Water Sources< Back to Backpacking Info
When day hiking, carrying water is pretty simple. You just take a water bottle or two or a Camelbak and you're good. However, when backpacking a long distance trail, whether it be for one night, a weekend, a week or an entire thru hike, you need to have water or you will have major issues.
When backpacking any long distance trail you need to treat all water found in springs, streams and rivers before you drink it. There is farm runnoff, wild animal 'output', industrial and commercial runnoff, acid rain and other factors that could make you very ill or worse if you drink untreated water. This page will describe various ways to treat water along the trail. Again, my philosophy is to carry between 75 and 100 ounces for every 10 miles hiked when backpacking.
Here are some ways that you can treat water while backpacking a long distance trail. I do not endorse one way over another. Do the research and make an informed decision. There are water treatment drops that use chemicals to treat water in the backcountry. They are very light weight to carry. They work well but you may have to wait up to 30 minutes to drink your treated water. There are various types of backpacking water filters water filters on the market. Some use a filter cartridge. These filters have a proven track record in outdoors water purification. The only downside is that you either have to carry a replacement filter cartridge with you when backpacking or risk having the filter clog and not be usable after so many hours of use. There are also water filters that utilize a ceramic cartridge. These cartridges, when they clog and accumulate enough sediment, can be cleaned with a course sponge multiple times. However, at some point, the cartridge element will wear away and need to be replaced. There are some mini inline water filters that utilize a hollow fiber membraine to filter water. They are very light and the extra replacement filter is small and also light to carry. The downside to these filters is that the volume of water filtered per minute is less than other types of filters. And there are some ultra-violet based water filters that use UV light to treat water. They are very light to carry but require a battery and/or occasional charging.
I was at an REI store recently (June, 2018) and the cashier was telling me that the trend right now was towards the smaller, lightweight methods of filtering such as the drops, straws and ultra-violet methods. He went so far as to say that he was not sure how long that they would be carrying cartridge type water filters (as I was paying for a replacement cartridge for my MSR Mini Works filter). So this may influence your decision as to which backcountry water filtering system to purchase.
Know of any other pertanant information about treating water that would help those planning a long distance hike? If so, please Contact Me. I'll list it here and give you credit for the contribution.
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