

    I usually just read instead of commenting, but I wanted to share this video about UV filters. Really this whole series of videos is great:

    He goes really in depth on the science, but tl;dr:

    UV purifiers are less effective the more cloudy the water is. Even slightly cloudy water cuts the effectiveness in half and does not kill enough virus to be safe. (the Sawyer has the Bacteria covered).

    Easy solution, if its a little cloudy, run it twice. If it’s really murky, run it three times. Always with lots of agitation.

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  5. Nice one Mike, that’s a solid setup and you have put a lot of time and thought into developing it. I see a lot of people out there in Gear World dissing the Sawyer Mini, but as you say compared to a Katadyn Vario or even a Grayl Geopress, the Sawyer is user-serviceable, and there’s no logistical concerns re spare filters and service kits. Don’t get me wrong, I own and routinely use both the Vario and the Grayl filter bottle recreationally, but my serious field kit contains a Sawyer kit (Sawyer Squeeze Micro in my case these days – filter, backwash syringe, drinking straw, 2 x 1liter pouches), a canvas Millbank coarse filter bag and water purification tabs and has done for years. I heartily dislike using the Sawyer pouches, but I use them anyway – the next best option is a store-bought water bottle which is too noisy in the field, or a soda bottle, which takes more effort than the Sawyer pouches. How have you found the Steripen in the field? I had one a while back but I carried it for years and it didn’t get much use so I sold it.

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    1. Thanks! The Steripen has been holding up fine since I got it about 6 months ago. I have used it alone to sustain me for a week in the field when I had access to a clear stream. I’ll continue testing it but it’s holding up very well so far.

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