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Water & Hydration

Water Filters & Purifiers
Water Bottles & Tanks
Hydration Systems
Water Filters & Purifiers

Water Bottles & Tanks

Hydration Systems

Buying Guide - Water Treatment






Pump Filter

Chemical Purifier

UV Light Purifier -
Desalinator - -

Good      Better      Best

* Why Treat Water? 

Your health depends on it. Even stream water that looks fresh and clean may contain bacteria, giardia, cryptosporidium and other nasty microbes that could make you ill, or worse. Water treatment is especially important in the wilderness or at sea, where professional medical care could be days away.

* Pump/Gravity Filters. All hand pump filters have the following characteristics in common: (a) hand crank lever for pumping water, (b) a water intake hose that draws water from the water source (such as a stream), (c) a replaceable filtration element or cartridge through which the water is filtered, (d) a water hose or adapter that outputs filtered water into a water bottle or reservoir.

Most pump filters work the same way:

  • The hand crank lever is used to pump water through the intake hose;
  • The water is pulled from the intake hose through a replaceable filtration element or cartridge;
  • The filtered or purified water then outputs through a hose or bottle adapter for collection into a reservoir or water bottle.

Gravity filters use a similar method, but rely on gravity instead of a hand crank lever.

Pros:  Most can filter water mixed with sediment or mud. Can produce relatively large volumes of potable water in a short period of time. Requires no batteries or external power source. Most are quite durable.

Cons:  Ultralight models are available, but they are still generally heavier and bulkier than chemical tablets and UV purifiers. Many do not eliminate small viruses (but this is generally not a significant concern in North American streams and lakes).

Notes:  All filter cartridges or elements need to be replaced (or cleaned) after some period of use. Ceramic elements last the longest (with some lasting several years) and can be cleaned repeatedly. Fiberglass or paper cartridges are efficient and economical, but need to be replaced after a couple of hundred gallons of filtration.

* Chemical Tablets & Solutions. Iodine or chlorine dioxide can be added to suspect water to disinfect the water of biological pathogens, such as bacteria and viruses.

Pros:  Extremely lightweight and compact. Most kill viruses, in addition to bacteria, cysts, giardia and cryptosporidium. Good for emergencies and for use in your hydration pack.

Cons:  You must plan ahead, as it can take up to 4 hours to completely disinfect water. Requires a relatively clear water source (such as a running stream), as chemicals obviously do not get rid of sediment or mud.

* Ultralight Violet Light Purification. UV light purifiers use ultraviolet light to quickly and safely destroy the DNA of microbes. Although relatively new to the outdoor market, UV technology has been used by bottled-water plants and hospitals for over 60 years.

Pros:  Proven technology. Lighter weight and more compact than hand pump filters. Destroys the DNA of virtually all microbes.

Cons:  Requires an external power source -- i.e., batteries. Requires a water source that is relatively free of sediment and mud (unless a pre-filter is used). Process is relatively quick, but yield-per-minute is still about one-half that of a compact hand pump filter. More fragile than hand pump filters.

* Desalinators. Desalinators remove sodium from sea water, to make in drinkable by humans. Desalinators are only necessary when filtering sea water.  Desalination is not necessary when filtering fresh water from streams or lakes, which do not have a dangerously high sodium content.


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