When spending time in the backcountry, one of the most important concerns will always be accessing potable water. No one wants to be in the wilderness ‘without a drop to drink.’ The good news is being able to find water you can drink has come a long way from iodine tablets. There is a whole host of amazing lightweight new products that open up a wide variety of solutions for making water in the wilderness drinkable. Let’s start off by taking a look at the old school methods for making water fit to drink before taking a look at what the latest technology has to offer.
The OG Ways to Make Water Potable
- Boiling: By boiling water for a full minute, you are able to eliminate the majority of water-borne illnesses including Giardia. Of course, bringing water to a boil uses up a lot of fuel, which is no easier to transport than water, and is hardly convenient, especially when you need a lot of water. It also does nothing about filtering out any solids or dirt that’s in the water, you’ll have to do that by hand. But it’s certainly a handy trick to know when caught in a pinch.
- Iodine: Iodine, which can come in tablet, powder or crystal form provides an easily transportable and affordable water treatment that will rid the water of all viruses, protozoa, and bacteria except notably for Cryptosporidium. There is a 20-30 minute delay between treating the water and being able to drink it and it creates a taste that many find unpleasant.
- Chlorine: Simply adding drops of bleach provides a similar outcome to iodine, with similar drawbacks, with the added one that extreme care must be taken in measuring the bleach as it is extremely poisonous.
- Filters: The water is rid of the harmful stuff as well as dirt and particulates, and filters generally provide excellent taste. They also physically remove all the unwanted stuff from the water. However, in days of past, the filters were heavy, expensive, difficult to transport, prone to breaking and could also be extremely difficult to use correctly, even leading to situations where people found themselves with a filter, but without potable water. Today, filters are one of the greatest areas of growth in water solutions for backpackers.
The New Frontier of Water Purification
Whatever new tool is being used, making water potable still comes down to using four basic techniques:
- Heating: This is simply the original boiling method, and while it remains a trusty solution, it has not evolved much in the many millennia in which it’s been employed.
- Adding Chemicals: Both iodine and chlorine drops fit into this category. Again this method has not seen as much innovation as the next two methods.
- Microfiltration: Filters have come a long way since the pricey and unwieldy units that backpackers used to lug about with them in their quest for clean, good-tasting spring water. Nowadays it’s possible to find affordable ones that will get the job done and fit in your pocket.
- UV Light Exposure: This option is entirely new to the backpacker. Until relatively recently it was not an option for a backpacker to carry in a source of ultraviolet light with them on their hike. The UV light, which looks just like a small flashlight, will kill all the protozoa, bacteria and viruses. It is important to note, that like boiling and chemical additives, this method does not filter out dirt or other particulates.
The Primitive Survivors Filtration Straw uses what is called squeeze filtration for purifying water. Weighing only 2 oz. empty and costs only $14.99, it could not be simpler. It is proven to remove 99.9% of bacteria, parasites, and viruses on water. This filtration straw meets US EPA drinking water standards.
This simple and compact tool can filter up to 1000 liters of water. It is the perfect survival straw for any outdoor adventure.