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Survivalist Vandweller: How to Find, Carry and Treat water

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I spent 6 months camped  near this lake but I wouldn't drink from it without treating it first. In this post I'll show you how.

I spent 6 months camped near this lake but I wouldn’t drink from it without treating it first. In this post I’ll show you how.

We are continuing to look at the similarities of vandwelling to survivalists. Many of the things survivalist do are helpful for us vandwellers and many things we do as vandwellers are equally preparing us for a disaster without our knowing or intending to. My thinking is that no matter what your view of the future might be, one thing we can all be certain of is that the possibility of extreme weather is increasing. In the last 5 years we’ve seen a record setting number of weather disasters and many of them have set new records for size, intensity and destruction.
No matter what your politics, the simple truth is that the planet is warming. I strongly encourage you to go this page from the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) website; you’ll find numerous, simple graphs leaving no doubt that the planet is warming. I’m including one graph from it.
This is a graph from the NOAA website showing the  average surface temperature of the earth along with a line for the amount of carbon in the air. Can that just be a coincidence or accident?

This is a graph from the NOAA website showing the average surface temperature of the earth along with a line for the amount of carbon in the air. Can that just be an coincidence or accident?

If you go to this page in the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) website, you’ll find many graphs showing that it is caused by humans. The historic carbon graph is absolutely conclusive to me. The gloabl pre-historic average of carbon was an average of 280 Parts-Per-Million (PPM). Since the beginning of the inndustrail age the global average has steadily risen till we broke 400 PPMfor the first time just this year.
This is a graph from the NOAA website that shows the amount of carbon in the air for the last 800,000 years. We know this from ice core samples in Antarctic that have trapped air in them from the past. We can measure it and know exactly how much carbon was in the air at any time. Notice how consistent it is until the beginning of the industrial age when it skyrockets.  It is continuing to rise at an alarming rate and so it the graph has projections for what it will be like if we don't make some serious changes. projections for

This is a graph from the NOAA website that shows the amount of carbon in the air for the last 800,000 years. We know this from ice core samples in Antarctic that have trapped air in them from the past. We can measure it and know exactly how much carbon was in the air at any time. Notice how consistent it is until the beginning of the industrial age when it skyrockets. It is continuing to rise at an alarming rate and so the graph has projections for what it will be like if we don’t make some serious changes.  In 2014 we hit 400 PPM for the first time!!!!!!!!!!!!

The fact that the planet is warming is undeniable and the inevitable result is extreme weather events. Here is a web page from that claims that the year 2010-11 saw the most extreme global weather events since 1816:–2011-earths-most-extreme-weather-since-1816. But that year was nothing compared to 2013 when there was a record-shattering 41 weather events that exceeded a billion dollars: And look how 2014 is starting out: half the country is having one of the worst winters in anyone’s memories, the southwest is in one of its worst droughts ever, and California is in the middle of the single worst drought since records have been kept, and it’s just February. At the same time, much of Europe is literally under water with the worst flooding since the Middle Ages.
Reasonable people should be afraid and preparing for extreme weather events like:

  • Floods
  • Droughts
  • Tornadoes
  • Hurricanes
  • Extreme heat waves
  • Extreme winter storms

I’m a vandweller because I love the freedom and adventure it offers me and not because I am a survivalist. But at the same time I am well aware that living in a van offers a huge advantage to us when it comes to extreme weather events and disasters. Many of them come with advanced warning and when you live on wheels you can just turn the key and drive away. If weather disasters are only going to keep increasing we should take advantage of our mobility and be as prepared as we can.

I carry these water jugs, but to save weight I don't keep them all full. If I suspect a weather event is coming, I will fill them all.

I carry these water jugs, but to save weight I don’t keep them all full. If I suspect a weather event is coming, I’ll fill them all.

One thing that happens in nearly all extreme weather events is a lack of clean, drinkable water so the single most important thing anyone can do is to prepare for water shortages. Because finding and carry water is something every new vandweller has to figure out, in this post we are going to look at water: where to get it, how to carry it, and how to treat questionable water.
Where To Get Water: When you first move into a van one of the first things you have to do is find a place to fill your water bottles. Here is a list of where I’ve gotten water

  • Convenience stores will almost always let you fill a small container of water. I take in a couple of quart bottles or even a 1 gallon bottle and ask the clerk if I can fill them. That is a very normal thing so I’ve never been refused.
  • Gas Stations— many will have spigots for you to use.
  • Parks—Most city, state and federal parks and campgrounds will have a water spigot that are available for public use.
  • Laundromats—whenever I do my laundry I fill up my jugs.
  • Public Restrooms—Most have a sink and you can take in small jugs and fill them. I carry a “Water Bandit” that lets me hook up a hose to the faucet sink.
  • National Forest, National Park and BLM Ranger Station almost always have water and trash for the public.
  • Water Vending Machines—In some places (especially the desert Southwest) there are vending machines that dispense water, usually for .25 cents a gallon. Many Walmarts across the country have them.
  • Fire Stations–Often you can fill your RV tanks or just a few jugs at a Fire House.
I carry an assortment of sizes and shapes so they can tuck into different areas. This tall bottle fits in well right here.

I carry an assortment of sizes and shapes so they can tuck into different areas. This tall bottle fits in well right here. A second one can ride down in the step in my cargo van.

How To Carry It: All vandwellers need to carry some water, just how much will vary with your circumstances. Even for those who live in cities and have water all around them they still need to have a gallon or two for overnight. Some boondockers go 2 weeks or more between trips into town so they need to carry around 20 gallons.
Reliance Products Aqua-Pak 5 Gallon Rigid Water Container
Reliance Products Desert Patrol 6 Gallon Traditional Jeep Style Rigid Water Container

  • 1-2 Quart Bottles—I actually prefer bladders because they fold down flat as they are emptied. But they are difficult to clean. There are tons of 1 quart bottles that are very strong and will last forever. The Nalgene bottle is most famous and its mouth is a universal standard for many things.
  • One Gallon Jugs– Many vandwellers keep things simple and buy a few gallon jugs of water and after they’re empty just refill them. Most of us are in town often enough that 5, one gallon jugs is enough.
  • 5-7 Gallon Jugs—These are the workhorse for most of us and probably all you need. They come in all sizes and shapes and I carry one of each because different shapes fit in different areas of the van. I’m able to tuck the tall slender jugs in front of the passenger seat, in front of one of my 4-drawer plastic shelf units and even in the step under the side door of my cargo van. They’re available in white but I don’t recommend them. Sunlight can get through it and they will grow algae. You’ll know because you will see green stuff start growing. Not to worry, just soak it with a bleach solution and it will be totally safe again. It’s very important to never store your bottles (with or without water in them) in the sun. The sun will damage the plastic and the water. The cooler you can keep the water, the better.
  • 15-55 Gallon Jugs—If you are serious about disaster preparation, you will want one of these. I’ve only seen one van with a 55 gallon drum in it and it fit surprisingly well. He ratchet strapped it to the driver’s seat and he had so little else in the van it wasn’t that bad. On the other hand the 15 to 25 gallon drums fit pretty easily in a van because of their shape. Because they are so large they will be too heavy to lift or pour so you will have to have a water pump (either a hand pump or 12 volt) to get water out and a hose to get water in. If you are a serious survivalist, you may want one of these.
This 6 gallon bottle fits well in the front seat. Because I am usually alone that works great.

This 6 gallon bottle fits well in the front seat. Because I am usually alone that works great.

How To Treat Questionable Water. I’ve camped in many places where I was next to a creek, river or lake and had an unlimited supply of water around me but I couldn’t drink it because I wasn’t sure it was safe. I’ve also been in places that got lots of rain and it would have been easy to catch the rain coming off my tarp awning, but again I wasn’t sure it was safe. I had a friend that did that, he hung a weight off one of the grommets and that funneled all the rain to drain off that one place. He set a 5 gallon bucket under it and caught much more water than he could possibly use. He had a water filter so he filtered it and used it, saving him a trip into town.
This is my water treatment system: 1) A gravity filter 2) Pump filter 3) Bleach 4) Aqua Mira Tablets.

This is my water treatment system: 1) A gravity filter 2) Pump filter 3) Bleach 4) Aqua Mira Tablets.

Wherever you get the water from, it might look clean but that doesn’t mean it is. The majority of water we find in nature is unsafe to drink. While it probably won’t kill you, it will make you sick enough to wish you were dead! There are many ways that water can be contaminated and be unsafe

  • Most places have animals (either wild or domesticated) that drink at the shore of the water source and while they are there they urinate and defecate in the water. That contaminates the water source. Sometimes they die and fall into the water which makes the water terribly unsafe.
  • People love to camp near water, but far too many of us don’t have the good sense to know that urinating and defecating near the water is just as bad as doing it in the water. Humans seem to love to shit in their own yards and we are the main reason we can’t trust water found in nature.
  • Industrial and agricultural run-off flow downhill into the water.
  • Viruses end up in the water.
  • The aquifers that feed the groundwater have been polluted.

Wherever the contamination comes from, it is vital that you filter or treat the water you find in nature. I’ve been a backpacker and hiker most of my life so I’ve always carried a back-packers water filter with me. When I moved into the van I still carried one and have been in numerous situations where I’ve used it. Here are the products I carry and that you see in the photos. Highly recommended! Click on these links and you can buy them from
Aquamira Water Treatment Drops 1oz
Sawyer PointOne Emergency Water Filtration Kit
MSR HyperFlow Microfilter

  • Boil—Boiling makes water safe but is very inconvenient: it’s slow, burns fuel, and makes the water taste bad. But as a last resort it works well, the water will be safe.
  • Bleach—To use bleach, add 1/8 teaspoon (or 8 drops; about 0.625 milliliters) of unscented liquid household chlorine (5-6%) bleach for each gallon of clear water (or 2 drops of bleach for each liter or each quart of water). It won’t taste as good, but it will be safe.
  • Chemicals—There are several chemical tablets or liquids made to purify water and they are well worth keeping on hand. The two best are “Aquamira Water Treatment Drops 1oz” and “Potable Aqua Chlorine DioxideTablets.” They will both make water totally safe. Their big disadvantage is they are slow to work, taking up to 4 hours to kill everything in the water. I’ve always carried a bottle of these with me in case the filter broke.
  • Filtering—In the long run you are going to want to use a filter. They work well and last a long time. There are three main types of filter: pump, gravity flow, and straw/bottle type. I have one of each on hand because they each have different advantages and disadvantages, but if I was only going to have one I would have a Sawyer Gravity flow filter. It is guaranteed to filter up to a million gallons and it is super simple to use. I like that it has no moving parts that can wear out or break. The one I have has an adapter for 5 gallon buckets so to filter water all I have to do is dip the bucket in a water source, place it on a table and let the filter hang down with another bucket underneath it. Gravity pulls the water through it and clean, safe water drips out with no effort on my part. It’s plenty fast enough for me.
  • UV Rays—UV rays from the sun kills bacteria so there are filters that create UV rays and you put it in the water and the UV kills all the bacteria. They have become a huge hit among backpackers and are always highly rated. But to me they violate the Keep It Simple Stupid principle so I’ve never owned or used one.
This Sawyer Filter is what I recommend to you. It has no moving parts and is guaranteed to filter one million gallons of water. It us designed to use the water and soda bottles you buy at the store like 2 liter bottls, the little 16.9 bottles and even commercial bottles like that Platypus. They all use the same lid so you can always find a water bottle to attach to your filter. I also really love that it comes with a 5 gallon bucket adapter, because we all have 5 gallon buckets with us. Just be sure the bucket os food safe and never iad anything else in it.

This Sawyer Filter is what I recommend to you. It has no moving parts and is guaranteed to filter one million gallons of water. It is designed to use the water and soda bottles you buy at the store like 2 liter bottle or the little 16.9 bottles and even commercial bottles like the Platypus. They all use the same lid so you can always find a water bottle to attach to your filter. I also really love that it comes with a 5 gallon bucket adapter, because we all have 5 gallon buckets with us. Just be sure the bucket is food safe and never had anything else in it. The faucet adapter lets you use it on any faucet so you can filter city water directly. 

General Recommendations and Tips:
How much should I carry? Water is heavy so you are probably not going to want to carry a lot of it at once. At 8 pounds per gallon 10 gallons of water weighs 80 pounds and 20 gallons of water weighs 160 pounds. So what I do is carry 15 gallons of water (120 pounds) with me and carry another 15 gallons of empty jugs that I will fill if I have reason to be concerned. I have a 5 and 6 gallon jug that are full and in reserve and, 4 one gallon jugs I use daily.
How should I clean my bottles so they stay safe? I bleach all my bottles twice a year (in December and June at the Solstice) by filling them with water and pouring a generous amount of bleach in them so that the water has a very strong bleach smell. Then I slosh it around vigorously and let it sit for at least an hour when I slosh it out again. After that I dump it and rinse it out? That kills anything growing in it.
What should I carry to help me with water storage?

  • Chemical treatment
  • Water Filter
  • Unscented Liquid Household Chlorine Bleach
  • Water Potable hose
  • Water Bandit to fill from a faucet
  • Variety of sizes of water bottle
  • Battery or 12 volt pump


  1. Rob

    Clean water is a really important thing, a good topic! I’d never heard of the Sawyer Gravity flow filter before, I need to read up on it but sounds like a good idea… A million gallons is a lot of water.
    There is a way to purify water using the sun, .
    In the FWIW department here is the last 10,000 years of temps in the world…

    • Bob

      Rob thanks for those tips, very helpful!

  2. John Walker

    Government and politics are synonymous, therefore quoting government agencies is inherently political. I find it odd that anyone would think or proclaim it otherwise.
    If you want to find real unbiased science look beyond the politicized science churned out by the world’s various government agencies. Real science is still being done, and it is characterized by that lack of lavish, bias inducing funding enjoyed by the politicized sciences in which far too many put their faith. And make no mistake, not questioning a politicized pretense of science is a practice in faith.
    Thanks for the filtration tips. As a backpacker who practices real science, and of course, outside the influence of politicized government funding, they will come in handy.

    • Bob

      John, I’m not sure, but I think nearly all weather related data is collected by governments. Who else has the money to do it on such a giant scale? I think the Universities and other scientists are just working with the data the government gives them. And the few sites that collect weather data that aren’t government are probably funded by the government.
      But I’m no expert, I’m just guessing, I’d like to know who else is collecting weather data besides the government. And why should we trust them more than the government?

      • John Walker

        While the raw data and its collection is not generally in dispute, the statistical representations, refracted as they are through the lens of desired outcomes, are.
        Desired outcomes are greatly influenced by funding and the greatest source of funds in regard to the study of raw climate data sets is government…politics.

        • Bob

          John, okay that clarifies things because the government is the only one that can afford to collect the raw data and if we begin with the assumption they will just lie about it then we can’t trust anything anyone ever says about the weather because the raw data everyone uses is a lie.
          I agree that when it comes to interpreting the data it can be manipulated to say what you want to say. I was tempted to that myself. I do disagree if you are saying that we can’t trust ANYTHING the government puts out about the weather; i.e. “It’s all politics so its all a lie.” I don’t believe that at all. In fact I chose graphs from the NOAA website because I DO trust them. I also chose these because they are nothing but a graphical presentation of raw data. There is no interpretation necessary the graphs with OUT any interpretation are totally persuasive.
          Again, unless they are simply lying about the raw data, the graphs I put up are just computer generated graphs straight from the raw data, no interpretation. I totally believe them. But I understand that many people are so distrustful of the government they reject everything they say. But to me that means you can’t believe any weather report ever again because ALL the data comes from the government.

      • John Walker

        I forgot to answer your final question in regard to trust.
        Just as the corrupting influence of government as a lever to impose what was seen as an obvious good seduced Catholicism during a period later known as the dark ages, the corrupting influence of government has seduced science with funding.
        Both Catholicism and science have lost their purity to the seduction of either government force (for perceived good) or government money (again, for perceived good).
        That said, science does have its “Martin Luther’s” and like Martin Luther they are subject to ridicule, abuse and “excommunication” not for being wrong, but for simply noting that science is never “settled”.
        If, for instance, predictions based on AGW models predict certain temperature increases over 15 years and over that period of 15 years 97% of those predictions are proven wrong by empirical evidence, the fact that there has been no warming over the last 15 years, science demands that we question AGW assumptions.
        But too many do not. Those who do not question their assumptions when nature proves them wrong are no longer motivated by the purity of science but by something else. I believe that something else is government funding.
        So, just as centuries ago I would have trusted Martin Luther’s pursuit of a more faith based Catholicism over the Catholic Church which had lost its purity to government force, I trust today those in science who would eschew the seduction of government funding in their pursuit of a more fact based science over those who would trade on what remains of the purity of science.
        Who would you have trusted? Martin Luther or the Catholic Church?

        • breid1903

          peaceup raz

        • Bob

          John, I wouldn’t trust either of them. I think they are both totally wrong.
          Every shred of data I’ve seen has made it very clear the planet is warming and has warmed in the last 15 years.
          But, you are totally entitled to your opinion and welcome to disagree. But this really isn’t the place to debate it. You got to make your point and I made a counter-point and that is good enough for this blog. We should just drop it now.

          • John Walker

            My apologies, I took your post to mean you had opened the topic for discussion. Your house, your rules.
            I would just close with a nod to the New Yourk Times which acknowledges that the data shows no rise in temperature for 15 years.

          • Liam

            It seems to be you have your point of view and shut down the topic when a cogent reply is posted disagreeing with you.
            Here are a few facts.
            1) Sea levels have risen 1/2″ on average for the last 10,000 years. Is that caused by man? No. It is caused by solar emissions variations, the earths orientation and distance to the sun, the sun’s location relative to the galactic plane, tilt, wobble, and other dynamic factors. Next most significant would be volcano’s.
            2) 15 years is weather, not climate change the data sample simply is too small, and also the scale of temperature change chart is very small. This is how you fudge data.
            3) We have proof of one thing, that climate change scientists have falsified data. It is more like religion than science when facts are changed, fudged, or modified to fit a model. We also know none of the models work.
            4) The coldest winter in the northeast is the opposite of what is expected. Sea ice coverage worldwide is at the highest of the last 30 years, mostly due to the antarctic. Sea ice extent up north is relatively constant if you ignore the ice that is exposed to the Atlantic weather. Weather is more of a factor in sea ice extent than any other factor. But, be comforted that scientists will come up with (invent) new metrics to prove their case.
            5) No one in the press talks about the effects of volcano’s on things like sea ice. Things have been more volcanically active and that has had a real effect on weather. Undersea volcano’s have raised sea temperatures in the arctic and antarctic–this is kept very quiet in the press and rarely mentioned. Lassen B ice sheet broke off because of a volcano.
            6) While some say carbon causes global warming it is a poor greenhouse gas. Water vapor and methane are more significant. Carbon emission also puts dust in the air which reflects sunlight and that actually causes cooling. Again this is rarely mentioned in association with carbon emissions.
            7) Governments seem to be looking for ways to redistribute the worlds wealth. It does not take much to comprehend that they want to find ways to make this happen. One way is carbon taxes.
            8) Global warming, if it is real, can be mitigated by volcanic dust. One small nuke in a northern hemisphere volcano in an out of the way location would make for colder temperatures. If warming is such a concern, why are difficult options considered while cheap and easy solutions are ignored.
            This should convince you that there is more here than meets the eye, but it probably won’t because you have accepted the religion of global warming and won’t recognize facts under your nose.
            I hold a PhD in Engineering and among my fellows, the global warming topic is regarded as hype, nonsense, and religion. We laugh at the climatologists who are motivated by grant money. Scientist don’t falsify data. The public has gotten wise to them and interest in climate change has fallen dramatically.
            I suggest you wait a few years and see how the warming scenarios fail to meet the horrid projections. Do you recall how the arctic was supposed to be ice free last summer? It didn’t happen. The arctic will always have ice because it is nearly land locked. The antarctic will always have ice because it is a land mass. If you look up the definition of ice age you will see that when one pole has ice it is considered an ice age. We are in one now. This won’t change until the continents move–that will take millions of years.
            What we should be focusing on are other more significant environmental issues. Reducing plastics and toxic chemicals, clean water, and alternative energy.

          • Bob

            Thanks for taking the time to share your point of view and making a reasoned argument Liam. We will just have to agree to disagree.

    • Wayne

      “Real science”, as you call it, is usually funded by corporate interests. I don’t think this forum is the place to get into that discussion.

      • Wayne

        When I replied to your initial comment, it was based on your initial comment. When I posted it, it was placed after subsequent posts. I would not have bothered commenting on your subsequent posts.

        • John Walker

          That’s OK.
          As with religious differences tolerance allows those with different opinions to enjoy the company of one another …. enjoy a glass of filtered water as it were. Alas, not all of us can be tolerant.
          And like I said, that’s OK.

          • Bob

            Tolerance is the key, that’s for sure.

  3. Greg

    Bob, great post! I did a bunch of backpacking in my early days and carried a water filter. I didn’t think to put it in the van! In one of your posts you mentioned, if I read it correctly, you carry about 6 months of food. Any plans to go over this part of vandwelling? I can’t begin to see how to have so much food on hand in a van.

    • Bob

      Hi Greg, yes, carrying food is coming up pretty quickly. We are doing the “Rules of Three” of Survivalists: You can live
      3 minutes without air
      3 hours without shelter in extreme weather
      3 days without water
      3 months without food
      In the next survivalist post we are talking about food storage so check back then.

      • jonthebru

        Finally, dinner! I can hardly wait! Great post as usual Bob.

        • Bob

          You’re welcome jonthebru!

  4. Calvin R

    Thanks for all the information, Bob! One of my opinions is that the water situation will get more difficult, particularly in the West. I appreciate the information on filtering because I imagine that “commercial” (pre-treated) water will rise in price and become more difficult to acquire free.

    • Bob

      Calvin, water is such a complicated subject that in the limited space of blog post I can’t make it clear enough. But let me say that I’ve looked into it a lot and in this century we are looking at unprecedented problems with water. And the west is going to be the worst because our population is increasing at a tremendous rate but the amount of water available is declining. All future projections for the Colorado River end with disaster because of population increase. Even the projections that assume water won’t decline are very dire–and it almost certainly will decline.
      But it isn’t just the West. The entire Mid-west depends on the Oglalla Aquifer and it is declining at an alarming rate. We literally are going to drain it dry and it is not replenishing. It took millenia for it to form and we will have drained it in a few decades. It will take millenia (and another melting ice age) for it to re-fill. There is nothing to replace that water, agriculture will simply stop across the mid-west.

  5. openspaceman

    Question: Quite a few State/National Parks/Boat Ramps have a hand pump labeled potable water…I’ve filled my jugs quite a few times mostly out West without any “ill” effects. What is your experience and would you filter it before drinking?
    *Good filter info, everyone remember when researching for purchase to click thru Bob’s site to Amazon to help maintain this awesome blog.
    **There are quite a few movies out right now about too hot, too cold, permanent winters…does life imitate art or vice versa, hmm. Most of us will be gone in 50 years and I imagine that’s when the earth will be at a point of no return as far as being able to repair itself from the damage we’ve done.
    All we can do is live simpler and maybe we’ll slow down the inevitable just a little bit, one person at a time.
    On a lighter note checkout the movie “Waterworld” with Kevin Kostner it was a good one…it’s probably twenty years old…hopefully that isn’t what future generations are in for.

    • Greg

      Karen, I think in 50 yrs when are gone the problem won’t be that the earth can’t repair itself. I think we will make the earth uninhabitable for humans, we will die off, then the earth will repair itself.

      • Bob

        Greg, Humans are amazingly resilient, I don’t think we will be wiped out, we will just be so greatly reduced our threat will be eliminated. But who knows, we are doing everything we can to get ourselves exterminated!!
        I’m also hopeful that it will be more than 50 years, but again we are doing everything we can to make it quicker!

        • Greg

          Very true Bob, I agree we won’t be totally wiped out, and probably not in 50 years. That’s the rub, we don’t know when or how extensive the effect of Peak Oil and Economic Collapse will be on the human race. Also what technologies are known to government and corporations to replace oil that they won’t release or tell us about because they want to squeeze every last drop of oil from the earth and every dollar from our pockets first.

        • Openspaceman

          Bob, Greg_
          I was just saying most of us…being that a lot of us are 40, 50 yrs or older…will be gone probably 50 yrs from now. The Earth will continue to react to the way we live…Bejing is just one example of changing the climate in a short period of time…but the water filter I’m shopping for is probably made in China and it created a lot of pollution in the process of making it and shipping it here.
          *What a mess…

          • Bob

            Openspaceman, I see, that makes perfect sense! Yes, we have set in motion some very disastrous problems for he earth that our children are going to greatly suffer from!
            It is a mess!!!:) I am content to do as little harm as i possibly can and stop beating myself up for the damage I am doing.

          • Bob

            Openspaceman, I see, that makes perfect sense! Yes, we are setting in motion some disastrous environmental changes that our children are going to have to suffer through.
            It is a mess!! I’m just trying to do as little harm to the Earth as I can while doing as much good as I can.

    • Bob

      openspaceman, yes, water from all campgrounds is safe and does NOT need to be filtered. I was a campground host for 4 year and there are state laws in place in every state that say all water made available to the public from non-government sources must be tested by the state every month. So once every month my boss had to go around to every campground with water and collect samples and take them down to a state office and get them tested. We almost always passed but one year we had extremely heavy rains and some of the campgrounds failed because the runoff had brought fecal matter into the groundwater. We drained the tanks and “shocked” the system (dumped a bunch of bleach into it) and we passed the next try. But we had to turn off the water until it passed.
      So you can trust the water from campgrounds
      One of my goals with all my writing is to convince people to become vandwellers. Mainly I do that so they will be happier, but part of motivation is to help the planet.
      I loved Waterworld. For some reason it was a bomb but I thought it was great.

  6. Karen

    Great tips Bob! I have a couple more for all of the RVers with large on-board water tanks. We see so many people buying drinking water in bottles which is expensive and wasteful when they could be drinking the water from their tank. It’s understandable because water quality, even when taken directly from a public faucet, varies a lot in taste and is sometimes contaminated. We have a double filter system,first a very inexpensive string filter inline with the fill hose which catches dirt and other large contamination. It’s surprising how many times this has saved us from having a tank of dirty water that could also destroy our water pump. When the normally white filter turns brown it’s time to change it.
    The second filter is under our sink inline with the cold water faucet which we use for our drinking and cooking water. That filter costs about $50.00 and filters down to 1/2 micron which reduces bacteria, chlorine, hydrogen sulfide, water-soluble heavy metals and microorganisms. We probably change it once a year. It works great and our water always tastes good. We’re often shocked at how horrible the water tastes when we drink from a public fountain or directly from the tap while visiting people. It’s especially bad close to the ocean.

  7. Dave

    Wow, that Sawyer system is hella impressive, one million gallons? That’s an veritable ocean of water…My only concern is the filtration to .1 Micron, that will remove all bacteria and protozoal organisms, but not viruses. Given that a teaspoon of water can contain billions of viruses and there is a new polio like virus that is striking kids in California (enterovirus 6) I think its important not to forget about them.
    I was looking at these:
    They filter down to around 10 nanometers, so will remove all viruses,bacteria, cysts. 5,000 gallons of sterile (yup, sterile) drinking water (the jerry can model) doesn’t compare to one million gallons of course, and they do have a moving part, a pump to push the water through the filter. Some of their smaller units may be quite convenient for a part time or small vehicle van dweller.
    Just thoughts. Great post!

    • Bob

      Dave, that’s a good reminder. There is a differnece between filters and a purifier and removing viruses is the main one. Few filters do but a purifier does. This is the purifier I have been aware of for a long time and I would buy if I were concerned about viruses:
      I think the bacteria is a much bigger risk and haven’t given a lot of thought to viruses. Maybe I should.

  8. CAE

    Would Sawyer and bleach be adequate for drinking water from lakes like the one in your picture?

    • Bob

      CAE, either one alone would be enough.

  9. sameer

    I carry 12 1/2 gallons of water on a regular basis. I was going to add a 5 gallon jug because I have the room. but not fill it because of the weight. Just to have if I think I am in a negative situation. What do you think?

    • Bob

      Sameer, I think that’s a great idea. It’s just if you have enough room. Another option would be to add a 5 gallon bucket with a gamma lid. A gamma lid allows it to be water tight and also to screw on and off easily. It has the advantage of letting you use it for other storage while you are waiting to use it for water storage. Here is a link to a gamma lid on Amazon:

  10. Corky52

    Pool Shock is a cheap easy way to carry chlorine bleach, I just put some in a small baby food jar, it’s enough for manny gallons of bleach.
    I use a UVC light treatment for the final stage of my flitering, kill evey thing, including viri!!!

    • Bob

      Great tip Corky52, thanks!

  11. Rob

    Any tried the Berkey water filter?

  12. Ming

    Great post, Bob. Very useful series. I have tried using a mini pump, but found it too much work. The gravity filters look like a very workable alternative, I should pick one up. Does it ever clog up on you?
    Lately, I’ve been using coarse fabric filters followed by Aqua Mira drops (the 2-part product). They taste much better than the tablets and are effective at half the strength (according to secret Aqua Mira papers). I do believe that they would take care of viruses also.
    When I make tea or soup, the water boils so all I do is filter, as the boiling will take care of any pathogens. I have found the use of a Kelly Kettle to greatly reduce my need for stove fuel (alcohol in my case).
    In some agricultural areas, I would also be concerned with runoff that may contain chemicals. Are any of the areas that you describe in your travels near agricultural lands?

    • Bob

      Ming, I haven’t had the Sawyer long enough to have a clog, but it comes with a tool to back-flush it with so they are easily cleaned out. That’s how they can offer the million gallon guarantee. They will plug but they are easily unplugged.
      The tablets work great but they aren’t cost effective long term. Plus, as far as I can tell they only have a shelf life of a few years, which wouldn’t work for survival.
      I’m a big fan of the Kelly Kettle! Using wood to boil water is a part of my survival strategy.
      I’m about 3 miles from the Colorado River right now and it has a LOT of agriculture upstream of me, so it would be a big worry to me.

  13. El Gato

    We RV in the Southwest for a couple of months each winter. We don’t use the 12 gallon water tank in our RV. We use a couple of gallon apple juice bottles which are much sturdier than either milk or water bottles. We just pay the 25¢ per gallon from commercial machines. I think most of them are called “Glacier”.

    • Bob

      El Gato, sounds we are o the same path, I and most of the people I know do the exact same thing. Most desert water from taps is awful tasting, very mineralized and chlorinated. It’s perfectly safe but unpleasant to drink. Most people get their drinking water from the filtered vending machines like Glacier. A few places (Blythe and Slab City CA.) I’ve found free tap water for cleaning and for my dog but still buy filtered vending water for drinking.

  14. Ron

    If global warming is an issue why would we adopt a mobile lifestyle? If global warming is an issue. Wouldn’t it be far easier on mother earth if we adopted a more communal lifestyle with bare minimum sq footage of living space? Wouldn’t one vehicle serve to transport several people at one time to town for the essentials. Wouldn’t we ban the use of fuel burning for transporting us to distant places for entrainment and sightseeing? If I was concerned with or believed in GW I would stay put through all seasons in a minimal size energy efficient dwelling. I also wouldn’t be over weight. I would eat enough calories to maintain a healthy body. To consume excess calories is a waste of resources. To use the resources to make water filters or anything else that are used at the point of use is a huge waste compared to the economies of scale that a central water source can efficiently provide many people. I dont get it. I can understand people being influenced by the global warming issue but I cant understand going to various rv, camping, jeeping and boating sites and seeing a strong belief in global warming. I’m fat, I have a huge RV and a fuel sucking tow vehicle and I’m leaving am empty house to drive around to sight see and entertain myself next winter. NO I dont believe and I act accordingly and admit it.

    • Bob

      Ron, here’s a post I did on how green living in a van is.
      I forgot the tables came over poorly from the old site so I need to reformat them. But the info is still there. Living in a van is one of the greenest possible ways to live as far as carbon footprint. My home is 99% off grid except I use about 10 gallons of propane a year. I do drive a gas-hog van. But in a normal year I drive it less than 5000 miles and drive my Honda Rebel (70 MPG!) the rest.
      That’s a tiny drop in the bucket compared to how much carbon I save by being 99% off grid. Very few people burn less carbon a year than vandwellers do.
      Except this year when I’m driving to Alaska. But that’s only 8,000 miles and all off-grid and we are gettig 16-18 MPG in Judy’s van. That’s still much less than the national average.

  15. Andrew Kirk

    Giardia is not killed by chlorine. You have to filter your water.

    • Bob

      Thanks Andrew.

  16. jb

    Thanks for all the helpful suggestions with this. I think it’s a common misconception that water doesn’t get stale or whatever and you can keep it for decades. In reality, it should be fresh within the past year or whatever.

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