Thursday, November 27, 2014


Hang on to those little pop-up turkey timers this holiday season
to throw in your survival kits and bug out bags to use as WAPIs!
This holiday season hang on to those little pop-up turkey timers that let you know your turkey is done to throw in your survival kits and bug out bags! In fact... go ahead and just pull them out of your turkey before you even cook it as they are actually terrible for cooking turkeys (they are the main culprit in overdone and dry turkeys all across America!!). 

Despite the fact that these little timers produce terrible turkeys, they aren't completely useless. These little plastic temperature indicators actually have a really terrific survival use that most are completely unaware of! Trust us... skip using them for turkeys, wash them off and throw them in your survival kits! 

Why you ask? Did you know that you can actually use these little pop-up turkey timers as water pasteurization indicators (WAPIs) to let you know when your water is hot enough to have killed all pathogens without actually bringing it to a boil (see this page to learn why you would want to do this)! These little guys are designed to go off at 185° F which is actually 15° hotter than your water needs to be to kill all micro organisms (160° F is the temperature typically used to pasteurize milk, but 149° F is all it takes to kill pathogens in water)! Just drop one of these little guys in your container of water and heat until the indicator pops out letting you know that your water has reached 185° F and your water has been pasteurized!

Why would you want to do this you ask? Why not just boil? Did you know that the amount of fuel it takes to bring your water to 200° F... it actually takes that much fuel again just to raise your water those additional unnecessary 12° it takes to bring water to its boiling point?? 149° F is all that is required to kill all waterborne pathogens! Why on earth would you use more than twice as much fuel just to bring your water to 212° F?? That is a colossal waste of fuel, not to mention the waste of time in additional heating and cooling down again so that your water is drinkable! For more on boiling vs. water pasteurization, check out our How Long Do You REALLY Have To Boil Water to Make It Safe To Drink page.


Did you know that these little pop-up turkey timers are actually reusable? Just reheat the tip, push the pop-up indicator back in and allow to cool so the button stays in and you are ready for your next water pasteurization session!

Water pasteurization with a typical pop-up turkey timer!
Just to demonstrate the effectiveness of the pop-up turkey timer
as a water pasteurization indicator (WAPI), we decided to photo
document the process on our indoor stove top so that you can see
how well it really works! 

Here we start with a pot of hot tap water on the
stove top with the pop-up turkey timer floating in the water poised 
to go off once our water hits our pasteurization temperature. We
also make use of a thermometer to show water temperature as we
progress! As you can see here, our water is at typical "hot" tap
water temperature at about 120° F (48° C)

Our water has reached a safe water pasteurization temperature but our turkey timer has not activated yet. Hold tight!
As you can see via our thermometer, our water has risen in
temperature to slightly over our actual required minimum
pasteurization temperature of 149° F (65° C) where all 
living organisms are killed quickly. We are now at 160° F 
(71° C) which is the accepted industry standard used to 
pasteurize milk and various other food/drink products. But as
you can see in the photo, our pop-up turkey timer still hasn't
activated yet. It hasn't "popped". So does this mean that our 
experiment is a failure? Not so fast!

Our turkey timer has activated and our water is fully pasteurized!
Look! Our pop-up turkey timer popped! Let's take a look at 
the thermometer and see what temperature our water is now! 
As you can see, our water temperature is now slightly under 
170° F (76° C). Now this is slightly higher than the 
temperature we need for water pasteurization, but it's still 42°
less than the 212° F (100° C) required to boil water! That is 
a huge fuel and time saver! 

Remember... we don't need this timer to show us that we are 
precisely at pasteurization temperature (149° F/160° F or 
65° C/71° C depending on your personal preference in 
pasteurization standard). We only need a reliable indication 
that we have AT LEAST reached pasteurization temperature.
That being the case... mission accomplished!!

Getting ready to reset our pop-up turkey timer pasteurization indicator!
Now here's aspect of these pop-up turkey timers 
that very few people are aware of: They are 
reusable! We are going to demonstrate how to
"reset" them! 

As you can see, I am holding the activated timer 
in my hand. I simply dipped the tip of my little 
timer back into my pot to soften the soft metal or 
wax that holds the blue indicator in place until it 
softens enough from heat to allow the internal 
spring to "pop" the indicator out. Once the tip of
our turkey timer has been reheated, I push the
blue indicator back in.

To reset your turkey timer, simply reheat the tip, press the indicator back in and then cool!
Once the blue indicator is again depressed, I then
run the tip of our timer under cold water to cool
the metal or wax so that it once again retains
the blue indicator. 

Our turkey timer water pasteurization indicator has been reset and is ready to use again!
As you can see, our improvised pop-up turkey 
timer water pasteurization indicator has been
reset and is ready to use again! 

Just as a precaution, we would recommend that you do a similar test on your stove top to verify the actual activation temperature of any pop-up turkey timer that you intend to use for water pasteurization and be fully familiar with it. That being said, turkey timers in general do the same thing at very similar temperatures so even without a test like this you should be able to safely and reliably use a pop-up turkey timer as a water pasteurization indicator! 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

How Long Do You REALLY Have to Boil Water Before It’s Safe to Drink?

How Long Do You REALLY Have to Boil Water Before It’s Safe to Drink?
How long do you really have to boil water before it's safe to drink? The answer
might surprise you!
So how long do you really have to boil water before it's safe to drink?

     5 minutes? 
     10 minutes? 
     20 minutes? 
     30 minutes?

The correct answer: If you actually saw through our trick question and guessed 0 minutes, you would be correct!!

Now you might be thinking “Wait a minute... how is that possible?? That’s not what I learned on Survivorman or Man vs. Wild!”  Well, as you are about to learn... it’s absolutely, positively & definitively 100% possible… with just a little knowledge!

There’s a lot of conflicting information out there regarding how to “purify” water to make it safe to drink, and it can get pretty confusing. There are chemical treatments, filters and of course the “old faithful” boiling of your water to make it safe to drink. Most of these treatments are completely viable for making water drinkable as long as you know the limitations of each method.

For this article we are going to stay away from the chemical and filtration methods of water purification and focus primarily on using heat to treat water and make it drinkable. Heat is an effective method for treating water because it eliminates (kills) the microscopic organisms that are living in that water that can make you very sick.

So how much heat? And for how long? 

Great questions! Depending on your source, “conventional wisdom” has told us for decades that bringing water to a rolling boil at the very minimum and holding it there for a period of time is what is required to kill these microscopic pathogens. 

For example, let’s take a look at what the Boy Scouts of America say about treating water:
The surest means of making your drinking water safe is to heat it to a rolling boil—when bubbles a half inch in diameter rise from the bottom of the pot. While this is a simple method, it does require time and fuel.”

Now let’s take a look at what the United States Marine Corp. recommends for treating water:

“Purify all water obtained from natural sources by using iodine tablets, bleach, or boiling for 5 minutes.” 

So are the Boy Scouts of America and the Marines wrong? No. Bringing your water to a full boil will absolutely kill all common pathogens that we have all learned to take so seriously because can make us sick with illnesses like Giardia, Cryptosporidium, E. coli and the rest. The problem with bringing your water to a boil, as you are about to learn, is that doing so is actually complete overkill when it comes to treating water for harmful microbes! Boiling your water, while completely safe and will absolutely kill those nasty pathogens, is actually a waste of precious fuel/firewood resources in a survival situation!

OK, so how much fuel are you wasting exactly? 

Did you know that heating your water from 200° F to 212° F… just that last extra 12° to get your water to it’s boiling point… actually uses TWICE as much fuel as it does just to get your water to that initial 200°?? Well... it does. TWICE as much fuel! That is nothing to scoff at!

So now that we know what the Boy Scouts of America and the Marines say about purifying water (and we love both of these organizations!), let’s see what science tells us about using heat to purify water.

Important Temperatures to Factor In to this Equation:

212° F = Temperature at which water boils
160° F = Temperature at which milk is generally pasteurized
149° F = Temperature at which Hepatitis A is quickly killed  
140° F = Temperature at which bacteria (V. cholerae, E. coli and Salmonella typhi) and Rotavirus are quickly killed
131° F = Temperature at which worms & protazoa cysts (Giardia, Cryptosporidium and Entamoeba) are quickly killed

As you can see from the temperatures listed above, the pathogens that we are primarily concerned about when it comes to safe drinking water are ALL killed (quickly) at temperatures much lower than 212°, the temperature at which water boils. That being the case... why would you unnecessarily waste any more fuel than you need to heating up your water those additional 63°? Great question, isn’t it?

Now let’s take another look at that milk pasteurization temperature above: 160° F.
Pasteurization is a process invented by French scientist Louis Pasteur during the early nineteenth century. Pasteur discovered that the pasteurization process made it possible to heat the milk to high enough temperature to kill all harmful microorganisms without “cooking” the milk causing it to curdle. 

Now of course you never have to worry about your water curdling, but an important lesson can be gleaned from this milk pasteurization process that can be extremely beneficial: Water, like milk, does not have to be boiled to be safe to drink!

Temperature + Time = Pasteurization

Pasteurization is a process that occurs based on two variables: temperature and time. You see... you can actually pasteurize water at lower temps if you do it for a longer duration. This is extremely helpful in situations where A) you aren’t able to effect fire for heating your water, or B) you can make fire but you do not have a suitable container for boiling that can withstand the intense heat of your fire. Lower temperature/longer duration pasteurization can actually be done with discarded plastic 2 liter bottles set in the sunlight for longer periods of time (typically 6 hours). This method of disinfecting water is known as the SODIS (Solar Water Disinfection) method. You can even put something black or reflective behind your bottle to speed up the process!

So Why Do So Many Advocate Boiling Your Water?

Great question with a very simple answer: When those bubbles start to roll in your container of water, that is nothing more than a clear VISUAL INDICATOR that your water has become hot enough (actually MORE than enough) to have killed all of those little nasties. It works. It’s effective. But is it ideal? Or can we do better?

A classic WAPI in the author's hand for sense of scale. Notice the bright 
green plug of wax in the clear tube? That's the stuff that melts and and 
falls to the other end of the clear tube to let you know that your water is 
pasteurized and ready for drinking!

Your Pasteurization Friend: the WAPI!

So if the bubbles from boiling water gives us that terrific visual indicator to let us know that our water has reached 212° F... but now we know that boiling our water to make it safe to drink is actually a waste of precious fuel resources (fuel, wood, candles, etc.)… how can we then determine if our water has gotten hot enough to have been properly pasteurized without those rolling bubbles? Great question again! We could certainly use a thermometer... but most of these are glass and very fragile. Too fragile to keep from breaking inside your kit. We need something small, light, compact, durable and can be used over and over again to let us know that our water has reached that effective pasteurization temperature. SOLUTION: A tiny inexpensive device known as a Water Pasteurization Indicator (WAPI)!

WAPI’s are incredibly simple little devices. They are nothing more than a tiny sealed clear tube with a special brightly colored (easy to see) green wax inside of them. This wax (known as Myverol 18-06) is formulated to melt at just the right temperature for pasteurization (156° F or 69° C.). In most WAPI designs the tube typically slides up and down a thin cable with a tiny weight on each end allowing you to flip the tube so that the wax inside can be easily positioned at the top of the tube again. 

To use your WAPI simply slide the little tube down to the bottom of the wire so that the wax-heavy end of the tube is oriented toward the top of the tube. Place your WAPI tube into your container of water draping the weight at the opposite end of your WAPI tube over the lip of your container so that it is easy to grab. Once your water has reached pasteurization temperature of 156°, the wax in your WAPI tube will start to melt allowing it to fall from the top of your clear tube to the bottom of your tube with a little help from gravity. This is your visual indicator that your water has been pasteurized!

While WAPI’s are extremely inexpensive to purchase (typically $5 to $8), it is possible to make your own WAPI! We have even seen versions made from drinking straws and glue sticks for hot glue guns. While you can make your own WAPI, they are so inexpensive that we recommend purchasing one. “Quality control” can be an issue with DIY WAPI’s causing inconsistent results… even when purchasing DIY kits made with genuine parts. Sometimes it’s just best to leave work like this to the experts… especially when a piece of kit like this is so inexpensive to begin with.

Get your own Water Pasteurization Indicators (WAPI) here!


When traveling to countries that are known to have a questionable water supply (due to harmful pathogens remaining in the water supply), one little known trick when you cannot access bottled water is to pour yourself a glass of HOT water from the tap instead of cold. Water from the hot water heater has actually been pasteurized! Water from hot water heaters is typically between 120° F and 140° which is slightly below ideal pasteurization temperatures… but remember that heat + time = pasteurization! 99.999% of water borne pathogens are killed instantly when water is brought to 149° F. The same result can be accomplished with lower temperatures if you simply allow the water to remain at that temperature for a longer period of time. For example, water can be pasteurized at 130° F if simply held at that temperature for 2 hours. 


As with anything else, use common sense when treating water. Your health and potentially your life are on the line. When in doubt, heat your water a little hotter or for a little longer. It can’t hurt unless fuel is at an absolute premium. 

Just like with boiling, pasteurizing is not a panacea for making any water drinkable. For example, pasteurizing sea water will not make it drinkable as pasteurization does not remove the salts from sea water. Just like boiling, pasteurization only kills microorganisms that can make you sick. It does not remove chemicals, metals, pollutants or other toxins that could harm you from your water for you. 

One example in particular that comes to mind where both boiling and pasteurizing water can make matters worse for you instead of better is in the case of the recent algae blooms in the Toledo area. Water of this type contains the toxin known as microcystis aeruginosa. Microcystis aeruginose is a species of freshwater cyanobacteria which can form harmful algae blooms (HABs) in fresh bodies of water. Boiling or pasteurizing water of this type actually INCREASES the presence of the toxins and makes your water more toxic to drink!

So when it comes to treating water to make it drinkable, be smart. Be careful. Play it safe. Use your noggin.

Happy pasteurizing and safe hydrating!

Want to learn more about Water Pasteurization? Check out our Water Pasteurization Pinterest Board!:

Follow EQUIP2SURVIVE's Water Pasteurization board on Pinterest.

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