Simple Bushcraft Water Filter

While experimenting with the SODIS (Solar Disinfection) method of water treatment, I went off on one of my frequent tangents and tried a couple of ways to filter water before disinfecting it in the sun. For SODIS to work, the water has to be clear enough; if it’s too turbid, the UV rays can’t penetrate the water deep enough to kill the germs.

So what do you do if the water is too cloudy? Make a simple cloth and charcoal filter. You could also use some packed, dried grass, or even sand. Another advantage to filtering the water before SODIS is that SODIS is NOT water purification. Even though the pathogens are killed by the UV rays of the sun, the water still contains mud, frog poop, and other things that make it taste like pond water. Filtering it, especially if you use carbon, will remove much of this junk and vastly improve the taste.

How to Make a Bushcraft Water Filter

In this example I use bamboo, but you could use a plastic water bottle with the bottom cut off.

I tried two methods. First, I packed some charcoal in a shirt sleeve and stuffed it all into the bamboo section. While I’ve used this method before, it’s very slow because there’s so much tightly packed fabric inside.

Second, I placed a cloth plug in the bottom, then poured some crushed charcoal, then covered that with another cloth plug to keep the charcoal from floating. Thanks to Nick, the cam op, for this idea.

The second method works much better. The water flows quickly, and while I didn’t show this in the video, I did taste it, and it tastes much better than the unfiltered pond water. However, it still needs to be disinfected after filtering, so I don’t recommend drinking it straight out of the filter; most commercial filters have pores small enough to filter out bacteria and other pathogens, but this backyard contraption doesn’t.

  1. Cut out the longest, widest bamboo section you can find. Leave the joint in one end.
  2. Cut a pea-sized hole in the bottom.
  3. Stuff a piece of cloth into the bottom. You don’t need it tight; you just want it to cover the hole so the charcoal doesn’t wash out.
  4. Pour 3 or 4 inches of filter media. In this case I used crushed charcoal (make your own charcoal).
  5. Cover with another plug of cloth.
  6. Fill with water.
  7. The first bit of filtrate will have a lot of charcoal powder. Discard this; it is too dark to use for SODIS water treatment.

Results After Filtration and Solar Disinfection

This is an effective way to clarify water for SODIS, and it improves the taste. As I mentioned previously, the charcoal greatly improves the taste, and I’m sure removing mud and frog poo plays a part as well. The water did taste a bit woody; this is either from the bamboo or from some incompletely carbonized hardwoods, but either way, it is much better than the original, unfiltered pond water. The filter should get better the more you use it.


19 thoughts on “Simple Bushcraft Water Filter”

  1. I got to step one and I was done. There are no bamboo trees in my neighborhood. In fact there are none in my State. And there are none in my section of the USA. In fact, are there any bamboo trees at all in the USA? If not, WTF is this article good for?

    1. You can grow bamboo in the USA in climate zone 6 and above. That covers at least parts of Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida. I might have missed a couple, but I think that’s it. And this covers about 85% of the population of the USA.

      1. Good try. I guaran-fucking-tee there are no bamboo trees that will survive in 90% of the states you mention above. Even if they did, what are the chances you’d find one? Say a billion to none?

        Nice try. This article is stupid. You’ve lost a lot of credibility.

          1. So when the SHTF I should head to the local garden center and get some bamboo for my water filter? Great idea.

            You are advocating using a plant that is not native anywhere in the us, it may grow, but it is certainly not ubiquitous.

            Try walking into the state forest in any of the states you mention above. Good luck finding any bamboo. Especially not in northern tier states.

          2. Great Article Manny, my son use this project as part of his IB project for school. We live in Maryland and bamboo is not hard to find in fact, There is plenty in our neighborhood. His project is about the effects of global warm and pollution. He thought it would be great to have a make make-shift water filtration system in the event of not having clean water. The project came out nice.

          3. Sadly, some people don’t think. This guy/? is an example of someone who does not think out of the box or blow up the bow :). Prepping never results in being fully prepared. There is always room for improvement such as planting bamboo, collecting 2L bottles or PVC. Very informative and thank you.

            Your friendly prepper,
            US Spiteful (oxymoron)

          4. Well, I did mention in the article that you could just as easily use this filtration technique with a plastic bottle instead of bamboo. Nonetheless, you cussed me and said the article was stupid because you couldn’t get past the first step in the filtration process. The irony is obvious, and I suspect you were intoxicated when you first commented. Now you’ve dug yourself into this hole and are too stubborn to retract your insulting and unjustified comments. For instance, you said there was no bamboo in your state, but that is clearly wrong. You also suggested there was no bamboo in the US, and that too is demonstrably wrong. Now you imply that there is nothing to learn from this article unless you magically stumble across a bamboo forest. Never mind that 1) the filtration technique can be used with a variety of containers and 2) the only reason I had bamboo available in the first place is because I had the foresight to plant some a few years ago, and it has grown quite well right here in the USA. You’re being ridiculous and insulting, and I suspect if we had had this conversation face to face you would be embarrassed about your conduct. Frankly, you owe me an apology.

      1. Do they have plastic bottles where you live? Or PVC pipes? Or plastic bags? Or innertubes? What about about plant pots?

  2. Gino, you need to get a grip and maybe grow up a bit. I live in central Virginia and there is bamboo growing all around here. In fact I go to a large area of it each Spring to cut some to support my tomato plants. And it grows HUGE. I’ve cu some larger pieces that are at least 20 feet long.

    1. I think I have a firm grip on the fact that bamboo is not readily available in most areas of the US. So you’ve got it growing in Virginia? Great. Didn’t you fools just elect Terry McAulliffe too?

    2. Gino is obviously a basement troll looking for attention. He’s obviously just making crap up to be contrarian and distract from the well intentioned suggestions being discussed. Just ignore him, and don’t further dignify his drivel with the attention he obviously craves. Maybe he’ll crawl back into his mom’s basement.

  3. Gino, based on your replies you sound like an idiot. For those of us who have open minds and try to share knowledge and experiences to survive a SHTF situation, we’d appreciate you STFU and go away. A real man would apologize to SNOman for the idiocy of the comments you made towards him and his article.

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