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Making an Inexpensive Water Filter for Wilderness Camping

Updated on April 20, 2015

When wilderness camping, hiking and canoeing for more than a day it is not practical to carry enough drinkable water to meet your needs. Often it is necessary to obtain drinking water from a lake, river pond or any available source of water. All water that you drink unless it is rainwater, melted snow or dew must be purified to rid it of dangerous bacteria and micro organisms like giardia. This must be done by either boiling or filtering the water.

Several filters are available that make the job of obtaining purified drinking water fairly simple. Most are pump type of filters such as the Katadyn Hiker. Katadyn also makes a gravity fed filter (Katadyn Base Camp) which makes the chore very simple. Just fill the bag and hang it from a tree letting it drip into you water container while you do other things that may be a little more fun than pumping water. The the base camp filter can cost from about $70 to $100 depending on the retailer. A pump filter such as the Hiker can cost about the same. Some pumping systems are even more.

You can make your own filter system for less than $25. These are the parts you need.

Old plastic water bottle

4ft. 3/8” OD – ¼” ID vinyl tubing $2.00

Sawyer water filter $17.50

3/8 in. x 1/4 in. Brass Barb x MIP Adapter 2.80

T shirt cloth

Paint ball O-ring

The first step is to drill a hole in the cap of the water bottle to accept the brass MIP adapter fitting. I used a 1/2" Forstner bit to get I nice clean hole. I then screwed the adapter into the hole.

I cut about a 2" diameter piece of cloth from an old T-shirt and using the O-ring fit it over the brass adapter on the inside of the water bottle lid. This will keep any large debris from clogging the output.

To connect the filter to the brass adapter and for the output line from the filter I used vinyl tubing. Finally I duck taped a piece of para cord to the bottle for a way to hang it.

You could use a larger water bottle if you need to filter more water in one batch, but I think for my own personal use this one liter bottle should be sufficient. If I need more I'll filter another batch. In order for the water to flow the lid on the bottle needs to be loosened so that air can enter to replace the water flowing out, otherwise it will vacuum lock and now water will flow. You could drill a small hole in the bottom of the bottle, and plug it with a make-shift removable stopper. I also add a small paper clip to hole the output line to the pure water container. The filter, tubing and the clip go inside of the water bottle for transport.


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    • jimmar profile image

      jimmar 2 years ago from Michigan

      I used it on my recent solo kayak trip in Ontario, Canada. I ended up boring a tiny hole in the top allow the water to flow without creating a vacuum lock. I also removed the cloth filter as it became clogged and slowed the flow.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 2 years ago from Oklahoma

      Very cool idea.

    • profile image

      DebMartin 3 years ago

      Good to know.