tabs, filter, pen...some, none, or all of...?

7:51 p.m. on February 18, 2014 (EST)
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110 forum posts

I'm still heavily torn between:

a.) sawyer mini

b.) aquamira drops

c.)  steripen

for my proposed long trail e-t-e this summer.

surprisingly enough, I never filtered or treated a drop of H2O on my A.T. thru, & never did i become ill or symptomatic. perhaps I just got lucky.

having used good judgment in source location, I too realize the long trail doesn't afford the range of options  in this regard (i understand it to be far more boggy than most of it's distance counterparts)? .


 ~16 days, I'm on a budget, and i truly do not know how much backcountry exposure i'll have after this gig, (career on tap).

translation: I'm willing to cut corners in the right places.


"luck" isn't an option this time 'round & i take no chances being sans health insurance, I'm wishing to act prudently....



8:27 p.m. on February 18, 2014 (EST)
Family Guy
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712 forum posts

I am a dedicated Steripen user, but I do have a gravity filter for times when I expect a lot of silt (i.e. Southern Utah).  I also will take a few tabs of Micropur as emergency purification.

Given your choices, I would either go for the Sawyer Mini with Micropur (or similar) as a back up or the Steripen with Micropur as a back up.  The former if I expected cloudy water and the later if I expected the water to be reasonably clear.

I suspect this doesn't help you one bit!

9:12 p.m. on February 18, 2014 (EST)
denis daly
273 reviewer rep
1,962 forum posts

Go with The Sawyer mini and back it up with some Aqua Mira..On the AT its russian reullet these days with sources.But like you said alot of your sources will be boggs..Both are compact and weigh few onces..

9:28 p.m. on February 18, 2014 (EST)
Joseph Renow @jrenow
1,757 reviewer rep
743 forum posts

If this is a one-off for you...aquamira is the cheapest and would be a fine primary option. Aquamira is super simple to use as long as you can tell time and count to seven. I've used it for countless liters with zero perceptible failures. It purifies instead of all the critters die...but you will also get an unfiltered taste of the local water. Out of the three aquamira is the only one I would use alone...though I would at least want a good chance of boiling water...if not one of the other options as back-up. If you go with the Steripen you will probably get some of its original value back selling online (depending on how much you damage it in 16 days). However...there is no guarantee of resale...and due to the fact that repairs in the field are not likely in the case of failure...I would not feel comfortable using this as an only option. The Sawyer Mini is great...small...good love it! is almost twice as much as aquamira...but it also filters more water than aquamira purifies...and has a much longer shelf-life. Personally I use a combination of the Sawyer mini and aquamira...between the two I am killing everything and filtering out large suspended substances and other dislikes. I keep the filter in my pack...but both the sawyer and my repackaged aquamira can easily fit in the hip-belt of my pack or a free pocket in my pants...and you can get both for about 1/2 the price of Steripen.

2:53 a.m. on February 19, 2014 (EST)
2,795 reviewer rep
1,638 forum posts

I vote sawyer mini and boiling as a backup. If it were a winter trip i would say steripen. My sawyer squeeze is my current go to filter, but when the temps are below freezing I bring my steripen to avoid filter freezing issues.

8:18 a.m. on February 19, 2014 (EST)
Seth Levy @Seth
640 reviewer rep
1,184 forum posts

If price and weight are your primary considerations, I'd go with chemicals. I've hiked the LT with Aqua Mira and it worked for me.

The northern sections of the trail are quite boggy, and a lot of the water sources drain beaver ponds.

Lots of chemical options listed here:

If price is primary, I've heard that 3 drops of unscented household bleach per liter of clear, room temperature water with a contact time of 30 minutes is an effective strategy.

10:25 a.m. on February 19, 2014 (EST)
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1,628 forum posts

Used to use the drops of bleach in my old cloth sided canteen with good result in my youth.  You get used to the flavor after a while.  If going the chemical route bring something for screening to get some of the suspended solids out first.

10:29 a.m. on February 19, 2014 (EST)
Ja. R.
351 reviewer rep
287 forum posts

I recently picked up a Sawyer mini ($23) to replace my Pur pump filter.  I bought it because of the discussions & reviews it got on this website.  So far I am very pleased.  It is much, much lighter than the system I was using and so far it has been just as effective.  I carry some water purification tabs in my survival kit for backup but haven't had to use them.  At one point I was considering a steripen but after reading reviews and thinking about it I decided that type of water treatment wasn't for me.  It really is tough to beat the Sawyer mini when you consider weight and functionality.  I really like the taste of clean, purified water without any floaties so filtration is a must for me personally. 

11:57 a.m. on February 19, 2014 (EST)
Family Guy
1 reviewer rep
712 forum posts

Just a few general points, because there are negatives to everything:

-chemicals require approximately 4 hours to work optimally and that is assuming fairly clear water.  They also have a shelf life. To clarify, the chemicals purify the water. On the other hand, they are light and easy to use.

-Steripen requires batteries, which may be a concern with a long trip.  For those who are clumsy, there is always the possibility of dropping it and cracking the bulb.  On the other hand, it will purify a litre of water in 45 seconds.  To clarify, the Steripen is a purifier. Many thru hikers have used the Steripen without any issue. 

-The Sawyer filter requires field maintenance and back flushing with clear water, which is not always possible.  Filters also clog, do not purify the water and are subject to letting viruses into your system.  Filters can also not be frozen.  On the other hand, they can filter turbid water into clear flow.


As far as reliability, I have used the Steripen for 5 years without issue.  Have had two Katadyn Hiker Pro's fail in the field.  One during a Zions Trans Hike where the water is scarce. 

No issue with Chems.



12:02 p.m. on February 19, 2014 (EST)
Ja. R.
351 reviewer rep
287 forum posts

Family Guy.  What caused or how did your Katadyn Hiker's fail?  I have the same one in PUR brand and that thing has been bulletproof for me for years and years.  

12:55 p.m. on February 19, 2014 (EST)
Family Guy
1 reviewer rep
712 forum posts

Hi Jason - the first time the pump lever cracked, which was replaced under warranty.  The second time the housing attachment to where the inlet hose enters into the main casing cracked. 

The most recent failure was in Zions last April.  Thankfully we had another Hiker Pro and a gravity filter in the group.  The other Hiker Pro did not endure such failure.  Katadyn provided me with a cash refund after receiving the filter back (also offered me a new filter but my track record was lacking with the product).

1:10 p.m. on February 19, 2014 (EST)
Ja. R.
351 reviewer rep
287 forum posts

Hi Family Guy.  Thanks for answering that.  I will have to keep a close eye on mine for hairline cracks.  Mine is around 15+ years old and still works great.  I don't use it as much as I used to but still do on occasion.  That is cool that Katadyn backed up their product with a cash refund.  

May 30, 2020
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