Compact Water Purification For The Bug Out Bag


Most people immediately think of filtration systems when considering water purification methods in a survival situation.

There are many excellent filter systems on the market today that will do the job and are popular in the survival and prepping community. While I own and have used various filters myself, when packing for a long wilderness excursion or preparing a compact bug-out or everyday carry bag for emergencies, I want something smaller, lighter weight and absolutely dependable for short or long-term use.

While there are some compact drinking straw filters that fit the small and light weight criteria, they are not so convenient for everyday use and, like all filters, have a limited life before they must be replaced.

The purification system I have come to rely on in this role is Polar Pure Water Disinfectant. Unlike filter systems, Polar Pure is a chemical water treatment that uses iodine crystals trapped in a specially designed small glass bottle.

Other compact chemical treatment systems in the form of tablets work in much the same way, but are only good for one use. Because the iodine in a bottle of Polar Pure remains trapped in the bottle, a single bottle can last for years in storage or with intermittent use and can treat up to 2,000 quarts of water. 

The bottle is small enough to fit in a pocket, and while it is made of glass, I’ve never broken one in over 20 years of use in every kind of wilderness environment. It typically sells for less than $15 per bottle at online retail sites.

Using Polar Pure is simple. You fill the bottle with water from any source available, shake it well and let it sit for an hour. This creates a saturated iodine solution in the bottle that is then measured using the bottle cap for addition into your drinking water container. I typically use 1-quart Nalgene bottles for my drinking water, and these make great containers for Polar Pure treatment. The amount of solution and the time you have to wait before drinking after adding it is determined by the water temperature. A thermometer is built-in to the side of the Polar Pure bottle.

Polar Pure has worked for me on countless wilderness trips of a few days to months in duration. I’ve used it to purify drinking water from clear mountain streams to muddy Deep South swamp water and even pathogen-infested jungle rivers of tropical Latin America without once getting ill from bad water.

For the cost and tiny amount of space it will take up in your gear, Polar Pure is well worth considering as a backup, even if you do prefer a filter for your primary water purification system. For more information, visit the Polar Pure site at:

 –Scott B. Williams

Personal Liberty

Scott B. Williams

has been exploring wild places and seeking adventure on both land and sea for most of his life. He has written about his experiences in several books, including On Island Time: Kayaking the Caribbean, and is the author of the survival books Bug Out: The Complete Plan for Escaping a Catastrophic Disaster Before It's Too Late, and the recently released Getting Out Alive: 13 Deadly Scenarios and How Others Survived. More of his thoughts on survival topics can be found on his blog: Bug Out Survival.

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