It goes without saying that hiking and camping require plenty of hydration. Considering the fact that backpackers are always looking to weight down their pack with water, bringing a water purification method is a good way to achieve that. Thanks to improvements in technology, the options for purifying water in the backcountry have never been lighter or easier with solutions ranging from water purifying tablets to high tech UV purifiers. Here are some of the most common options for purifying the water while hiking or camping, and stay hydrated on the trail.
Water Purifying Tablets
Chemical purification methods weight almost nothing and are small enough to keep in your first-aid kit so you always have a way to purify water on the backcountry. On the past, campers used iodine tablets, but iodine wasn’t able to eliminate Cryptosporidium and also left the water yellow and tasting funky. Today, campers prefer chlorine dioxide water purifying tablets, which purify water with a highly active form of oxygens as they dissolve. The downside of this method is the need to wait 30 minutes for the tablets to effectively neutralize Giardia and up to 4 hours when Cryptosporidium is a concern. Water treatment tablets are the best option when going ultra-light is a priority but can also be carried as a backup purification method.
Straw Water Filter
One of the simplest systems available on the market is a plastic drinking straw with a filter inside. All you have to do with this purification system is drink. Even young ones can take advantage of a system like this. Although this water purifying method may sound a bit untrustful, it has been tested and certified as eliminating waterborne bacteria from drinking water.
Straw water filters are extremely lightweight, easy to use and some models are designed to filter up 1,000 litres of water without the need for any additional chemicals. While you still need to be wary of places known to have dangerous viral issues in the water, when it is about bacteria and protozoan, you are in good hands. As a matter of fact, this filter has been so effective that it is often distributed to afflicted regions that were struck after a natural disaster.
Ultraviolet Water Purification
Ultraviolet (UV) treatments generally come in the form of a pen or other wand. This system exposes microorganisms to UV radiation through a UV light bulb that disrupts the DNA in the organism, preventing it from reproducing. This means although pathogens may still be ingested, there will be no side effects because they cannot replicate inside your body. All this makes UV treatments a fast and chemical-free option to purify water. However, if the water is cloudy or has a lot of sediment that prevent the UV rays from passing through, the effectiveness of this system will be limited. Still, for clear water, UV treatment is quite fast and doesn’t affect the taste of the water after it is treated. Another disadvantage of UV treatments is the requirement for replacement batteries, which can be expensive or heavy to bring along. Plus, if the device is dropped, it can get damaged or broken, making it unusable.
Other Tips and Advice for Purifying Water
- Experts recommend to always carry at least two different water treatment or purification methods when camping. That is because some methods do well with bacteria but not with viruses, so a second method may be required to fully clean the water. Also, if one method presents issues, you will have a backup to ensure clean drinking water.
- If you will be camping with a large group of people, you will need a system that can purify large quantities of water so everyone gets enough to drink.
- If camping near highly polluted areas, the type of contaminant will determine the water filtration method to use. When pesticides and heavy metals are a concern, opt for a filter that is able to remove them. For water sources that are infected with giardia, use chemical purification methods as they are more effective against this parasite.
- When backpacking, choose an option that is compact and lightweight. Some people still choose the old method of boiling water, but this won’t be the ideal variation here as it requires you to bring along a fuel source and pot which can be heavy. Instead, purifying tablets are a good choice because a set of tablets weights less than 30 grams.
- In a survival situation where getting water fast is a matter of life and death, the speed at which your purification method works will be of vital importance. Here, a UV treatment method may be a better option as it can treat water very quickly.
Once you’ve actually purified the water for drinking, you will need a safe way to store it so it doesn’t get contaminated all over again. This means you will need to have a clean container or bottle with you. It’s a good idea to let the containers to thoroughly dry in the sun. This will avoid contaminating your freshly potable water with waterborne pathogens or other pollutants.