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Finding Fresh Water in the Wilderness While Hiking

Travelers spend days in the wilderness to enjoy the scenery and get exercise. The irony is that it’s difficult for modern man to find fresh water in the wilderness. Those who know how to locate and filter water are at a huge benefit. Here’s to another feather in your trekking cap. Learn how to find and filter fresh water.

Related Read: Top 4 Places to Go Hiking in Thailand

Trekking Along the Trails

Purification Primer

There’s a difference between a water filter and a purifier. The processes and time required tend to vary. A prefilter is a good thing to have if drawing water from an unclear water source such as a river. If proper hygiene is not exercised, the purification process is compromised. So despite the technical complexities of filtration and purification, forgetting something simple like hand sanitizer jeopardizes your ability to handle pure water.

Water filters strain out protozoan cysts and bacteria. Water purifiers take the process a step further and get out viruses otherwise uncaught. Most of those traveling throughout the United States and Canada feel safe using filters, but adventures to other lands necessitate a purifier.

Keep all pots and dishware away from equipment used to purify water. Keep all water equipment and supplies away from designated toilets and waste areas. If drawing water from a murky source, pretreat the water or allow sediment to settle before moving to the next step. Remember that pets need protection from contamination too!

Finding Fresh Water in the Wilderness

Recommended Read: Hiking Bucket List USA

Bad Water

Just about any water can contain microscopic threats. Ingesting the smallest amount of contaminated water leads to diarrhea and sickness. Filtration and purification methods protect trekkers from pathogens that take the shape of protozoa, bacteria, and viruses. Water filters can remove the first two. Viruses are removed via water purification rather than filtration alone.

While filtration and purification methods address murky waters of varying degrees, it’s best practice to seek the freshest source of water. That means avoiding areas where humans and animals have gathered for long periods, waters in places of lower elevation, and supplies that seem exceptionally brown or that collect foam. Some mistakenly believe snow is safe yet bacteria can live in it for months.

How do you get clean water when hiking?

Basic Equipment

Travelers carry a water bottle lined with some sort of metal material, such as uncoated aluminum steel. A camelback-type pack is worn with a nozzle that extends for drinking. A separate rubber hose or tube helps draw water from underground or hard-to-reach places. Hand sanitizers address 99% of germs and ensure handled water is not mistakenly contaminated. A small, sturdy shovel helps get to water embedded in the earth.

Purification Process

Boiling water for a minute frees it of bacteria and viruses. Filters are carbon or ceramic. Filters, however, can be clunky to carry and expensive to purchase. A tincture of iodine 2% is another way to purify water.

Pretreatment removes larger particles within water and makes additional purification steps easier and more efficient. Choose from a range of methods, from using a straw like gadget at a water’s surface to sticking a filter on the end of a water bottle. Some methods, such as pumps, are harder to use yet address a large volume of water. Alternatively, a straw is easy to use yet only provides small amounts of water at a time. Visit the Berkey Filters site for further information.

Water Sources

A stream of fresh flowing water is ideal. As suggested, the source should be away from human camps as well as gatherings of animals. From there, some seek rivers because of the flowing water yet such can be contaminated with human or animal pollutants. Pond and lake water is stagnant and primed for bacteria growth, so don’t assume such is a good source for water.

Some trekkers pride themselves on calling upon guerilla tactics to gather water. For example, perspiration can be gathered from fruits, plants, and blades of grass. Also, morning dew collected with cloth can be squeezed into a container for filtering.

Purification Chemicals

Iodine tablets, though effective, take up to 30 minutes to purify the water. Some kits come with additional tablets that help address the strong smell of iodine, making it more desirable for drinking. Trekkers often opt for quicker methods of purification. Additionally, some iodine tabs do not work well in clearing very murky waters.

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Happy Trails

Hydration is essential and reason to bring two forms of water cleansing. You could filter water for brushing and cleansing while purifying water for drinking and cooking. Talk to other trekkers and read online forums for added tips to help you along the way. For example, some suggest that vitamin C tablets quickly cure any filtered yet funny-tasting water.

Walter J Mcdaniel has worked in importing Home and Garden product business for over 7 years. He has a B.S. in business from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. He has worked in Asia and Europe before he established his own company.

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