How not to poison yourself with water in the field?
Water is the basis of our existence. A person can stay without food for up to several weeks. On the other hand, the lack of water can lead us to imminent death. It is water that enables chemical reactions to take place in our bodies. It is water that cleanses the body of toxins, optimizes the activity of digestive enzymes, enables the absorption of nutrients and promotes fat burning. But what to do when we find ourselves far from civilization and we run out of mineral water in our backpack?
The problem may seem abstract to many, and in fact, the average tourist will probably never experience it. The problems begin when we decide to set off on a multi-day trip into total wilderness. In areas where there is no place to look for shelters and where we can forget about shops. Then the only source of water for us will be natural reservoirs. Water reservoirs, which may happen to look like in the advertisements, but with potential danger.
What should we be afraid of?
Let's start with the most mundane problem - the water can be simply dirty. Water swarming with particles of sand, fragments of plants or remnants of less civilized representatives of the civilized world will most likely prove to be unpalatable. Fortunately, we are able to define this threat without any equipment - a glance is enough.
The next threat is much less obvious. If there is agricultural land in the area, then there is a high probability that the water will be contaminated with pesticides. Fortunately, these types of water reservoirs are usually relatively close to human settlements, so unless you are walking on a non-trading Sunday, it is better to go some distance and look for a store.
The third group of threats is a more serious caliber, they are biological threats.
Unpleasant diarrhea can be caused by protozoa in us - organisms ubiquitous on the globe, some of which are harmful to our health.
Another group of organisms from the micro world are bacteria. The human body is unable to function without them, but (as in the case of protozoa) there are a number of bacteria that can harm us. While in our latitude the undesirable effect of their operation will most likely end in digestive system ailments, in tropical countries the problems may turn out to be much more serious.
After discussing protozoa and bacteria, we can smoothly move on to viruses - the most dangerous biological threat. In the case of these, the potential problem is not limited to pain and diarrhea. We are talking about specific diseases, such as hepatitis A. The difficulty in filtering out viruses comes from the fact that they are terribly small. Therefore, when purchasing equipment for water treatment, it is worth investing in equipment that will cope with such a challenge.
How to treat the water?
There are several options ...
The first one is the most popular not so much among survivalists, but in general - it is used much more often in everyday life than on the trail. It's about boiling water. Boiling water kills almost everything that could harm us. However, while this is not a problem in the kitchen, boiling water in the field is a process that requires a certain amount of time and energy, and this makes it impractical.
The second option are lamps that emit UV rays. We won't dwell at this position, because it is not very practical. Requires a lot of energy (batteries). Although the water will be cleaned of biological factors that threaten our health, all pollutants (dust, plant remains, etc.) will remain. UV lamps are an expensive and ineffective solution.
The third option are water treatment tablets. On the trail, this solution is much more interesting than the one presented above, but it is still not free from disadvantages. The tablets will cleanse the water of viruses, bacteria and protozoa. However, the purification process takes a long time. The high content of chlorine in the tablets means that the taste qualities of the purified water are far from the crystal clear mineral water from advertisements. The advantage of the tablets is that they do not take up much space in a backpack and are very light.
The fourth way is the one we are heading towards from the beginning of this article, these are water purification filters. This variant seems to be the most popular among trekking fans and it is not a coincidence. There are several arguments in favor of filters. The first is that they are usually small and light. Of course, you can get products with larger dimensions, but this is only one of the options. If we want equipment that will not take up much space, we can easily find something on the market. Another argument is as follows, a good filter is able to clean the water of most viruses, bacteria and protozoa. There is a very small probability that by drinking the water passed through such a filter, we will run the risk of biological poisoning. Another thing, the filter will clean the water from impurities such as the previously mentioned sand and plant residues or other dirt.
However, in order not to be limited to the dry theory, let us support it with a few examples. Our offer includes several KATADYN filters. The first of them for the HIKER PRO model. It weighs only 310g, and the service life of the filter cartridge is up to 1150 liters of water - depending on its quality. The filter effectively removes bacteria (99.9999%) and protozoa (99.9%) such as Giardia and Cryptosporidium. The AntiClog ™ technology with glass fibers (pores with a diameter of 0.2 microns) and activated carbon granules used in the cartridge allows to purify the water from various types of cysts, algae, sediment and spores. As a result, the water also gains a better smell and taste.
The MINI model has similar parameters. It is dedicated to minimalists. Due to its dimensions, it can even fit in a thigh pocket. It also has several other advantages. Its service life is much longer than that of the HIKER PRO model - with relatively good water quality, it can reach up to 7,000 liters. The filter is equipped with a 0.2 μm ceramic cartridge impregnated with silver ions. The cartridge effectively cleans water from bacteria, protozoa and other dangerous microorganisms. Like any other KATADYN product, it meets EPA standards.
In contrast to the tiny MINI filter, KATADYN offers two extremely different, yet equally effective products - gravity filters BASE CAMP PRO and GRAVITY CAMP. The first one has a capacity of 10 and the second is 6 liters. The question of effectiveness is exactly the same as with the filters described above - bacteria (99.9999%) and protozoa (99.9%). Everything else is completely different. These filters are suspended water containers with a dispenser. They are dedicated to groups of several people going camping or camp, although the option of a long hike also comes into play.
All the filters described above are equipped with replaceable filter cartridges.
There are several methods of water purification and everyone can choose the one that suits their needs. However, we can objectively say that conditioning filters are the best options available. It is true that the purchase of a good filter is associated with a considerable expense, but the benefits of having it are at least commensurate with the amount spent, and maybe even exceed it. The lack of water far from civilization may prove disastrous for us. That is why each field trip should be thought out and carefully prepared.
Author: Gniewko Bernecki