Hiking Water Filter

Hiking Water FilterHiking Water Filter   A hiker loosens his pack, kneels beside a babbling brook, and replenishes his canteen. Kids skip rocks across a stream before taking a drink at its inlet. A woman dismounts from her horse and leads it to a pool of clear, refreshing water.
What all three scenarios have in common is that the participants are looking for clean, safe drinking water. There was a time when we could assume that water from rivers, creeks, brooks, and springs, especially in the back country, was safe to drink. That assumption is no longer true. Lakes and streams usually contain a variety of microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, protozoa, fungi, and algae. Most of these occur naturally and have little impact on human health. Some microorganisms, however, can cause disease in humans (Frankenberger 2007). 

(Hiking Water Filter Article Continued Below)

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For these reasons, obtaining adequate supplies of safe drinking water is a challenge for back-country rangers, trail crews, river rangers, and other employees who spend several days at a time in remote locations . Not only is water difficult to find, but it is also heavy and bulky to carry. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service, active people should drink 2 to 3 liters of water a day. Following this recommendation, back-country rangers or hikers need—on average for a 5-day outing—30 pounds of water; or, stated another way, a person would need 15 1-liter bottles of water for a 5-day stay in the back country .

An alternative to packing large quantities of water is to find a back-country water source. Springs, seeps, streams, rivers, ponds, or lakes all may be used for drinking water. However, water from these sources may contain protozoa, bacteria, or viruses, which can cause waterborne gastroenteritis . Several different personal filtering hiking water filter  and treatment devices are available commercially that can treat enough water for one or two people and protect them from waterborne pathogens, including the ones described below. This website will discuss these hiking water filters.

Preventing Waterborne Disease in the Back Country

According to the CDC, boiling is the most reliable way to ensure safe drinking water from an untreated source, such as a lake or stream. Boiling water as recommended will kill bacterial, parasitic, and viral causes of diarrhea. Boil water vigorously for 1 minute, or 3 minutes at elevations above 6,500 feet (2,000 meters). If boiling water is impractical, filtering and disinfecting is a safe alternative.
Several commercial personal water filters are available. When selecting a personal water filter, ensure that it has been tested to the EPA’s “Guide Standard and Protocol for Testing Microbiological Water Purifiers” (The Standard).

In 1984, the EPA assembled a task force to develop The Standard as a general guide for determining the microbial removal/inactivation effectiveness of certain water treatment units on waters of unknown quality. The Standard requires removal/inactivation of giardia and (more recently) cryptosporidium cysts to 99.9 percent, Klebsiella terrigena (bacteria) to 99.9999 percent, and poliovirus and rotavirus to 99.99 percent in all required water conditions.

NSF International (NSF) published The Standard as P231.  NSF does not currently test personal water treatment devices. Several universities and independent laboratories will test the devices to The Standard.

The Standard is incorporated into the U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine (USACHPPM) protocol for personal filters, P248. NSF maintains P248 for the Army. In addition to The Standard for microbiological evaluation, P248 also looks at size, durability, weight, maintainability, and several other parameters of the device. USACHPPM also reviews the extent to which the devices are tested to The Standard,
Treatment Devices
Cyst Reduction
A one-micron-absolute filter only meets The Standard for protozoa-cyst reduction. A cyst filter has larger pores and does not foul as fast as a microfilter, so it will filter more water. Protozoan cysts are resistant to disinfection. By removing protozoan cysts and other particulate matter from the water first, large quantities of water can be disinfected quickly.
Microfilters
A microfilter is a device that meets The Standard for both protozoa-cyst reduction and bacteria reduction. It does not remove viruses. A disinfectant must be used to kill any viruses present in the water.
Purification System
A purification system, or purifier, meets The Standard for cyst, bacteria, and virus reduction. Additional treatment is not required when using a purifier according to the manufacturer’s directions. For any treatment device, read the claim carefully. Some labels are misleading, such as one that states: “Removes: … viruses attached to … particles” (this does NOT meet The Standard for virus reduction)  Follow the directions for the use, maintenance, and storage of the device. Some devices are to be drained and stored dry. Others are to be stored in the freezer to prevent bacterial growth on the hiking water filter .

Treatment Devices
The capacity of these treatment devices varies substantially, depending on the quality of water being treated. In side-by-side evaluations of these treatment devices, personal preference varied. Some people preferred the lever-action pump; some people preferred the vertical-plunger pump. Some people liked more sturdy construction; some people were more concerned with weight. As long as the treatment device is certified to meet The Standard and is used and cleaned according to the manufacturer’s recommendations, any of these devices can prevent a waterborne illness.
Mountain Safety Research (MSR)
The MiniWorks™ Microfilter uses a ceramic filter with an activated-carbon core to reduce taste and odors. It is field-serviceable and has a sizing gauge for an “end-of-device useful life” indicator. It is not designed for virus reduction and should be used with a disinfectant. It weighs 16 ounces .

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The WaterWorks

The WaterWorks® EX (figure 8) Microfilter is similar to the MiniWorks™ but has a second-stage filter for additional protection. It weighs 19 ounces and costs about a bit more.

The SweetWater® Microfilter (figure 9) has a pump handle that folds down compact for carrying. It weighs 11 ounces and costs about $100.  MSRs SweetWater® Microfilter lever-action pump handle folds for compact carrying and storing.

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The SweetWater® Purifier System consists of the SweetWater® Microfilter, chlorine solution, and 2-liter container for chlorine-contact time. This system received a high rating from USACHPPM. With the addition of the disinfectant, the system claims to be a purifier. It weighs 14 ounces and costs  around $100.
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The MIOX® Purifier  does not include a filter. It uses a chemical disinfectant to treat the water. To inactivate cryptosporidium requires eight times the normal dose and 4 hours contact time. When used with a cyst filter, it takes 15 minutes to inactivate bacteria and virus. It weighs 3.5 ounces and costs about $140.

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Water is a basic necessity of life. Springs, seeps, streams, rivers, ponds, or lakes may all be used as a source for drinking water in the back country ; however, some sources may not be safe to drink. Clean, safe water may be obtained from these sources by boiling. If boiling is not practical, the water may be treated by a device tested to The Standard or to USACHPPM P248. When a tested hiking water filter device is used, maintained, and stored according to the directions, it can provide water safe from microbial contamination.

 

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