Pre-Filtration Method for Sediment Heavy Water Sources

WARNING: This is NOT a substitute for proper filtration. This method is to be used in conjunction with a water filter in cases where water sources have a lot of sediment or large particles that would cause clogging or improper filtering with just a regular water filter.

I recently used this method on the trail when we backpacked The Honeycombs near the Owyhee Reservoir in Oregon.  I am happy to report that this worked wonderfully and I will absolutely be adding these materials to my backpacking essentials checklist.

When you’re backpacking or even going on a long day hike, making water safe for drinking is one of the most important parts of ensuring a fun and safe outdoor experience. Even with a proper filter, sometimes water sources are less than ideal for obtaining life-sustaining H2O – that’s where pre-filtration can come in handy!


materials for water pre-filtration device

Container for water: This can be anything that holds water, but I would recommend something with a small opening, as it makes keeping the cheesecloth on much easier. We used a 3-liter water jug and it worked perfectly.

Rope: This is optional, it’s for attaching the bottle to a pack.

Cheese Cloth: I cut this into strips prior to our backpacking trip, now that I’ve used this method a few times I would recommend cutting them into squares that completely cover the opening of the container you’re using. You’ll need several layers of cheese cloth, enough to make a small pad.

Rubber Band: Use this to attach the cheese cloth to the water container.

How-To Step by Step

tie the rope onto the water jug

Step 1 (Optional): Attach the rope to your water container

If you’re a knot person, have a blast with all of your fancy rope tying skills. If you’re like me and just want a knot that will hold your bottle to your backpack, a simple square knot will do just fine.

*This is optional as the rope is only used to attach the jug to your pack.


gross water

Step 2: Fill container with water

Pretty self-explanatory but do try to keep as much sediment out of the container as possible; the less there is in the original water, the less strain you put on your filter!




fit the cheese cloth over the top of your water jug


Step 3: Prepare your cheese cloth

As cheese cloth has large holes in it, you’ll need to layer several pieces. I cut mine into a long strip and just folded it over itself, making sure the square was big enough to completely cover the opening of the water container.



attach the cheese cloth to the water container using the rubber band

Step 4: Attach the cheese cloth to the water container using the rubber band

Again, not rocket science, but be sure that the rubber band is tight over the cheese cloth. It would be a shame to get the water collected and then have the rubber band slip while pouring the water into your filter!




pour water into your filter

Step 5: Pour water though cheese cloth into your filter

It should come out much cleaner than it goes in.

*If you have a pump filter, use another container to catch the water as it’s being poured through the cheese cloth. Then you can pump the water exactly as you normally would.



That’s it!  Now you can relax and rejoice in the fact that you saved your filter a lot of extra work.


One Comment on “Pre-Filtration Method for Sediment Heavy Water Sources

  1. Pingback: The Honeycombs, Owyhee Reservoir (Oregon) | the backpack almanac

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