Ask the Gear Guy

Purifying drinking water

waterfilter-200×148.jpgHow should I purify my drinking water when I’m on a backpacking trip? What’s the easiest and cheapest way?

–Thirsty Tom, Dallas, Tex.

A: What’s up, Tom? You mean you don’t dig slurping down protozoans and cryptosporidium? We don’t blame you. Those are just fancy names for nasty critters that can grow in water and make you very sick.

Luckily clean water isn’t too tough to ensure.

Your best bet for short day hikes is to simply bring your drinking water from home.

For longer trips, there are a few basic ways to make sure your drinking water is always good to go. Boiling water over a stove or campfire is a simple solution. Once it comes to a roiling boil (when ½-inch bubbles are rising from the bottom of the pot) then it’s clean. Good for cooking, but it takes a while and if you plan on drinking it you’ll have to wait until it cools down.

Another good option is filtering your water with a handheld portable filter. Most require you to pump the water slowly through a series of screens and filters that remove dangerous bacteria and viruses. Basically, dirty water goes in, clean water comes out—ready to drink. These filters can be expensive (from $50 to $150) but they are reliable and simple to use.

Finally, there’s chemical treatment. Listen up, Tom, because this is probably the easiest and cheapest route to safe drinking water. Just pop a tablet or two (like Potable Aqua, $6.50 for 50; or Katadyn MicroPur, 20 tabs for $9) into your jug of water and within about 20 minutes it’ll have killed all the nasty gunk and be ready to drink. Some people complain these tablets leave a bitter taste in the water but that’s nothing a little sports drink mix can’t disguise.

Want to learn more about water purification? Check out the BSA Fieldbook, pages 124-125.

Comments about “Purifying drinking water”

  1. tim says:

    mashed potatoes and jack links are good and cheap

  2. snowy tiger says:

    it is a good way to live in an emergency

  3. Wahiawa says:

    I like chemical purification because its lightweight, inexpensive, and easy to use. Wait the required time, then drop a bit of citrus rind (orange or lemon work well) in your water bottle to mask the taste.

  4. lean says:

    I belive that purifying water is a very good thing for the health of people and the enviorment.

  5. AT Snake says:

    When hiking on the App. Trail the favorite foods were spaghetti and lipton noodles. If you will be doing more camping in the future, an investment in a food dehydrator will be worth it. This way you can dehydrate almost anything on your own (jerky, speghetti sauce, mashed potatoes), and will not have to pay for expensive freeze-dried packages.

  6. newboy4296 says:

    i love useing purification of water

  7. Old Scout 1960 era says:

    Water purifing methods:

    1.) Boil.

    2.) Unscented Chlorine Bleach (Use too much or too litle you get the trots.)

    3.) Halazone tablets. Directions on the bottle.

    4.) Iodine crystals. Same as chlorine bleach. Tempature sensitive.

    5.) Potassium Permanginate. Trickey. Can also be used to start fires. Also a fungus treatment. (Too much can kill your normal intestinal bacteria and give you the trots.)

    6.) Half fill plastic one lieter pop bottle, lay on side in bright sun for four hours. Unreliable!

    Historical note: The Mayan Indians of Mexico made special sandstone filter bowls to filter their water.

  8. Hello says:

    Maybe you could teach people that there was a time when people actually made purifiers themselves, because it would be handy to be able to purify your own water without paying someone to figure it out for you.

  9. scout1111 says:

    i think it is a good way to keep from getting sick

  10. Running in the back country says:

    Remember – to boil water to purify you will need to carry more liquid fuel and that = more weight. Also, the higher above sea level you are the water boils at a lower temp which means you have to heat it longer. Again this equals more fuel spent. Filters are pricey, add weight but give good tasting safe drinking water. With tablets you have to get used to the taste but are light weight and make the water safe.

    Remember – never take water from a stagnant pool. Look for running water to filter or treat.

  11. Drakel says:

    What about the Stiripen?

  12. Old Scout 1960 era says:

    Cheap light weight camping foods at the grocery store:

    1.) Instant Oatmeal.

    2.) Single bags of “just add water” pancake mix.

    3.) Macaroni and cheese, Powdered milk, canned tuna, chicken, or ham (or go with the foil pouches of the meats, but they are $pendy.)

    4.) Noodle and sauce mix and canned chicken ect.

    5.) Dry soup mixes. Seventeen bean soup.Soak beans in a lexan water bottle while hiking.

    6.) Spaghetti kit with a can of tomato paste.

    7.) Rice, Couscous.

    8.) Powdered mashed potatoes with a chicken boulion cube (chicken broth potatoes) and powdered gravey.

    9.) Dried oriental mushrooms.

    Well, how are these for starters?

  13. mgkj460 says:

    My dad bought my brother and I new waterproof duffel bags, will they be good for a week long camping trip at camp Massaweepie?

  14. buddy says:

    whats a cheap camera thats not digital.

  15. TRIUMPHANT RED says:

    I would bring personal boxes of poudered soup. Just pour some in some in a pot of boiling water over the campfire and stir! Presto, soup.

  16. Trace says:

    Me and my dad are going on a ten day hike and we will need lightweight food. We like freeze-dried food but it is exspensive. Are their any other solutions?

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