How to Purify Water on the Trail

One of the biggest challenges of any hiking or camping expedition is carrying enough drinking water to last the entire journey.

If you plan to hike for a long distance or camp out, you've got a couple of options when it comes to staving off thirst and dehydration:

Either calculate how much water you expect to drink during the entire journey, then haul it along with you...

Or choose a trail that runs by a river, lake, stream or waterfall - so you can lighten the load by collecting and purifying your water as you go!

Try these 4 methods for purifying drinking water on the trail, and say goodbye to lugging gallons of water along with all your other gear: 


4. Boil Your Water

If you're setting up camp and have a bit of time on your hands, boiling water is an easy and natural way to ensure that what you collect is safe to drink. 

Bring water to a rolling boil for at least one minute to kills germs, pathogenic bacteria and viruses that might be present in stream or lake water, depending where you sourced it.

However, boiling your water does take some time and you likely won't be able to use this method in the middle of the day when you're still hiking. If you're on the move, opting for a more portable purification method such as the ones below might be a better choice.

3. Use a Water Filter

Outdoor water filtration systems are excellent accessories to purchase before you head out on your hiking trip. They're fast, reliable and long-lasting, so you'll get pure water with the best taste for many adventures to come.

Effective water filters that use activated charcoal or other forms of carbon will remove microscopic bacteria and viruses from water, as well as physical debris like dirt and plant matter. 

These handheld water filters are the best option for those who prefer a clean, pure taste to their water, as they remove impurities that can affect flavor. For all the purists out there, pump your freshly filtered water straight from the stream into your Greens Steel Water Bottle for ultimate refreshment.

2. water purifying drops & tablets

Chlorine drops and iodine tablets are good alternatives if you'll be on the move.

Chlorine drops can quickly kill bacteria, though they do require you to wait between 20 and 30 minutes before you drink the water in your bottle. You’ll also need to carefully count how many drops you use, since chlorine can be poisonous if you ingest too much. 

Iodine tablets are a little easier to use since you only have to drop a single tablet into your bottle for it to kill any viruses and bacteria (except for certain types, like Cryptosporidium).

However, both chlorine drops and iodine tablets don’t do anything to remove other debris, so your water may taste odd or gross even if it’s technically purified.

Keep in mind also that they’re one-time purification solutions, so be sure you pack enough of them before you start your hike. 

1. shine a UV Light

Lastly, you can even use a compact UV light to purify your water in a pinch!

UV flashlights are almost instant solutions to purify your water – simply shine the light into your bottle for around a minute to dismantle any harmful bacteria and viruses.

These water purification lights can be on the pricier side, and they do require batteries to run which could become heavy to carry if you also have to pack along a ton of batteries.

As with the iodine and chlorine solutions, UV lights also don't do anything to remove physical debris, so they're best to use for water that isn't cloudy.

With these water purification methods, gone are the days of hauling heavy water all the way on your hikes and camping trips! Based on the quality and availability of the natural springs you’ll have access to, you should be able to find at least one good purification solution amongst all these different options.

Even better, consider having a few of these different water purification methods with you on your next trip to make sure you never go without a fresh drink.   

As with any adventure outdoors, be sure to do your research about the area you'll be exploring first to confirm that there will be good water available to collect along the route. For longer journeys where you'll need access to a lot of water to sustain you, confirm that the recent weather hasn't interfered with the normal water levels as well as checking for any health advisories.

Taking precautions will ensure that there's a reliable source of freshly flowing water available for you to bottle, purify and drink. 

Happy hiking! 

Justin | Greens Steel Wellness Contributor
Maine, USA

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