Survival Basic #1: Water

Yes, everyone knows they need water to survive, but aside from getting it from the tap or a mass-produced bottled water, many people don’t know the first thing about how to get clean water in the wild.

In any zombie-survival scenario, securing clean water is a key need that must be addressed early and frequently. In a Phase 1 zombie outbreak, you’ll probably be just fine drinking water from your tap as the situation develops. But as society breaks down, even that tap water might not be safe to drink without processing. Microorganisms and particulates can make you ill in a matter of minutes, and dehydration from diarrhea caused by water-borne illness is the leading cause of death after a large-scale natural disaster.

As part of my path to prepare for the Zombie Apocalypse, I’ve decided to study up on methods to purify water in order to find a solution suitable for my family. What follows are some of the key points I’ve learned and my thoughts of the benefits and drawbacks of each water purification method.

Boiling water – Almost everyone knows that boiling water will kill most nasty microorganisms. Simply strain the water through cloth to remove large particulates, like algae, and then heat the water until it reaches a full, rolling boil, and you’ll be able to use it for basic drinking needs.

  • Pros: Simple to perform, kills heat-sensitive microorganisms, suitable for larger-scale water cleaning in camp or at home
  • Cons: Time-consuming, requires the time and capability to build a fire (a convenience you won’t always have if you are on the run from a horde of the undead), requires equipment suitable for high-heat such as a pan (although I did find this article which explains how to boil water in an everyday plastic water bottle, a neat skill for unexpected survival situations).

Iodine – Iodine tablets or crystals provide a safe method to kill even the nastiest microorganisms causing waterborne illnesses. Simply add tablets or crystals to the water in the quantity specified by the instructions, and in about 30 minutes the water will be safe to drink.

  • Pros: Low-cost, long shelf-life, compact and easy to transport
  • Cons: Many people complain of a bad taste from water treated with iodine
  • Example product: Potable Aqua Water Treatment Tablets

Chlorine – Much like iodine, chlorine provides an effective method to clean water. You can use simple household bleach (2 drops per quart of clear water is the standard) or tablets or crystals that provide a more portable solution.

  • Pros: Provides a better tasting water compared to Iodine, low-cost (from household bleach), tablets and crystals are very portable
  • Cons: household bleach has a shelf-life about 6 months and is not very portable, whereas the more portable tablets and crystals have a long shelf life but a high cost-per-dose compared to other solutions.
  • Example product: Katadyn Micropur MP1 Purification Tablets

Water filters – There is quite a large market for outdoor pump water filters, especially appealing to backpackers for their ability to quickly produce clean water. The filters typically are made of up a plastic housing, replaceable carbon filter, a plastic tube which is submerged in water and may have a pre-filter to remove large particulates, and a pump or crank to move water through the filter.

  • Pros: Provide a very fast method to produce clean water, designed to be portable, trail proven by backpackers who put these devices to use, can treat large volumes of water if spare filters are available
  • Cons: Generally a high up-front cost (though the cost per quart is lower than most other methods), mechanical in nature so more likely to break down than previously mentioned methods, require replacement filters
  • Example product: Katadyn Vario Multi Flow Water Microfilter

UV light water purifiers – The newcomer to water purification, UV light filters kill microorganisms by submerging the light source in water for about a minute, and the bottle will be safe to drink. Business travelers are using this method now to avoid common illnesses caused by drinking tap water in other cities and countries.

  • Pros: Destroys or disables 99.9% of all waterborne microorganisms, portable and fast
  • Cons: Many UV purifiers are electronic and thus more likely to break, usually requires a power source like batteries (although some are manually or solar-powered)
  • Example product: <SteriPen AdventurerOpti Water Purifier


If you’re like me, you want redundancy in your zombie survival kit. To me, this means combining two methods, like using a water filter as your primary method, and iodine tablets as a backup method. I think I’ll also outfit my wife’s kit with a second filter and tablets. Boiling water is the most effective fall-back method, and should be used in addition to other methods for maximum protection when time allows.

Best option: SteriPen Sidewinder

This device offers the benefit of UV light purification without the dependence on an external power source. The device is hand-crank and will purify a liter of water in about 90 seconds.  This is the option I’ll be ordering for my own survival kit, and I’ll probably order a Katadyn hand-pump filter for my wife’s kit.

Let us know your thoughts on a water purification solution in the Comments section, and which method above you think is the most reliable during a zombie outbreak.

Stay smart, stay strong, and stay alive!


4 responses to “Survival Basic #1: Water

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Survival Basic #1: Water « Zombie Prep --

  2. Great article! I hadn’t heard of UV light to treat water…what a great idea! I have been a fan of Katadyn water filter systems for some time but you raise a great point, you can only treat so much water at a time!

    I like the idea of the tablets for treating large quantities of water! I think you made a good choice for your bags and your wifes bag too! Will you put a third method in your child’s bag?

  3. It’s important to understand that ultraviolet purifiers (like the Steripen) work by rendering microorganisms unable to reproduce. This is great because no reproduction = no infections, but it’s worth noting that this will not directly kill the organism itself.

    Great product though.

    • Kevin – very good point. I still don’t know anyone who has used a UV purifier. I’d like to know what they have to say about the taste of the water, since it seems that it might not be as appetizing as, say, filtered water. My research on the internet is nothing compared to actual field experience with a product as important as this.

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