Water Filtration : How to Filter Water in the Wilderness

Now That’s What I Call High Quality H2O

Safe drinking water is vital in order to keep yourself hydrated while adventuring in the great outdoors. Next to hypothermia, many outdoor survival experts believe that dehydration tops the list of the biggest dangers that face outdoor enthusiasts.

There are all kinds of microscopic organisms found in untreated water that can at the very least make us miserable with headache, cramps and diarrhea which consequently speeds the dehydration process up and eventually if left untreated can lead to death. For more exciting information on the effects and causes of dehydration jump over to WebMD—-> HERE

In short we know that staying hydrated is very important to our health in the outdoors. And if you become sick, staying hydrated can become very difficult.

So what’s in the water?

From the CDC:

Protozoa: Cryptosporidium and Giardia
Bacteria: Such as Salmonella and E. coli.
Viruses: For example; Hepititis A and rotavirus

All of which can be found in both human and animal waste. That clear running stream sure looks good enough to drink but do you want to take a chance that it wasn’t used as some animals (or persons) bathroom upstream?

Boiling is the ONLY SINGLE way to remove all of the above contaminates from water. However out in the woods sometimes boiling is really not very convenient, if possible at all. So what are your options for when boiling isn’t going to work out?

Filtration is effective in removing Protozoa and bacteria when using a filter that is less than .3 microns.

Viruses however cannot be filtered out of your water. So boiling, disinfecting with iodine/ chlorine or purification are the only options to remove viruses. According to REI, ” Viruses are rarely found in North American wilderness waters.” So take that for what it is worth.

So what’s a camper to do?
Personally I use a Sawyer Squeeze which uses a 0.10 Absolute Micron Hollow Fiber Membrane shown to remove 99.99% of protozoa and bacteria from water.

Tips to follow for making sure you get safe drinking water while in the back country.

  • Collect water from a running source such as a stream, if at all possible.
  • Pay attention to your surroundings and if you smell a dead animal try and move further up stream in order to limit the chances that it may have contaminated the water.
  • Collect water in a container and consider it “dirty” until you can sanitize it. Make sure to wipe exterior droplets off of the outside of the bag before filtering the water into a clean container. Remember that if a drop of contaminated water mixes with your filtered water it has contaminated all of it.
  • Keep your filter in good working condition and follow manufacturers instructions for care and use.
  • Potentially one of the most important things to consider is your own hygiene when collecting and filtering water. Remember you have been in the back country and you have relieved yourself without the convenience of a modern bathroom. Make sure your hands are clean before handling water you intend to drink and containers you intend to drink from.

My thoughts on the Sawyer Squeeze and why I use it every time I go hiking.

  • It is portable and light weight
  • It is easy to maintain
  • There are not a lot of parts that make it work. Therefore less things to break and/or lose; both of which I am a professional!
  • It is effective and easy to use

If you still have concerns about viruses carry along some chlorine tablets or iodine, both of which you can add to your filtered water and kill any virus that may be lurking in it. For the record I do also carry chlorine tabs that I purchased at the local camping supply store and keep them in my survival kit just in case i’m not feeling very optimistic of my water source. The only downside is that you have to wait typically around 30 minutes before drinking chemically treated water. With a little planning though this shouldn’t prove to much of an issue.

Now I am not a Sawyer spokesman but after researching and using other filtration systems it is currently my favorite. The key is to finding a system that you trust and that is going to give you the level of filtration needed to be sure that you get pure water to keep yourself hydrated while on your outdoor adventure.

Now it’s time to hear your voice… join us over on Facebook and let us hear your comments and thoughts on how to filter water while in the great outdoors!

Until next time, stay safe and remember to use your Outside Voice!

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