Hikers Need Pure Water

Access to potable water is vital for all hikers.

An adult hiker needs 3 quarts or more of water per day. Much of the water, even in the remote wilderness, is contaminated with pathogens such as giardia.

So, how can you know whether or not the water in that crystalline stream that you see rushing by is safe for drinking? There is no way to know. Even if there are no other humans within miles, an animal could have contaminated the water.

So, don’t take chances of getting annoying or even fatal gut problems. They can ruin your whole day.

So, to be assured that you have safe drinking water on the trail, you must do one of two things: carry your drinking water with you or purify it along the way. If you are backpacking for more than a day, you should probably consider some form of water purification. Then you can get water from streams and lakes along the way and save the weight of carrying all of your water.


There are a number of ways to purify your water.

Boiling: Boiling your water will effectively kill any nasty critters residing in it. A disadvantage of this method is that you have to carry a stove and extra fuel for this purpose. An advantage is the taste. Even though the water may taste flat after being boiled, at least it does not taste of chemicals that you may have added to treat your water.

Chemical Purification:Another way is to add a chemical to water that you collect to kill any bugs in it. This method has some advantages and disadvantages. One advantage is that what you need to carry is light compared to what you need to carry with other methods – by a few ounces. A disadvantage is taste.

Water Filtration: Yet another way is to carry a water filter. A disadvantage of this method is that what you carry weighs a few ounces more than carrying water purification chemicals. The cost is also more. An advantage is that you can use it again and again. Another advantage is that the treatment is virtually instantaneous. You won’t have to wait to for the water to boil, which can take a lot of fuel and time at high altitudes. Neither will you have to wait for chemicals to take effect.

Whatever water treatment method that you choose, make sure that everyone in your hiking group has adequate access to water treatment equipment.

Here are some useful REI links related to this article:

REI Water Filters Page

REI Water Purification Chemicals Page

REI Water Treatment Article


2 Responses to “Hikers Need Pure Water”

  1. Great Outdoors Information » Backpacking Light Says:

    […] Supplying Your Pure Water Needs […]

  2. Great Outdoors Information » The Outdoor Fitness Club Says:

    […] Hiking Hydration Issues […]

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