Build a Water Filter Plant for Your Camp

By F.E. Brimmer

Sometimes one will discover that the water supply near camp is not fit to drink and some method must be improvised for filtering it before drinking. One season a party that the writer happened to be in was camping in a river valley where it seemed about impossible to get spring water because the season was so dry that all the brooks and streams had dried up, so we had to use river water. But just a little above us was a tannery and above that the dye works, hence the water problem was a bad one. We solved it easily and safely with a home-made filter plant that did good service for several weeks, protecting our health and giving us pure drinking water. Often a certain kind of water will disagree with some members of the camping party, and this seems especially the case in hot weather, hence the safe way will be to have a filtering plant near camp where all may drink pure water of the best who desire it. Filtered water is much better than boiled water because boiling does not take out the disagreeable part but only kills the germs, where the improvised filter device will take away all foreign substances and produce transparent water that is perfectly pure.

The essential parts of this filtering plant are two barrels and a frame for holding them. The small barrel, or cask, should be one of only fifteen or twenty gallons, marked K on the drawing. This does its work inside a larger barrel, H, which is the common size water-tight cask. To make the large barrel ready for its duty in the filtering device a platform, R, should be placed across its center as shown. This platform, R, is made from an oak board — be sure to use oak for this will not taint the water like other wood might — that is twelve inches wide and the proper length to fit nicely inside the large part of the barrel, H. To make the board, R, fit to place well it will be necessary to round its ends to the curve of the barrel with the compass saw. Two cleats of oak, E-E, are nailed to the opposite sides of the barrel for the purpose of supporting the platform. These cleats should be well nailed, or better held with long screws, because the combined weight of the smaller cask and its contents will be very heavy. Near one end of the board, R, an inch hole, N, maybe bored just where the faucet, F, from the small cask is located so that the water that filters slowly out through the faucet drops directly to the bottom of the larger cask.

The large cask, H, should be equipped with a pinch faucet, T, somewhere near its base and in any convenient location for use. From this faucet the filtered water may be drawn as needed. The filtered water will be held ready for use at W, in the bottom of the larger barrel. Next the platform, Y, had better be made for supporting the filter plant. This may be made from odds and ends of lumber that you may pick up almost anywhere. Four posts, like those at X-X, will hold the platform, Y, upon which the barrels may be held. The height of the platform off the ground need be only eighteen inches. Form the corner posts by driving into the ground. Make sure that platform is fairly level. It will only need to be large enough to accommodate the base of the larger barrel, say two feet square, or a little more, according to the capacity of the cask you use.

The smaller barrel, K, should now be ready for its part of the work. In its base place two inches of coarse clean gravel. The kind that you can get from the bed of a swiftly flowing stream will be just right. Above this comes a two-inch layer of ordinary gravel. Then place two inches of coarse sand, and last ten inches of clean, fine sand. On the sketch the coarse gravel is at E, the ordinary gravel at D, the coarse sand, C, and the fine sand, B. The space A, at the top of the small cask is for the water that is to be filtered. When the water is first poured into the small cask it is best to keep the faucet, F, closed for an hour until the contents get thoroughly soaked up, then it may be opened and the water will filter out. The layers of gravel and sand should be packed well down with the hands when placed in the smaller barrel. If the water goes through the filtering plant too rapidly it is a sure sign that it is not being cleansed properly and that your gravel and sand have too many room spaces between them, most likely from not being packed well into place. If the first water runs through roily and dirty it is because the water is washing out dust and stain that is on the lower layer of gravel. As soon as the filtering plant has been used a day or two it will clean up and get under way perfectly.

Some kind of cover should be placed over the top of the larger barrel so that no dirt can fall into the filtered water. Fill the smaller cask with pails of water from time to time, say every morning. If pure ice is available you may carefully place pieces of it in the filtered water half an hour before ready to use and so draw ice-cold filtered water from your plant. Just what a blessing this is can only be realized by one who has been in a camping section where there is poor water. The knowledge of how to make this filtering plant may come very convenient for you to know about. Of course the same system may be used in filtering water in small quantities for the home.

The contents of the smaller cask should be changed from time to time. This will depend on the amount of water that you pass through the filtering gravel and sand as well as the amount of impurity taken from the water. The fine sand should be changed once a week and the other layers monthly. Experience will tell you when it is time to renew the contents of gravel and sand because the water will begin to come through imperfectly filtered and can be readily detected by the taste.

(Note: This same filter can be made today even if you haven’t any oak barrels. Simply substitute a 35 gallon drum for the larger barrel H, and a five gallon pail for the inner filtering container K.)

Here’s another way to filter water when at camp or in a survival situation:

How to Make a Water Filter for the Camp

Both in the home and in the camp it is often desired to filter the water that is to be used for cooking and drinking purposes. If filtering the water in the camp were always followed there would be less sickness after camping trips. Many a camper, coming home from a two or three weeks’ outing, is taken ill. and the doctor will tell him it was incurred by drinking water that was not pure.

Many methods are used to filter water that is used in the camp. Some of these are good, others are doubtful as to the purity of water obtained from them. Filtering water through a barrel sunk in the sand at the lake shore so that the water can come through the cracks along the staves is one way of obtaining pure water. Boiling and straining water is also a means to the same end. but a system that is far better than either of these is to make a filter as follows: Obtain a large earthen flower pot, unglazed, and with a hole in the bottom. Place a piece of clean flannel over the hole and fill in about 3 inches of clean sand, and cover the sand over with 4 inches of charcoal.

The water to be filtered is poured in at the top and the receptacle to catch the water is set below. The filtered water will come through the hole in the bottom of the pot. At intervals the pot should be cleaned out and new sand put in it. The charcoal should be put in a shovel or tin over a fire and thoroughly dried out, then it can be used again. This is an inexpensive and absolutely efficient method of purifying water.

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