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Safe Water While Camping

I’ve gone camping dozens of times over the years and in many states across the country.  And by camping, I mean, tent and a backpack.  I don’t consider it camping when everything you need is already with you.  Where’s the fun in that?  Now, I’m no Bear Grylls, but I just bring the essentials.  It doesn’t matter if it’s among the redwoods in California or in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, if you’re really roughing it, there’s a few essentials that you can’t survive without.

Redwood ForestOne of those essentials that I have realized that some people forget about is a proper water filtration system.  Safe water is a must when you’re in the great outdoors. I usually bring a water bottle full of water but that initial supply quickly runs out.  I’m certainly not going to bring plastic water bottles because there’s perfectly good water found in nature-well, once you clean it.  There are a few methods out there that do a great job of cleaning water found in ponds and streams.

Boiling

The most popular, and oldest method, is simply boiling water.  Even if the water is from a rolling river and looks clear, don’t think for one second that it’s clean.  Besides, it’s the stuff too small for the naked eye that you should be afraid of.  Cloudy water can be healthier for you than clear water if it has been properly boiled.  Dirt and debris isn’t as dangerous as bacteria and viruses.  Either way, I always filter my water before boiling to remove particulates.  Here’s the filter I use. Then I heat my pot of water over a campfire until it’s been boiling for at least one minute.  While boiling is one of the safest ways, if you have no heat source or pot then it can be impossible.  Not to mention that it takes a lot of time for water to boil.

Water Filters

As I said, I always filter my water before treating it.  It’s a good first step towards removing all the nasty stuff found in water.  It also improves the taste because who likes drinking muddy water?  I certainly don’t.  But don’t think that all you need to do is filter water to make it safe.  Even the best filters can’t filter out those dangerous microscopic organisms.

Chemical TreatmentFilling up a plastic bottle of water

When boiling isn’t an option, or if you’re just extremely cautious, there are chemical solutions for creating clean water.  The most popular option is a bottle of iodine tablets.  They are relatively cheap and kill bacteria, viruses, and giardia.  However, iodine is not effective against Cryptosporidium, which is a nasty little parasite that will give you one heck of a stomach problem.  But for the most part, iodine tablets are very effective.  Just like boiling though, it can take a while, because you have to wait 30 minutes before consuming.  So patience is key when you want safe water.  You’ll also need a taste neutralizer if you don’t want your water to have a weird chemical taste.  This pack from REI contains both.

Safe water is possible whether you’re simply boiling your water, or using every method out there combined.  There are many other different ways for cleaning your water that I didn’t mention, such as pump filters, filter bottles, and even the very cool LifeStraw.  The next time you go camping be sure you have the proper equipment in order to filter your water.  Drinking dirty water can be one of the worst mistakes you make.  Also, feel free to share how you choose to filter your water while camping.

For safe and good tasting water in your home, check out our discount filters.

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