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Water Treatment Buying Guide

waterfilter-feature

You and your troop have been hiking all day. You’re super thirsty, but your water bottle is empty. So when you come upon a clear mountain stream, it’s like an oasis — nature’s ultimate water fountain. But think before you drink! Even clean-looking streams can be full of bacteria, protozoa and other nasty bugs that can cause serious illness. Filter that water first with one of these handy options.

BOILING

This one is simple. Just heat any suspect water to a roiling boil. When half-inch-wide bubbles are rising from the bottom of the pot for about a minute, you’re good to go. Boiling is cheap, simple and very effective. But it can be slow, especially at high altitudes, can use lots of stove fuel and won’t remove silt.

boiling

PUMP FILTERS

Pump Filters clean the water by pushing it through a filter as you pump. They require hand pumping, which can be tiring, but they’re lightweight, durable and a good choice for backcountry hikers.

MSR SWEETWATER MICROFILTER ($90; cascadedesigns.com/msr) Pump Time: 1 liter per minute Weight/Size: 11 ounces, 7.5" long x 2" wide Filters: Protozoa, bacteria, cryptosporidium, chemicals and toxins

MSR SWEETWATER MICROFILTER
($90; cascadedesigns.com/msr)
Pump Time: 1 liter per minute
Weight/Size: 11 ounces, 7.5″ long x 2″ wide
Filters: Protozoa, bacteria, cryptosporidium, chemicals and toxins

KATADYN HIKER PRO MICROFILTER ($85; katadyn.com) Pump Time: 1 liter per minute Weight/Size: 11 ounces, 6.5" long x 3" wide Filters: Protozoa, cysts, bacteria and cryptosporidium

KATADYN HIKER PRO MICROFILTER
($85; katadyn.com)
Pump Time: 1 liter per minute
Weight/Size: 11 ounces, 6.5″ long x 3″ wide
Filters: Protozoa, cysts, bacteria and cryptosporidium

CHEMICAL TABLETS

Chemical tablets purify water with a chemical that kills off the bad stuff. They’re the lightest, most portable option, but can add a slight taste to the water.

KATADYN MICROPUR MP1 PURIFICATION TABLETS ($11 for pack of 20 tablets; katadyn.com) Active Ingredient: Chlorine dioxide Treatment Time: 4 hours, 1 tablet per quart of water Weight/Size: 0.02-oz. tablet Kills: Bacteria, cryptosporidium, giardia and viruses

KATADYN MICROPUR MP1 PURIFICATION TABLETS
($11 for pack of 20 tablets; katadyn.com)
Active Ingredient: Chlorine dioxide
Treatment Time: 4 hours, 1 tablet per quart of water
Weight/Size: 0.02-oz. tablet
Kills: Bacteria, cryptosporidium, giardia and viruses

AQUAMIRA WATER TREATMENT DROPS ($15; aquamira.com) Active Ingredient: Chlorine dioxide, plus phosphoric acid activator Treatment Time: 20 to 35 minutes for full treatment Weight/Size: 3 oz., about the size of a deck of cards, treats 120 quarts of water Kills: Protozoa, bacteria, cryptosporidium and viruses

AQUAMIRA WATER TREATMENT DROPS
($15; aquamira.com)
Active Ingredient: Chlorine dioxide, plus phosphoric acid activator
Treatment Time: 20 to 35 minutes for full treatment
Weight/Size: 3 oz., about the size of a deck of cards, treats 120 quarts of water
Kills: Protozoa, bacteria, cryptosporidium and viruses

UV LIGHT FILTRATION

UV light filtration purifies water using ultraviolet light that kills the bad stuff. Quick and easy, it is best for individual use, but it does require batteries.

STERIPEN AQUA ($50; steripen.com) FIlter Time: Less than 50 seconds Process: Press button to activate UV light, place light in water and stir. Weight/Size: 2.9 oz., four AA batteries will treat 50 liters of water, UV bulb effective for 3,000 liters Filters: Protozoa, bacteria and viruses

STERIPEN AQUA
($50; steripen.com)
Filter Time: Less than 50 seconds
Process: Press button to activate UV light, place light in water and stir.
Weight/Size: 2.9 oz., four AA batteries will treat 50 liters of water, UV bulb effective for 3,000 liters
Kills: Protozoa, bacteria and viruses

GRAVITY FILTERS

Gravity filters use gravity to move water through the filter. No hand pumping is needed, and it’s a great way to easily filter a lot of water for a group.

MSR AUTOFLOW MICROFILTER ($120; cascadedesigns.com/msr) FIlter Time: 1.75 liters per minute Process: Put dirty water in the microfilter bag; attach to any bottle or hydration reservoir; by the time it drips into your bottle, it's ready to drink. Weight/Size: 10.5 oz., one 4-liter reservoir Kills: Protozoa, bacteria and cryptosporidium

MSR AUTOFLOW MICROFILTER
($120; cascadedesigns.com/msr)
FIlter Time: 1.75 liters per minute
Process: Put dirty water in the microfilter bag; attach to any bottle or hydration reservoir; by the time it drips into your bottle, it’s ready to drink.
Weight/Size: 10.5 oz., one 4-liter reservoir
Kills: Protozoa, bacteria and cryptosporidium

PLATYPUS GRAVITYWORKS 4L WATER FILTER ($120; cascadedesigns.com/platypus) FIlter Time: 4 liters in 2.5 minutes Process: Put dirty water in one bag, and by the time it drips into the clean bag, it's ready to drink. Weight/Size: 10.75 oz., two 4-liter bags Kills: Protozoa, bacteria and cryptosporidium

PLATYPUS GRAVITYWORKS 4L WATER FILTER
($120; cascadedesigns.com/platypus)
FIlter Time: 4 liters in 2.5 minutes
Process: Put dirty water in one bag, and by the time it drips into the clean bag, it’s ready to drink.
Weight/Size: 10.75 oz., two 4-liter bags
Kills: Protozoa, bacteria and cryptosporidium

STRAW FILTERS

Straw filters clean the water automatically as you drink it through a straw-like filter. Best for solo use; obviously not a good choice for groups.

SAWYER MINI WATER FILTER ($25; sawyer.com) FIlter Time: Instant Process: Use straw to drink straight from water source, or use included 16-oz. squeeze pouch to filter the water through the straw. Weight/Size: 2 ounces, palm-sized, treats 100,000 gallons Kills: Protozoa, bacteria and cryptosporidium

SAWYER MINI WATER FILTER
($25; sawyer.com)
FIlter Time: Instant
Process: Use straw to drink straight from water source, or use included 16-oz. squeeze pouch to filter the water through the straw.
Weight/Size: 2 ounces, palm-sized, treats 100,000 gallons
Kills: Protozoa, bacteria and cryptosporidium

LIFESTRAW ($20; lifestraw.com) FIlter Time: Instant Process: Use straw to drink straight from water source or from a water bottle. Weight/Size: 2 ounces, 9" long, treats 1,000 liters Kills: Protozoa, bacteria and cryptosporidium

LIFESTRAW
($20; lifestraw.com)
FIlter Time: Instant
Process: Use straw to drink straight from water source or from a water bottle.
Weight/Size: 2 ounces, 9″ long, treats 1,000 liters
Kills: Protozoa, bacteria and cryptosporidium

HOW MUCH WATER DO I NEED?

A good rule: 2 to 3 liters of water per Scout per day. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. Always have it at the ready and drink small amounts frequently.

WHAT IF IT’S MUDDY?

Muddy water? No problem. Just let it settle in the bottom of a wide pot. Then very carefully scoop the clear water from the top. Next, strain it through a bandana or a paper coffee filter. Finally, filter, boil or purify and drink up!

24 Comments on Water Treatment Buying Guide

  1. Boil it!

  2. We use the Vario by Katadyn. Works great and attaches right to your bottle top eliminating rim contamination. The prefilter allows the main filter to last times longer than most other brands too.

  3. I agree with the boil it group.

    • Knife Xpert 157 (aka Chad 101) // February 10, 2014 at 11:08 am // Reply

      Are you really going to take the time on a hike to stop, build a fire or light a stove, boil water, wait for it to cool, and then get going again? lets see… by now you have wasted about 1-2 hours. just buy Potable Aqua taps and use those. But make sure to get the iodine neutralizers. iodine pills are a lot faster then boiling. and plus who wants to drink warm water? And if you dont like using the taps, then just bite the bullet and fork over the cash to get a good filter. Its way worth the money.

    • When I was in the military most servicemen carried the MSR Miox purifier. It made both a brine and an electric charge to the water; a double control treatment. It lasted a full tour with one kit and 2 AA batteries. If you want a true tested item, here’s one.

  4. First Need is the only way to go no matter where your going or what conditions you will run into in any country. Very professional results (no viruses) not just for filtering fairly clean streams in the backcountry. The only possible draw-back is that you must keep the unit from freezing.

  5. Just back from a Boundary Waters Wilderness canoe trek; and again the Steri-Pen was a champion. it worked quickly and effortlessly for everyone in the group (7 scouts). We did boil our base camp water but individual bottle use by the scouts was covered by “The Pen.” We had our Katadyn Guide pump with but it never saw day light; water was super clear, even before using a coffee filter as a pre-filter. Only spent $7.00 on batteries for the entire trek, that’s thrifty.

  6. I use potable aqua for water treatment in my compact survival kit. It works great when you have the time.

  7. Sawyer Squeeze Filter is the best out there- clean water in 5 seconds

    • I agree and their new mini is all you need and it filters 100,000 gallons for $20. So basically you can combine all the other filters listed above and they still won’t come close to doing what the Sawyer Mini does. Why would you buy anything else.

    • Scoutmaster D // November 3, 2014 at 4:06 pm // Reply

      I brought a Sawyer mini-filter to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area this summer. Instead of using the bag they provided, I brought along a “used” 1 liter bottle to fill with lake water and squeeze into my canteen. I was the only one to bring the filter. By the end of the first day, there was a line forming behind me to “borrow” my filter. This filter provided water for all 9 of us for six days. The 1-liter bottle was looking very sad by the end, but held up great.

  8. Knife Xpert 157 (aka Chad 101) // October 12, 2012 at 12:38 pm // Reply

    I use a Boat Of Boulder OUTBACK filtering water bottle. costs about $20 and I haven’t got sick yet so it must work!

  9. I need a filter any recommendations?

  10. I go with a Bota water bottle. It has a removable built in filter. And is only 20$. Plus it filters 600 gals before you have to replace it!

  11. ultra-light master // July 7, 2011 at 7:44 pm // Reply

    just boil it

    • Knife Xpert 157 (aka Chad 101) // August 16, 2012 at 1:36 pm // Reply

      Are you really going to take the time on a hike to stop, build a fire, boil water, wait for it to cool, and then get going again? just buy Potable Aqua taps and use those. But make sure to get the iodine nutrolziers. iodine pills are a lot faster then boiling. and plus who wants to drink warm water? Cold crick water is the only way to go!

  12. Chiefton1 // June 8, 2011 at 9:57 am // Reply

    A better rule of thumb for proper hydration when hiking is half your body weight in ounces and if you are over exerting yourself double that!

  13. For our unit, boiling water remains the number one process for purifying water; it’s cheap and easy. When time is of essence, we use the stri-pen for clear water (No, batteries wearing out have never been a problem) & for non-clear water we use the Katadyn guide pump, it’s faster than most others and cost the same for replacing filters. My suggestion is try numerous methods and pick those best for you. Always carry a backup, just in case.

  14. I says to Mabel I // February 21, 2011 at 4:23 pm // Reply

    Great tips thanks boys life

  15. I’ve used First Need for years; will screw on standard water bottles/water bags. Has a pre-filter, pumps quite fast, and can be field cleaned(reverse hose and you can backwash filter). It has a small bottle of dye which you put into a pot, pump, and if the water shows any sign of bluish/purple dye, it’s time to change filter. Never had a problem with them, and have had three of them. Newest one is very easy to use and pumps quite fast. Can’t go wrong! Camprdon

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