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Backpacking and Sharing the load - Water purification

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Okay , having never had to filter /steralize water before, I may be in overkill mode.


I would think I would do similar to Acco by first filtering big chunks with a necker or something similar. Then use the micron filter, then the steri pen, then drop the tablets.


I have tasted water with the chem tablets. Not Iodine but whatever the other chemical was


Granted, it was clean water before the tablet was dropped in, but it was part of a demonstration showing tha if you let the water sit for about 15 minutes or so, you could nottaste a diffeence.


Maybe I am over thinking or overkilling it, but it beats the heck out of diarrhea or vomiting or worse.....

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For some reasons putting in poisons in the water to kill the living organisms in it doesn't pique my interest in drinking the water.


Yes, some of the chlorine turns to gas and is gone by the time of human consumption but still . . .

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The SteriPen kills virtually all bacteria, viruses and protozoa without chemicals. I used one every day for 3 months straight, changed the batteries monthly, and carried Aqua Mira as a back up.

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  • 2 weeks later...

We used a platypus system 2 years ago and at Philmont and our recent 43 m trip we found the Platypus took too long to do as much water as we wanted and now just moved to all Micropur treatment. No after taste and its amazing. We pass out the tablets to the boys at the start of the hike so if we get split up they always can get pure water.

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Understanding that the OP was not about water treatment per se:


Steripens may kill all living things - or not. Depends on water temp, water clarity, treatment time, and whether the Steripen is working at all. Military initially thought they were THE answer for our young soldiers and Marines , but oh well.


Chlorine Dioxide (e.g. Aquamira) may kill all living things in water - or not. Depends on water temp, treatment time, and clarity.


The Handbook notwithstanding, regular chlorine (as sodium hypochlorite) and iodine are not reliable according to current thinking of public and private authorities for the last 20+ years because not reliable against parasites (Giardia and Chryptosporidium) These parasites are common (present in all counties in Maine, for example). These products are effective against bacteria and viruses when used according to directions, so they make water safer.


Commercial filters kill parasites and most bacteria. A few models are EPA-rated to get even viruses.


Expedient filters (e.g. bandanna) make water safer and make other forms of treatment more effective.


The SODIS method (http://www.sodis.ch/index_EN) sterilizes not the water but the living organisms so they cannot reporduce inside you. Soit renders water safe. But it takes proper containers (clear 2-leter pop bottle are the standard) a sunny day and hours of treatment. OK for fixed site.


Bringing water to a boil kills all harmful life.


A filter plus commercial water-treatment chemicals is pretty much safe.


Viruses are rarely a threat in the continental U.S.

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Yes and this is why you do shake down hikes it wasnt good for viruses like the micropur and its 11 oz dry and must be a pound once you get it wet. Starts off pretty fast but lots of backwashing required to keep it running.

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{0riginal Poster}


Here is what occurred

Nine people went out for six days over 54 miles on the AT we had:

One person with a First Needs XL water purifier

One person with a MSR Mini Works ceramic filter

Two people with SteriPens

Two people with Coghlans Two Step Drinking Water Treatment Tablets


Thats six individuals with a water treatment system and three without any.

Of the people without treatment and the people with the pills they preferred to barrow the First Needs XL. It was fastest and easiest to use. Each of us was using around 10-12 liters of water per day. By the six day after pumping 150-200 Liters including previous trips, the First Needs XL started to show signs of clogging. Unlike the MSR Mini Works the First Needs is not field cleanable (back filtering produced little improvements in flow). People then started to switch to other water treatment systems.


The MSR Mini Works is a great little filter. The trouble is after about 5 liters of stream water the filter needs to be taken out and cleaned. Its also slow, even when working with a clean filter. Consequently the scout who loaned out this filter often got it back clogged.


The SteriPens worked very well. Most of the water sources that we came across had a 1 PVC pipe stuck into the rocks. These pipes made for easy filling of the bottles. These were very small steams with maybe the volume of 1- 2 garden hoses for total stream flow. We then purified with the UV pens. I didnt notice any huge pieces of wood or leaves in the water.




For overall ease of use the First Needs XL worked the best. Based on this trip two people could easily go on a 10 day hike and still have excess filter capacity. But the filter cartridge is $50 to replace.


The Miniworks is good and the field cleanable ceramic filter will last a long time. But it is slow to pump and fast to clog.


The Steripens worked just as they were supposed to. This was my first personal use with the Steripen. I did bring a set of replacement batteries and I did have to switch out the factory batteries on day three.


The Coghlans two-step process was clearly the least favorite but this was also the cheapest.



Group Dynamics

It would have been hard for the scout to say no to adults and other scouts when they asked to barrow his filter. Many times the barrower did fill up the entire groups water jugs. But that only lead to the early clogging of that scouts own water purification system.


More shake out hikes with sticker policies on individual reliance could have deterred the over reliance on one filter. However, in the end we never did run out of a method to produce clean water, and no one had to be un-helpful about sharing a critical resource.




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  • 4 weeks later...

Here are some of my recent experiences:


2-night shakedown trip:

28 people, the leader said that filters were not necessary since there were potable water sources along the way. On a day when we were hiking 10.1 miles, we only had potable water at the start and at the end. For lunch we stopped at a lake and I was the only one with a filter, my Platypus gravity filter. It was in the 80's and many people were out of water at lunch time. I filtered 16 liters of water for the group. Had I not brought my filter, we would have had some serious dehydration. The lesson here: just because potable water is available, it may be a very long distance between water sources, bring an alternative. Filters do clog, you need a backup.


5-day 30 mile trip:

We had 8 boys and 7 adults. Every boy had a Dad (I had two boys on this trip) and every family had a filter except one (we started with 6 filters for 15 people). One family had a "Triton" gravity filter which was nearly useless (it took about an hour to filter a liter), now we are down to 5 filters for 15 people. One of my boys got sick and he and I left early. I left my platypus with the family with the ineffective filter since I only had one day of hiking to get back to the car. One family that got separated from the rest of the group, but had their filter so they were OK.


On another trip we were getting water out of the surf zone in lake Michigan and there was a lot of algae and some of the filters got clogged. The Platypus came to the rescue for those with clogged filters.


So, the bottom line is filters get clogged or break, if you have a large group, they may not always be together 100% of the time. Sometimes people may need to leave early for medical reasons. I would make the policy like this: 1 filter/sterilizing device per 3 people maximum. Every person should carry some tablets as a backup. Of course, boiling water is your 3rd option, but you may not always have enough fuel for that.

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