If You Go Down To The Woods Today - Volume 2 Issue 4

Last blog we looked at the beginning of the foraging journey.  This time I am going to chat about something that is intrinsically linked to foraging and that’s making wild water safe for human consumption, or potable. 

Wild water purification and a search for excellence part I

Whilst you are out and about in the wilds practicing your bush crafting skills there is always going to be an action that will find its way to the top of your “To Do” list.  Finding and purifying wild water for your consumption.  

An average person on an average day here in the UK should drink two litres of water a day.  Take that person and place them in the woods where their work rate is going to go up significantly and it easily figures their water intake must go up too.  That increase will depend on the weather, the person’s weight, and what activity they are undertaking.

At one kilogram per litre taking all your water into the woods on foot for an extended stay would be a backbreaking experience. A portable water purification system is a must. So, which one has worked best for me?

Expense vs simplicity vs bulk

Nearly twenty years ago I was new to bushcraft and started to gather my kit.  My wife and I were DINKY’s (Double Income No Kids Yet) so the price of items, within reason, didn’t really come into the equation. I bought two pieces of kit that have now either become so rare or very expensive. I am pleased to be able to signpost my students to less expensive alternatives. The first two items to purify wild water that I purchased were the ‘Millbank bag’ and the ‘First need deluxe water purifier’.


The Millbank Bag

This is such an incredible item.  The problem is that they are now so rare they can be seen on eBay for upwards of £50 each.  Silly money for a canvas bag.  Other companies have tried to copy the Millbank bag, but they are either very flimsy, shrink or don’t allow a good flow.  To teach the Wild Water section on our courses I always put this item up there in the top three items for these reasons;

  • There are no working parts to seize up.
  • It is small and portable.
  • It works whilst you are occupied doing other camp craft chores.
  • It’s so easy to use total beginners can get to grips with it.
  • It’s really easy to clean.

The downsides are you need to either boil your filtered water or add a chemical to it to have potable water. This is because the bag is designed to clear the turbidity from the water, but any waterborne pathogens will still be alive and kicking after their filtering experience. This is fine at a fixed camp or if you don’t mind the taste of swimming pool water. The bag is also susceptible to snags and tears. Care is needed when you are gathering your wild water.

Some people really don’t mind the taste of sterilising tablets but personally I can’t stand them. So, this led me to purchasing my second piece of water sterilisation equipment.


First Need Water Purifier

This is a pump system that allows you to purify water, so it comes out clear, with 99.9999% of pathogens dead and it tastes like Brita Filter water. It also rids the water of chemical contaminants such as pesticides. Amazing. The only water it can’t filter is salty water. The company does a specialist system for marine environments. Now remember, I was a DINKY, so the £100+ price tag didn’t put me off at all. They cost between £150 and £180 now.


This system allows you to go into the woods with the ability to get all the water you need quickly and safely. How does it work? Again, it is really easy to operate. Identify the water source. Attach your receptacle to the multi-threaded outlet. Place the pre-filter into the water. Pump. Drink. How easy is that? 

Once you believe the filter is near to its whopping 800 litre capacity point you can test its functionality by putting two drops of the included blue dye into a glass of water and then using the pump, simply filter the water.  If blue dye shows, then either a really good backwash will sort you out or a new filter is needed.


When the blue dye showed up on one of my tests, I was now the proud dad of three children and the world was crawling out of a very deep recession.  Money mattered now.  The price tag for a new filter starts at £50 and goes up depending on the website you are looking at.  This is too expensive in my mind.  Yes, the system is a fantastic item but surely there must be a system on the market that is relatively inexpensive, easy to use and filters the water to a level that negates the need to add chemicals?

Well, I found one and its test will be the subject of the next blog.

So, Next Time You Are Out And About…

Ask yourself one very simple question.  How will you quench your thirst on a protracted trip out in our glorious British countryside

Until next time.

Greg. Check out my Instagram