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Backpacking and Sharing the load - Water purification

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  • Backpacking and Sharing the load - Water purification

    I am not sure how to gauge this. Three adults and six scouts are heading for week long backpacking trip.

    The scouts know that I have a Steripen. This is a light weight UV device that purifies a liter of water in about 60 seconds. My son does not trust this so he is packing our water filter. I just learned that a couple of scouts who own water filters have decided not to bring them. Partly because of weight and also I think they just don't want to use them. So I ask "how will you purify your water". They reply, "we have tablets."

    Hmmm, these are kids that won't eat anything if it looks or smells a little funny. And now they are going to use iodine tablets which have a bad smell and a bad taste for six days?

    What I suspect is that after day they will be asking to barrow the steripen or my son's filter.

    If this occurs should I politely accept this and just let them use the filter or steripen? Or should I direct them back to their decision to use tablets? If the answer is the later how would you tell the scouts, No?

  • #2
    Not sure how you want to handle it. Over a decade ago I had the same problem. After the first use of the bleach, they wanted to use my filter (old pump style).

    I treated it same as car camping and we have a GREAT dessert. You can use the pump but you have to fill my water bottle first.

    Fair trade as I am carrying the filter and still carrying my water. A "No thanks" would result in them drinking the "bleach water". Not dangerous but not tasty either.

    As I teach other Scouters "It is O.K. for a Scout to be uncomfortable, or hungry because (s)he decided not to pack/bring items needed. It is not O.K. for a Scout or Scouter to suffer needlesly." You decide where the line is. A Scout that is cold is different than one suffering from hypthermia. A Scout that is hungry because (s)he did not bring enough to eat is different than one that lost his/her food to an accident or whatever.

    I have seen too many parents/Scouters try sooo hared to make sure the Scout was comfortable and not inconvinienced that the Scout learns NOTHING. Common sense prevails.

    Just my $0.02



    • #3
      could you have them try the iodine water while still at home before the trip?


      • #4
        they certainly should actually taste the water using what they plan on using before the trip. that said sometimes they just might be making the decision based on weight. i personally use the aqua mira drops despite the fact i also own one of the pumps to save on weight and space when backpacking. if you are more sensitive to taste then go with the pump. the uv pen however would never be my first choice due to its requirement the water be mostly clear to begin with.


        • #5
          For that size group a little redundancy is a good idea. I would suggest at least 3 systems. One of them being your steri-pen. Fact is., even on a weekend a group could fall back on using tablets. Pens may break or run out of batteries, filters can clog. You might all be counting on tablets by the end of a week!

          I think limiting the use of your filter is a good idea. As long as the boys are staying hydrated, let them use tablets as planned.


          • #6
            When planning for a weeklong trip, there should be an overnight shakedown beforehand.

            At that time the scouts should discuss and resolve this issue themselves.

            Load sharing is a great idea, they should consider it.


            • #7
              This reminds me of a trek a few years ago, when the two groups decided to share one gas bottle, because all they were going to do is heat water for dehydrated foods. On the first night, team 2 used the entire bottle of fuel because they "forgot" to use instant rice.
              The storming that resulted was rough, and not soon forgotten.

              These boys need to rethink this, and a shakedown trip is a good idea. And three methods of water purification is a good idea, too. Youth "assuming" they have access and use of all equipment on a campout is wrong, but pretty common.

              Maybe the adults and youth need to camp 300 feet away from each other!


              • #8
                Yah, a little bit of Vitamin C will deactivate the iodine, eh? So no worries on the taste. Some of the manufacturers even sell a bottle of Vitamin C tablets along with the iodine tablets for that purpose.

                For the rest, this is somethin' for the youth to work out. Yeh should set whatever rules yeh want for the use of your Steripen, and communicate those during planning so that there's no confusion or assumptions. Load sharin' is a great idea, as is some redundancy. Me, I'd take the Steripen and the tablets. Leave those dang blasted heavy, bulky, pricey, clog-fest, easy-to-contaminate filters at home .



                • #9
                  Don't put the vitamin C in too soon. The iodine needs time to work


                  • #10
                    Also remember that the iodine treatments don't work well if the water is colder than approximately 68 degrees F. Instead of ascorbic acid pills, an even-more-pleasant option is merely to add 'Tang'. The ascorbic acid in the drink (you can probably use any powdered drink with vitamin C) will do the same thing as the pills.

                    I use a filter but I often boil it after I filter it. I can tell you with great confidence that there is no perfect solution and if you slack off even a little bit with the wrong water source, you risk a really nasty parasite or a bacterial infection or a permanent resident virus, all of which will cause you to get down on your knees and worship your immune system as well as porcelain gods, etc.

                    Don't rely on just one method. I don't even trust boiling the water, alone.
                    I'm slowly coming around to the steri-pen technology but I'm still not convinced yet. This fall we'll be doing more lab trials and if and when I feel confident, I'll report that here.


                    • #11
                      How do you know they use iodine tablets. The Katadyn tablets we used at Philmont were more like chlorine, and after you let the chemicals do their thing, you could not really taste them. These scouts could be carrying these tablets.

                      I do agree that you should let the scouts select their water system, based on some coaching from the adults, and see what works on a shakedown overnight hike.


                      • #12
                        Some pretty poor replies......

                        Letting the boys do what they want is fine.....But what is the evac or plan be when or if they get sick?????

                        How far are they going to have to walk to a road to get picked up?????

                        How is that going to effect the group with shared equipment and such.....

                        I say man up and put your foot down.....They MUST take some form of water treatment or they don't go....

                        Failing and learning lessons is fine in a safe environment.....this is not one of those cases.


                        • #13
                          I didn't see it stated but is there a Troop solution to water purification?

                          I see where one family is choosing to use two personal systems to purify their water but wonder if the rest of Scouts have other options than the pills and are choosing them against weight without ever having used them themselves.

                          If they know what they are getting into, then I wouldn't feel any compulsion to let them use either of my personal systems. If they don't know, and the filter was mine, I'd probably let them use it - although everyone would have to take turns filling everyone's bottles, If the filter was my son's and he purchased it, I might offer to purchase him a new filter cartridge in return for loaning his system to the Troop.

                          Or I might just exclude all but the first line of the previous paragraph after having each of the prospective chemical purifying using Scouts drink 32 ounces of warm recently purified water.


                          • #14
                            Interesting question.

                            How 'bout deciding which water treatment methods are acceptable and need to be used, and which are reasonably optional?

                            Any that need to be used would be carried as Patrol equipment by each patrol, and expected to be used.

                            Training and experience in water treatment ought to be part of troop and patrol meetings. Each Scout might be expected to make and drink samples of filtered and chemically treated water.

                            If someone has a microscope, it might be interesting to take a sample of river water and observe it through the microscope before and after it's been treated by various methods and combinations of methods.

                            Dramatic story telling by someone who has had giardia might be part of the program!


                            • #15
                              The question isn't really about water purification it is about responsibility. Before the trek, figure out as a patrol how water purification will be done as a patrol and then share the task, load and equipment.

                              We had a similar issue when we went backpacking with no clean water source in New Mexico. We had three adults and six youth. We carried two steripens and three water filters (pumps). Earlier dry run trips we used a miox water purification and different types of filters as well as tablets. As adults, we took the lead wrt water purification methods because we were aware of our water source in New Mexico - stagnant pools in open galvanized tubs, often with lots of algae and a few dead carcasses floating in it.

                              We "bandana filtered" first to remove the big debris and to keep from clogging up our micron filters. The steripen killed the virus' that could get by the filter. The water was the best tasting I've ever had. The scouts responsibility was to get the water (three gallon collapsible container). That required about a 100-200 yard hike. We would work as a team to filter the water which required quite a bit of hand pumping but the adults did most of it. We would then use the steripen (watch out for red colored Nalgene bottles - you can't read the LEDs!). A steripen may do the trick on its own but seeing debris floating in your water, regardless of it being sanitary, was not a appetizing. I feel the filter plus steripen was an excellent choice.

                              We would filter, as a minimum, two full Nalgene bottles per person plus enough water for cooking and cleanup for the meal at hand. Being the desert, water was a precious resource and if you are very careful, clean up can be done with about a cup of water.