There are different options to consider for treating your water while hiking. From boiling, tablets, drops, filters and others. There are no right or wrong answers, you can make a decision based on your preference.
When you come across a body of water which looks crystal clear, how do you know if it's safe to drink? The truth is you really can't tell if it's safe to drink or not. Clear water can hide nasty bugs, which you can't see these bugs and bacteria cause you to fall ill while on trail.
For years we have beed told to boil water to ensure it's safe to drink but boiling water can be time and fuel intensive. You need to keep the boiling for around 5 minutes to make sure you have killed everything. You also need time for the water to cool down before you can pour it into your clean water bottle. Boiling doesn't filter your water so you may still need to run it through a bandanna.
These types of water purifiers a a little on the heavy side and run off batteries. It's a good idea to have a backup set if this is your only method of water purification or you may have to rely on boiling your water if your batteries run out. The main benefit of these it that they treat water in lass then a minute. They neutralise bacteria, protozoa and viruses and doesn't leave any after taste in your water. It's important that you filter any sediment out of your water before you use it. They don't tend to work as well in murky water.
Chemical treatments are lightweight and inexpensive and work extremely well to purify your water. The only drawbacks are they take around 30 mins to be effective and leave a chemical taste in your water.
There are plenty of options available from pumps, gravity systems and squeeze through systems. The pumps have a tube which goes into the water source and you manually pump water into a clean container.
Gravity filter systems are great for when you are hiking in an area with trees or somewhere that you can hang your gravity system. If you are hiking with a group, this may be the best option because you can filter a large amount of water at one time with little effort.
Simply collect water in a wide mouth bladder like the CNOC Vecto and hook up your Sawyer Squeeze water filter to the end. Then you squeeze the pouch and clean water is squeezed into your water container.
This system can be a little tedious if you are doing it a few times a day. You can cut out this step by simply collecting dirty water directly in your drink bottle and attaching your sawyer directly to the end. This is by far the most popular system used on trail.
Filters require a little bit of maintenance while on trail if you are filtering a lot of dirty water but they come with a syringe to backlash the filter to give it a good clean and ensure it works properly.
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