Getting sick from bad water on the trail is no fun. In fact it can be quite serious. Bad water probably won’t kill you but damn if you won’t wish you were dead if your temperature spikes to 104 degrees and you are gushing fluids from upstairs and downstairs.
Sorry to be so blunt but, having been there a couple times myself stupidly, I know. And it’s an experience I don’t wish to repeat. Again.
With just a modicum of care and a decent water filter, UV treatment or chemical treatment, you can pretty much be assured of clean and safe drinking water in the backcountry.
That’s why the information presented in my recent story in the Maine Sunday Telegram Outdoors, “Pathogens aplenty in seemingly pure water,” makes such good sense. L.L. Bean’s Kevin Nadeau made quick and simple work of pretty much all you need to know about the basics.
It’s impossible to fit everything I’d like to sometimes into the small space of a newspaper column, but here in the blog I can expand at will. And since Nadeau had a whole lot more to say about matters related to water purification, I thought I’d share that information with you here.
“Hikers have a tendency not to drink as much water as they should,” said Nadeau. “You’re losing water out there, way more than you realize. You’re working hard.”
To keep your body functioning well you need to keep hydrated. A good rule of thumb in summer weather is to consume 1 to 2 liters of water every hour or two. For a good day hike carry at least two liters and probably more.
If you’re lax on the water intake you’re likely going to have trouble. You fatigue quickly, get muscle cramps, start to not think clearly. The latter could lead to bad decision making which could ultimately be dangerous.
Bottom line: If you’re well hydrated you’re having fun. If not you’re going to be miserable. And why do that to yourself?
“When you’re on the trail, eat well.”
That means sandwiches, cookies, fresh and dried fruit, jerky, candy, granola bars—you name it. Eat lots often to stay fueled up.
Nadeau also recommends electrolyte replacement.
“It can’t hurt,” he advises. “Something in every other water bottle.”
Mix your water with Gatorade or a similar sports drink. Or carry tablets—Camelback Elixir and Nuun are brand names for such tabs. They come in a plastic tube of 6-8 tablets; just toss one into the water and let dissolve.
Sports drinks come in liquid or powder form. There are also gels that you squeeze into your mouth.
Water treatment isn’t just for the backcountry or camping, notes Nadeau.
“We sell a lot to travelers.”
In a foreign hotel overseas, safe water can be an issue. Why take a chance?
And at home, water treatment is something you should have as an emergency preparedness measure.
What does this hiker use for water purification on the trail? Aqua Mira drops are my go-to for safe water. If the water has visible nasties I will filter it through a bandanna or coffee filter (I usually keep a handful in my kit) first, then mix and add the drops.
I do like the idea of the Platypus gravity filter system and am looking into it for group hikes. I used a friend’s on a trip a couple seasons ago and it was pretty easy and effective.
I’m also going to try the Sawyer Squeeze to perhaps supplement the drops.
By the way, the last section of my story got lumped together and may not have been clear… When shopping for water purification products – by it a water filter, UV light or chemical treatment – look for brand names like Katadyn, MSR, Platypus, Steripen and Aqua Mira and choose what works best for you. Although not carried by L.L. Bean, Sawyer makes some good products too.
What about you? What do you use for water treatment in the backcountry? Any bad experiences with nasty water?