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How to Get Safe Water When Hiking

I am an avid hiker and I like sharing some of the places I've hiked (or biked) with others. I also offer tips for beginners.

The Situation

If you are active outdoors, you know that the exertion and potentially the temperature and humidity can cause you to lose more fluids. You may get thirsty of course, but unfortunately, sometimes you become dehydrated before you start to feel thirst. You may begin to feel dizzy, more tired than typical, a bit weak, or even confused. These, of course, are the signs of dehydration. Having drinkable water can be a lifesaver in these situations.

Being able to carry enough water for a day-long excursion can be problematic. If you come upon other water sources the issue then becomes its suitability for drinking. Even the safety of our drinking water home may be in question. You buy a filter for your refrigerator, your faucets, or perhaps even your entire home. You may even have a filtered water pitcher. But when you are out away from home, having access to safe water can be even more questionable.

Tips For Staying Hydrated

  • The first step, of course, is getting your hands on safe water. Whether you just enjoy weekend bicycle trips and hiking or you're an avid backpacker and serious outdoor sports enthusiast, a good water filtration bottle can give you the clean water you need to ensure your health and, in some cases your survival. The really good ones allow you to drink from nearly any water source and feel confident about it.

    They can be filled prior to leaving on your excursion and refilled along the way so that you don't have to deal with the excessive weight. You can learn more about why these are so important for hikers below.
  • Plan ahead. Using maps know where your water sources will be.
  • Prepare a day ahead. Begin consuming extra fluid the day before any strenuous/extended excursion
  • Set regular intervals to drink. Don't wait until you are thirsty.
  • Continue to hydrate throughout the evening, after any strenuous activity has concluded for the day.
  • Be sure everyone has their own water supply. If you are out with friends or family members, everyone should have their own water. Including kids.

Why Would I Want a Water Filtration Bottle?

  1. As discussed above maintaining hydration during activity is important. A water filtration bottle can help with that. Dehydration can even be deadly.

    Most experts recommend that a person consume 1 gallon of water per full day of hiking when weather is hot and dry. Clearly, it would difficult to carry this type of weight. When you are in more remote areas, it's a good idea to have water with you and to be able to utilize any water source you come across.

  2. Aside from keeping water available, you also have to address the issue of avoiding contaminants that are harmful. Even drinking water that has gone through a city water treatment plant poses certain threats. A number of health hazards can lurk in the water such as:
    - lead
    - parasites such as cryptosporidium
    - toxic waste (from industry, pharmaceutical use, etc.)

    In the US, the government has standards for drinking water but the chemicals used today aren't always ones that are regulated as those standards aren't updated regularly.

    In rural areas, runoff from farms can create other hazards. These hazards can be found in drinking water, streams, rivers and ponds that have been invaded by this runoff. Aside from bacterias, the hazards may include:
    - fertilizers
    - pesticides
    - oils
    - other chemical runoff

    Of course, there are also plenty of microbes that can be found in our water sources that can be harmful as well. According to a research article posted on the National Center for Biotechnology Information website:
    - "Microbial waterborne diseases also affect developed countries. In the USA, it has been estimated that each year 560,000 people suffer from severe waterborne diseases, and 7.1 million suffer from a mild to moderate infections, resulting in estimated 12,000 deaths a year."

    Filtering water just makes sense to avoid some of these pollutants and natural threats such as various forms of bacteria. As you will see below, the sophistication of these filters varies.
  3. Many hikers also know that they can boil water and use iodine tablets to help treat and decontaminate water but certainly a good filter is easier, more portable, and generally requires much less time.

What are the Types of Water Filtration?

Certainly, some fairly elaborate systems are capable of providing safe drinking water in the most extreme circumstances when potable water is not available for extended periods of time, such as during floods and natural disasters, but these are clearly more bulky, slower, and significantly more expensive.

There are a wide variety of water filtration systems on the market. Systems used in homes and businesses can be quite sophisticated and expensive although certainly effective.

  • Some of the most common filters used include carbon filters which help to rid water of fluoride, particulates, and even some bacteria. Carbon filters often use activated silver for the purpose of eliminating a variety of bacteria.
  • UV filters actually irradiate the water to kill living organisms and thus reduce the risk of disease.
  • Filters that use a reverse osmosis process filter water very finely and remove most hazardous minerals and chemicals but also remove many of the essential minerals that your body needs, just as distilled water does.

If you're interested in learning about other types of water filtration this article can guide you further. Most of these, of course, aren't appropriate for a simple water filtration bottle but can be used in homes and businesses.

Tips For Getting Safe Drinking Water

As stated above, a water filtration bottle is a good tool for getting safe drinkable water. But there are other tips that can help.

  • Ideally, using water from a non-stagnant water source is best. Thus water from a running stream is more suitable than water from a stagnant pond.
  • Boiling water is a good step to take. Ideally, the water should be filtered, then boiled. If boiling isn't possible then chlorine or iodine can be used. This process should kill all harmful bacteria as well as filter out most harmful chemicals.

You can learn much more via the links posted below.

Learn More about the Katadyn Exstream Water Filtration Bottle

See the LifeSaver Water Filtration Bottle in Action

Learn More About Getting Safe Drinking Water

  • EPA
    This page will guide you in how to assure you have safe drinking water in an emergency.
  • Outdoors.org
    Here's a simple guide for water treatment methods, beyond the use of a water filtration bottle, when you're outdoors hiking.
  • Center for Disease Control
    This page from the CDC will help you find as well as treat water during an emergency.
  • WikiHow
    A brief guide outlining how you can turn salt water into drinkable water.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2009 Ruth Coffee

Let Us Know You Stopped By!

Waterpurification on February 13, 2013:

Great Lens! Nice products very informative

Johann The Dog from Northeast Georgia on September 16, 2010:

Great ideas for our hikes! Thanks!

Ladyclodine on June 01, 2010:

It made me glad I had made the choice to use a countertop water filters for my drinking and cooking water. For drinking it is better than mineral waters.

Laraine Sims from Lake Country, B.C. on April 12, 2009:

This would be a great thing for us to take on our hikes. Got to discuss this hubby. Thanks Mulberry! 5*s

Patricia on April 12, 2009:

I drink bottled water, ever since I was pregnant with my first daughter 18 years ago.

Achim Thiemermann from Austin, Texas on April 12, 2009:

As always, you give concise and relevant tips on a topic that's plagued by lots of confusing information. Clean water is probably the most important drink for our health. 5*s and a blessing! :-)