True North Blog

Emergency Water Filter

Emergency Water Filter

Here is an unconventional, yet practical, piece of equipment for you to consider adding to your emergency survival kit.  The “HydroPack,” manufactured by  Hydration Technology Innovations, will make any water on the ground, no matter how muddy, brackish, even polluted, absolutely potable.

You are not sure at what I am exactly getting?  Okay, then, consider the following emergency scenario:

You left your home bright and early to spend a beautiful Summer day hiking.  However, just after lunch you realize that you took a wrong trail.  Initially, you thought that you could easily backtrack, but, hours later, now with the sun beginning to set, you reluctantly acknowledge that you are really lost and will be spending the night.  Complicating the situation is that hours earlier you took the last sip from your water bottle (after all, you only brought enough for a “day” hike), and the afternoon was much hotter than you expected (plus the stress of being lost didn’t help) so you already feel the effects of dehydration (and who knows if you’ll even be found tomorrow).  The only water source that you manage to find is a morass of shallow, muddy puddles that is left over from a rain shower a few days prior.  Heck, when you look closely, you even see little creatures swimming around …  And, arrrrgh, what is that smell?!  How effectively do you think your water pump or nifty UV wand, like the SteriPEN (that you happened to bring along in case of an emergency), will allow you to obtain even a cupful of refreshing, potable water?  Not very, I’ll bet.

A few years ago, this is fairly much the kind of problem to which the US Army wanted a solution.  Its goal was to allow thirsty soldiers on the battlefield the capability to obtain clean drinking water no matter how contaminated the source might be.  So it turned to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) — the same folks who helped bring us the Internet — for help.

Long story short, a bunch of smart people in white lab coats developed an ingeniously simple two sided plastic pouch (one side empty, the other filled with sugar, syrup actually) separated by a membrane.  When placed in a wet environment (like, a soupy pool of mud) the pouch uses forward osmosis (basically what plants do with their roots to extract water from the ground) to absorb water and accumulate it in the pouch’s empty side.  The process takes several hours, but the end result is water that is absolutely pure, without need of further filtration or purification.

Look, I’m not smart enough to properly explain the technology, so check out the video down below of the HTI “HydroPack” for a better understanding.

Anyway, I came across a variant of the “HydroPack” a few years ago, but it was still only available to the military.  However, since then, HTI has brought the technology to the civilian market by making an increasing range of products available for more specific uses.  For example, the “Expedition” is designed as 3-litre backpack-ready water bladder intended as a primary water purification system, while the “SeaPack” is specifically designed for sea water in case of emergency.  Depending on the product, the filters range from one use to multiple uses.

The only criticism that I have is that the “electrolyte … sports drink” flavoring angle is a bit too gimmicky, but, hey, certainly this is minor considering all of its other benefits.

So, whether used in a wilderness survival situation, an urban disaster, or a humanitarian relief effort, HTI’s products have the potential to save many lives and ease much suffering.

I know that I will now be considering the “HydroPack” for my survival kit.


Erik Kulick leaning aginst wall with True North badge on blue shirt

About the Author

Erik is the founder of True North Wilderness Survival School. He is a police officer, EMS provider, a Wilderness EMT, and a Fellow of the Academy of Wilderness Medicine. He has been featured in national and international media, including CNN, the Associated Press, and Backpacker. To learn more about Erik, visit him on LinkedIn and be sure to follow him on Facebook and YouTube.

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