Water treatment...to purify or to filter?

7:10 p.m. on April 5, 2014 (EDT)
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These forums have been a big help with giving me answers to questions that you can't necessarily get from a label or (direct/honest) from a store associate.  

The question I want to post for this forum is "how do you treat potential drinking water while on the trail?"

Not only do I want to have this thread to help other people as several forums have helped me, but as a relative newbie, I'd like to know too!

I think some key things to mention would be:

-Which method you prefer? Tablets, filter, UV purifier, other?

-When do you use this method, any specific type of trip? 2 night trip, 3-4, longer?  Different treatments for different lengths of time?

-Why do you use this treatment method?  Lighweight, durable over time, easy, consistent, inexpensive, quick to treat?

-Are there any tricks of the trade you'd like to share, either with treating or even collecting water? A great example would be using a tent pole repair sleeve like Patman which he mentioned here

There obviously isn't one right way, I'd just like to see the circumstances when folks use a method, and try to see which best fits my (and anyone reading) needs.

Thanks!

8:00 p.m. on April 5, 2014 (EDT)
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I use my trusty old PUR hiker. I'm never out for more than three days, so I have never used any other method, other than boiling. of course there's nothing you can do about chemical contamination, outside of reverse osmosis... most backcountry water sources in the national parks are pretty safe aside from giardia and crypto, so filtering is good enough.

8:10 p.m. on April 5, 2014 (EDT)
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8:52 p.m. on April 5, 2014 (EDT)
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I use two different methods depending on the time of year and type of trip. I use the sawyer squeeze or the steripen adventurer. The sawyer i use 95% of the time, and the steripen is reserved typically for winter when the sawyer has the potential to freeze. I sometimes bring the steripen on short 1 or 2 nights or as an alternate method if in a group with another filtering means.

The sawyer is cheap, durable, easy to use, lightweight, and has an extremely long lifespan. The steripen is more expensive, lightweight, and fast, but can have the potential fir more issues.

9:49 p.m. on April 5, 2014 (EDT)
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I second Bill's series...very informative. As far as me specifically...I used only Aquamira for years on backpacking trips with I guess 100% success? Lately however...I have been using Aquamira in combination with my Sawyer Mini. For $20.00 and two ounces of additional weight it provides redundancy and (most importantly)...removes most of the unwanted stuff floating around in the water. I could (and people do) use the filter alone...but if given an option of only one I would choose Aquamira because I can carry it comfortably in my pockets.

In the picture below I show how I break the Aquamira down into smaller amounts
Aquamira.jpg

In the picture below I show the Sawyer Mini rolled as I keep it in my pack


Sawyer-Mini.jpg

10:08 p.m. on April 5, 2014 (EDT)
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I use a Sawyer Squeeze and I bring Iodine tabs as a backup.

8:46 a.m. on April 6, 2014 (EDT)
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I use the Camelbak UV systems because its small its lightweight lasts a long time and it works really well. for years I used iodine tablets and decided to get away from them and try something more modern. I still carry iodine tablets as a backup. if I'm somewhere near snow I just melt snow for my water. if I'm out for a long time I'll bring a solar recharger for my Camelbak, I haven't had to recharge it yet on a trip though because the battery lasts so long. whenever I see somebody filtering water it looks like a lot of work and it looks like it takes a long time, the Camelback only takes a few seconds. that's my two cents.

10:51 a.m. on April 6, 2014 (EDT)
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I rarely treat, boil, or filter my water.  Most back country water sources in the western US do not require treatment.  The vast majority of claims getting sick from water are actually caused by someone not washing their hands or other personal and kitchen hygiene issues.  Giardia and other pathogens take time to bloom in your gut, and most folks are back home from their trip before sufficient time elapses for symptoms to express.  So beware when camping with someone who claims to have been struck ill by bad water; their habits are probably the real cause and will put you at risk, filter or not.  In fact your tap water probably has more sketchy pathogens than the typical mountain stream.  I have been practicing this for over forty years with no incident. I believe this whole treatment thing is mostly a scam to make money off the hapless camper, particularly out west.  I understand water sources in the Midwest, east and deserts are less reliable for a variety of reasons.  When in doubt, check with authorities and the web for water quality surveys of you intended venue.

Ed

12:03 p.m. on April 6, 2014 (EDT)
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Bill S had some great info, thanks for the share.  

jrenow & herdingcats, I like the Sawyer Squeeze. Can't beat the weight or results.  Coupling with drops sounds good too or even having iodine as backup.  

Jeff, I didn't know about the battery lasting that long with the Camelbak.  Good to know!

1:37 p.m. on April 6, 2014 (EDT)
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+1 on the Sawyer Squeeze/Mini. Lightweight, easy to use, and quick.

Another +1 on Bill's series.

I used the Squeeze exclusively last year, and upgraded to the Mini for this coming one because of the weight savings. 

Half the battle's being mindful of where you're pulling your water from.

Out here in the Midwest we've got a lot near our water sources that could render them unsafe to drink without treatment. 

For me, it's always been better safe than sorry. I regard a filter like you'd regard first aid items: even if you could get away not using it 99% of the time, you will want one with you when you truly do need it.

And 2.0 oz is a small weight penalty to pay. 

For the more UL-minded, I've seen Joseph use Aquamira with positive results, and even lent him my Squeeze on a trip last fall so he could use it as a "pre-filter" before adding the drops. 

7:14 p.m. on April 6, 2014 (EDT)
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Primary: SteriPen Adventurer

Secondary: PUR Hiker

Last Ditch: Tablets

7:54 p.m. on April 6, 2014 (EDT)
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I hiked two long sections of the AT in 2012 using aquamira.  Specifically, I used the process outlined in Mike Clelland's "Ultralight Backpackin' Tips." Tip #106 suggested pre-mixing enough of the two parts into a third bottle to be used for the day. I used a small eye drop bottle.  One then just needs to fill their water bottle from a source, add the appropriate number of drops, shake it up, clear the threads of untreated water, and hike on.

I hang a 600ml gatorade bottle on each pack straps.  That way I can see how much I have left, and it also let me drink one, while treating the other.

I found the flavor to be present, but unobjectionable. There is no chlorine or iodine taste, just a faint citrus flavor. Not a deal killer.  

I also used McClelland's concept of varying the amount of Aquamira I'd use to treat a given bottle of water based on my assessment of the source.  It did seem a shame to be adding chemicals to crystal clear mountain spring water, and often I didn't ...

That all changed when the Sawyer squeeze came out.  I used it on a 675 mile section last year, and it worked pretty good.  I had the old style squeeze bags, and they developed pinholes relatively quickly.  Others experienced more catastrophic seam failure, but I'm more gentle ... The newer bags are made of tougher stuff, and I have had no problems with them.

Another concern is that the threads in the saywer do not match those on Platypus, of which I had a goodly inventory.  I have recently replaced them with the ever elusive Evernew water carry bags.  

This year I'll be getting back on for an 870 mile section with a sawyer mini, a 16oz sawyer squeeze bag, a 900ml Evernew bag for backup/extra water capacity, and my 2 gatorade bottles.

Cheers

10:50 a.m. on April 7, 2014 (EDT)
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I took a minute (or two) to get through all of Bill S's water articles.  That is a great resource for anyone just diving into the conversation.  I'll be using it with my Scout groups as a primer.

3:27 p.m. on April 7, 2014 (EDT)
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I use the sawyer mini as well.  It replaced a much heavier PUR hiker pump filter that I really like.  

The mini is light but it is very, very slow and clumsy.  I will continue to use it because of the weight but it isn't as amazing as everyone makes it out to be IMO.  I find it to be a bit of a pain.  Just filtering 1 liter of water with the provided bag seems to take forever and seems to be a chore.  Cross contamination is also a more considerable risk than using a standard pump filter as well.  You dip that bag in the water source, screw the filter on and then turn it over to filter the water into a bottle and the water (unfiltered) on the outside of the bag will drip down into the bottle as well so you have to be careful of that.  I didn't have those problems with my typical pump filter, but it is impossible to beat the weight and size of the mini for filter type water treatment.  

4:58 p.m. on April 7, 2014 (EDT)
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@Jason Ruff - I should probably do a review of the Sawyer Squeeze (not the mini that you're using).  It's only slightly heavier than the mini, but the outflow allows you to secure the receiving bag (I use Platypus) with a "tornado tube" coupler.  Done this way, you can keep cross-contamination from happening.  I'll give it more thought before finishing the review, but I'm pretty sure I don't get cross-contamination at all.

5:26 p.m. on April 7, 2014 (EDT)
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@herdingcats.  I can only speak for the mini and the bag it came with.  I haven't tried the normal squeeze.  I am thinking about getting a bigger bag to use to make the task go a little faster and smoother.  I will be doing a through review of the mini here in a couple weeks.  I want to take it on one more big trip before I review it.  I will be looking forward to your review of the squeeze as well once you write it up.  

6:52 p.m. on April 7, 2014 (EDT)
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L Dog,

I've heard various folks say the Sawyer threads don't match the Platy bags so there must be something to it, but mine fits just fine. I'm using a Squeeze and a 2 liter platy. The only issue I've had is over-tightening it and having the big white rubber washer pop out; just had to stop cranking down on it.

7:54 p.m. on April 7, 2014 (EDT)
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Ldog said:

Another concern is that the threads in the saywer do not match those on Platypus, of which I had a goodly inventory. 

 FINALLY! Someone who can confirm what I've been saying! My Platypuses do not fit the Sawyer. I've posted that here and elsewhere, only to be told I'm wrong.

Here is my view on Steripen https://www.trailspace.com/gear/steripen/journey-lcd/#review27247 A year later, I'm STILL furious over that situation. If I ever met a Steripen rep, I will give him an earful!

8:13 p.m. on April 7, 2014 (EDT)
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There are different models of Platypus bottles...perhaps the issue is related to the production year or specific model of Platypus bottle?

11:57 p.m. on April 7, 2014 (EDT)
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DSCF2275-1.jpg

On the left is the Platy, in the middle is the Sawyer, on the right is the Evernew. Thread pitch is obviously different.  Yes, you can screw the Sawyer onto a Platy, but what are you doing to the threads of your filter? And how long will it last?

Sawyer chose to use the same threads as most every soda and water bottle in yer local 7-11 reefer.  Platy chose to use non-standard threads for some reason.

Ya pays yer money, and ya takes yer chances...

11:59 p.m. on April 7, 2014 (EDT)
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jrenow said:

There are different models of Platypus bottles...perhaps the issue is related to the production year or specific model of Platypus bottle?

That's entirely possible.  I bought a bunch of Platys in 2012 and earlier.  They'd also have to change all of their accys, which would no longer be backwards compatible ...

9:35 a.m. on April 8, 2014 (EDT)
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Water filter everytime! Love the filters in the bottles so you never actually need to carry water if you're near the river. Been using watertogo for about a year now and not needed to worry about getting another. Cheap to replace filters and fits nicely in the drinks holder on my backpack :) 

11:44 a.m. on April 8, 2014 (EDT)
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Most of the time I just filter it as I am getting it out of the source. But if I am just making boiling water for pasta and there is a water source nearby I will just go get a cook pot of water and bring it to a boil and my pasta and let it soak. But most of the time I am either on the road bicycle touring or on the trail backpacking between camps and stop when I need water and filter in.

12:30 p.m. on April 8, 2014 (EDT)
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@G00SE, @Ldog,

I've hear some people have issues with the Sawyer provided squeeze bottles (heard both sides actually, but sounds like more of a user error in not squeezing at the recommended pace, etc.). At the same time, they seem to be marketed as more disposable rather than long-lasting. A solid Platypus would be nice that if it could fit!

7:22 p.m. on April 8, 2014 (EDT)
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So I did a video response just for fun....

8:13 p.m. on April 8, 2014 (EDT)
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Daniel Oates said:

@G00SE, @Ldog,

I've hear some people have issues with the Sawyer provided squeeze bottles (heard both sides actually, but sounds like more of a user error in not squeezing at the recommended pace, etc.). At the same time, they seem to be marketed as more disposable rather than long-lasting. A solid Platypus would be nice that if it could fit!

The first gen squeeze bags were very thin, developed pinholes and some had seam failures. The current squeeze bags are considerably more robust. And pretty light. Sawyer does say to roll the bags slowly, vice squeezing them.

Lots of people use soda bottles, and those tall Smart Water bottles.  Evernew Water Carry bags are similar in concept to Platys, and have matching threads to the Sawyer.  They can be hard to find ...

6:45 p.m. on April 10, 2014 (EDT)
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Nice video, Patman. You should make more.

My Platy attempt leaked, but I was trying not to force the threads for fear of damaging something.

This trip, I'm just using the Sawyer bag on my new Mini and a 1qt Gatorade Bottle.

7:24 p.m. on April 10, 2014 (EDT)
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I use AM with a bandana pre-filter for all of my solo trips, and switch to a First-Need XL activated charcoal pump filter for group outings. I favor weight savings over time savings, generally.

7:28 p.m. on April 10, 2014 (EDT)
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I do use the Evernew bottles, though, so I think I'm gonna look into that Sawyer Squeeze for, as it's been termed, redundency.

7:36 p.m. on June 16, 2014 (EDT)
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My filtration/purification choice varies depending on situation. But I always keep iodine tablets for the simple fact that a small wound in the back country can quickly turn into a festering problem. Some concentrated iodine flush serves as a great disinfectant. Yet terrible tasting water, but it's a proven method. I have been using the sawyer squeeze mainly for water clarification. I love it, and it never hurts to be extra careful out in the woods. I sort of agree with Whomeworry. Most "moving" water sources actually do not require any type of purification. I have safely drank from many streams, creeks etc. without illness. But It never hurts to air on the side of caution when it comes to pathogens as for some it could be deadly regardless of the incubation period. Which is generally around 7-10 days for many. So my options are as follows.

  • Iodine tablets - last ditch h2o/ great disinfectant
  • Aquamira or pota-aqua tabs -  for cold weather/ok tasting h20, long wait time
  • sawyer squeeze - warmer months general & water clarification, quick method
  • coffee filter - always carry one to remove particulates
8:07 p.m. on June 16, 2014 (EDT)
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One thing nobody mentioned in this thread is the problem of chemical contamination. This includes the obvious industrial, mining, and agricultural runoff. None of the methods described in this thread can deal with such contaminants. They work with varying levels of efficacy on "critters" - bacteria, protozoa, and viruses, but not at all on chemical contaminants. 

Filters with an activated carbon element are partially effective on some, but not all, industrial, agricultural, and mining contaminants. Boiling can still leave those contaminants, or even concentrate them.

Rivers and streams in the eastern part of North America do have these contaminants in many cases (West Virginia, with its heavy coal mining is an example, as is much of the Deep South and Mid-West with heavy agricultural runoff).

The West is pretty much contaminant-free, except for some of the old heavy-metals mining areas, certainly in the higher elevations of the Rockies, Sierra, and Cascades.

But there are some beautiful wilderness areas which do have contamination, as in the photo below:


ClimSciProg11.jpg

Compare the coloration of the main stream on the left and how barren of vegetation it is with the clear, grass-filled stream coming in from the right. When we measured the pH of the two, we found the main stream at a pH of 3.4 and the tributary at almost exactly 7. At this point, I do not know the source of the contamination, other than the fact that the mountains are volcanic, with the rocks having a high "fool's gold" component. Such pyrite is an iron-sulfur compound, so possibly, the sulfur compounds are being leached out and producing the high acidity.

The animals in this area refuse to drink from the main streams, but rely on the tributaries.

6:39 a.m. on June 19, 2014 (EDT)
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Because of my general OCD/paranoia when it comes to these things. I use both a Steripen Traveller and a Katadyn My Bottle filter bottle. Just collect with the bottle, use the UV, then filter as you drink. Really doesnt weigh that much or take up too much space. Probably makes no big difference, but makes me feel better!

6:39 p.m. on June 19, 2014 (EDT)
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@Bill S, good point about contamination. We are all thinking past that point to the part of preparing the water for consumption, but should consider the source too. Thanks!

@TJ1984, yeah, a little more work and having OCD with prepping water seems just fine! I'm right there with ya.

2:52 a.m. on June 21, 2014 (EDT)
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Bill...I live (and drink) in Indiana http://www.journalgazette.net/article/20120416/EDIT07/304169997 ...there is (sadly) no escaping chemical contamination short of gas-mask and bottled water. Pollution and cancer for Indiana = cheap electricity and food for Chicago and others...I'm told this equation makes sense if you're libertarian?!?

10:12 a.m. on June 21, 2014 (EDT)
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What interests me is how much bottled water  people by these days and not trust the water that comes out of the tap at home even though its supposed to be well treated. I drink tap water every where I live and travel when I am in towns/cities. I use a purifier in the wilds and also often drink fresh snow I cram into my water bottle.

It is alos interesting that people buy the Glacier water where the machines dispense it by the gallon or more. Its just water from the main water supply!

12:23 p.m. on July 2, 2014 (EDT)
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Gary is right, There are very little governing bodies over bottled water. It can say anything it wants as far as source is concerned. In actuality most bottled water is essentially just tap water. If you check the pH of bottled water it tends to be acidic too, whereas true natural spring water is neutral to slightly alkaline.

1:01 p.m. on July 2, 2014 (EDT)
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My dad has worked in the municipal water treatment and distribution business for years. He has always said that most municipalities, if being governed and run properly, have safer water than bottled water. At least that's the case here in PA. I'm not sure how true that statement is across the States and abroad. 

8:32 a.m. on July 3, 2014 (EDT)
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When I hitchhiked 10,000 miles around the USA in 1977 when I was 21, I found places in various places around the country that would not bring a glass of water to the table unless one asked for it. One place somewhere in the southwest did when I asked and it was so white at first I thought it was a light milk. It had so much natural air bubbles in the water that it was more white than clear. After a few minutes it settled and the water cleared up. But it tasted very mineralized and undrinkable to my taste.

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