How To Use a Millbank Bag
By now, anybody who's ventured into the wild, or has even just dabbled into the world of Bushcraft and Survival will have had it drummed into them about how important water is.
All living things will obviously need some amount of hydration at some point.
However, when you venture out, it's not always practical to carry all of the water you'll need for a whole trip, be it a couple of days or even a couple of months. When this is the case, you'll be relying on all of the skills you've developed to find your own water sources and treat it appropriately as you go.
Enter the Millbank bag!
But, what is a Millbank bag?
Most of you will have heard of Water Filtration Bags, and a lot of you will have used them. But if you haven’t come across one of these before, maybe because you’re just starting out on your journey into Bushcraft and Survival skills, or maybe because you’ve not ventured out very far (yet), never worry; even the experts are still learning new things every day!
In the simplest terms, a Millbank Filtration Bag is basically a canvas Christmas stocking which you pour dirty water through to filter out detritus and sediment. Easy, right?
Not so fast.
Firstly, it's vital to buy only a newly made Millbank Bag, as ex military ones have often been used to filter fuel and other harmful chemicals. When you buy a brand new Boonies Millbank Bag, don't be fooled into just throwing it into your pack in the hopes it'll be ready to go when you need it, unless you’re planning to grow a beard while waiting for the water to drip through!
In order for these bags to work properly, you'll have to soak it, and I mean go to town on it or you will be waiting for hours to fill a small container. The fibres in the material need to be prepared by properly soaking the bag.
You could do this in a river by roughing it up in your hands as long as you make sure it's done thoroughly. But it's a lot easier if you just run it through your washing machine at home before you head out. Just make sure not to add any fabric conditioner as some brands will actually leave a slight water resistant coating on it, which is exactly the opposite of what you want it to do!
So now that you've prepped it properly, you're ready to roll.
Millbank bags are a great piece of kit to carry because they take up very little room in a pack, and they are light weight. So it makes good sense to carry one.
To get started, fill up the bag with water from the source you have chosen and hang it up in a suitable place by tying a loop with cordage through the eyelet. It will start to drip from the lowest point, but it's important not to collect any of the water at that stage. The reason being is that the water left on the outside of the bag must drain away first as it will still be contaminated. Some bags will have a line you can let it run down to, but if yours doesn't, letting it drain down to about 12cm from the top will be sufficient.
Then you can place your container underneath. Remember that this filter is only for removing larger particles (cloudy water) but they will not remove any nasty bacteria, so you'll still need to treat the filtered water either by relevant chemicals or by boiling.
Personally I would always choose to boil water rather than treat with chemicals simply because in the long term I believe it to be safer. However, in a real survival situation it goes without saying that I would treat the water any way I can to get through a situation.
Since the water hasn't been sterilised at this stage, it's important that you don't collect it in the container in which you plan to drink it from unless you are going to use chemicals to sterilise as doing so will contaminate it.
If boiling, it's best to collect it in a metal container which you can use to boil it up in, and then you can transfer it after to a bottle or mug for drinking.
As with all gear, maintenance is key. After using, give it a good wash to remove all the trapped dirt and sediment inside and out. Failing to do this will greatly reduce its efficiency over time. Then dry it out thoroughly to prevent it from moulding.
Millbank bags will earn their place ten fold into any pack on a trip, as I've said before, they are super light weight, and take up next to no room.
If you haven't tried one of these yet, I fully recommend that you get one and give it a go.
Thanks for reading and remember, What you don't know, can hurt.