3 Ways to Purify Water (And Why You Should)

purify water

3 days- that’s how long you’ll last without water. So here are 3 methods to purify water to ensure you never have to take unnecessary risk.

Oftentimes when I’m hiking, I fill up my bottle in the gush of an alpine stream, and drink it without purifying it. I acknowledge this is not without risk, and wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to anyone. There are still impurities that can exist even in fast flowing alpine water, although it is less likely. Giardia is the most common danger in North America, also known as beaver fever.

Although I know the risk, I have always drank water from flowing rivers and streams, sometimes purifying, sometimes not. I always purify water when taking it from a still water source, or while travelling in other countries. I myself have never been ill, nor has my partner Codey. But the possibility is there, especially those with weaker immune systems, or those who are not accustomed to stream water.  Not everyone is the same, and some people have different sensitivities. If you are not sure, why not be prepared?

Something to Keep in Mind

It is always best to purify your water before drinking it. However, if you are faced with imminent dehydration, it is best to drink the water. I would rather risk an infection that could be cured with antibiotics, rather than succumb to dehydration.

How To Purify Water

Instead of taking risks, be prepared for any situation by using one of these three methods to purify water:

Pumping water in Nepal

Water Pump/ Filter

Pros: Filters out bacteria from drinking water- great for short trips. A high end filter could filter through thousands of litres of water, making it a good choice for a frequent hiker/camper.

Cons: Can be expensive for a good quality filter, and some of them may be bulky to carry for the ultra-light hiker. Silty water can also clog up your filter, or the filter could break or be damaged on your trip.

Boiling Water

Pros: Enough heat will destroy just about everything from bacteria to viruses. Bringing your water to a rolling boil for 10 minutes will leave you with clean drinking water.

Cons: Many people don’t like the taste of boiled water, and if it was boiled over a campfire, an ashy taste is common as well. Takes more time than pumping or using tablets.

Water Purification Tablets:

Pros: Easy to use and carry, and good for short term use.

Cons: Exposing your body to chemicals over time could be potentially harmful.

Which Should I Use?

Depending on your level of activity out hiking or camping, you may choose one or more of the methods above. For my recent 2 day backcountry trip, I simply boiled my water in the evening using my MSR stove. In a recent day hike, I brought a full water bottle, and took along my Lifestraw (a handy portable water filter). When I went trekking in Nepal, I brought my good quality water filter to pump my water. In Cuba, I brought along my water purification tabs. When travelling in other countries, I never take the risk of drinking any water without purifying it. So depending on your situation, you may like to experiment with different methods to see which one works for you.

Which method do you prefer for purifying your water? Do you have a different one not mentioned above? Comment below!

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