Nothing is as important when backpacking as having a clean, reliable source of drinking water. Never drink untreated water. What you can’t see really can harm you. Even if a water source looks perfectly clear, all bodies of water have microorganisms, bacteria or viruses. The last thing you want on a hike is a case of diarrhea.
When searching for the appropriate water purifier for your needs, the first thing to consider is how exactly you will be using the purifier or filter. Do you need a filter to remove larger particles, parasites and bacteria or a purifier that will filter out all of these and disable viruses as well? How quickly do you need the drinking water be ready for use?
A simple bottle filter will work for some treks, but a more sophisticated process may be needed in most cases.
Choosing a Water Cleaning System
When shopping for a water filtering or purifying system there are some things to take into consideration.
- Does the process meet EPA guidelines for safe drinking water?
- Weight is important if you plan on a long hike and every ounce counts. Is it something you can use easily?
- Some of the pump action filters may be a little difficult to pump. Does it meet your needs?
- In the area where you will be traveling, are water borne-viruses a problem? If so you will need something more than a simple filtering system.
Whatever type of water purifying you choose you can extend the life of your filter by straining large pieces of sediment through a coffee filter or cloth. This can help keep your filter effective, longer.
In our comparison of products we’ll start with the simplest and progress to the most thorough.
Filtering water bottles:
- Inexpensive, generally in the $25.00 to $50.00 range, and easy to carry, filter bottles remove larger contaminants such as Giardia Lamblia and Cryptosporidium cysts.
- The Outback filter by Bota of Boulder also inhibits the growth of bacteria. Another excellent choice is the Katadyn Exstream XR Purifier Water Bottle.
- With a filtering bottle good drinking water is available very quickly.
Portable hand pump filters:
- A pump filter is often the perfect solution for many hikers. The pump quickly pushes the water through the filter to provide pure drinking water, almost immediately.
- Compact and light weight the MSR Miniworks filtering system was selected by the Marines for their Amphibious Raids and Recon division. It has a lever action that makes it easier to use than many of the pump filters and is maintainable on the trail. It also exceeds the EPA requirements for drinking water. This one has been a favorite for years. The cost on the Miniworks EX microfiltering system is usually under $100.00.
- The Katadyn Hiker is a very popular model that can be used successfully for years. It meets all EPA guidelines and has a one year anti-clog guarantee. Cost is generally under $75.00. A Katadyn Hiker Pro is also available.
Microbiological purifying systems:
- In underdeveloped countries or other areas where viruses might be a problem you will need a system that will protect you from viruses as well as from the larger organism that can easily be filter out of the drinking water. Easy to use and highly effective is the Sweetwater Purifying System by MSR. This system contains the ViralStop Purifier Solution to control viruses and meets the EPA requirements for a microbiological water purifier. The cost of this system is very reasonable and is generally under $100.00.
- To guard against disease producing viruses be sure your selection meets EPA standards for microbiological purifying. To meet EPA guidelines a microbiological purifying system must kill, remove or make inactive all disease causing microorganisms from the drinking water. This includes viruses, bacteria and other organisms.
- A highly effect way to treat your drinking water is with ultraviolet light. This is especially useful for travel in areas where the water is suspect.
- Hydro-photon manufactures the Steripen which uses ultraviolet light to eliminate 99.9% of water-borne, illness producing viruses, bacteria and protozoan. Compact and lightweight, the steripen was named best new invention in 2001. A blast of UV from the handheld unit completely eradicates the organisms that can cause illness.
The key to making your backpacking an enjoyable adventure is to pick the proper equipment. Do your homework and choose the backpacking water purifier that’s perfect for you.