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The Importance Of Water Purification Whilst Camping

Apr 10, 2008
Whenever we head off into the countryside and go camping it is a concern where we will get clean water from. Naturally if we are going to an organised campsite it is likely that there will be a water source there that will require no purification on your part. If however you are heading off into the wilderness it is advisable that you take and are knowledgeable of a variety of purification methods to ensure you have safe drinking water whilst on your trip.

All campers have heard the fabled tale of the two hikers who are walking through a forest when one decides to fill his water bottle in a mountain stream. Whilst this first hiker is slurping his refreshingly cool water his friend decides to wait to fill his water bottle as he does not fully trust the quality of the water. The second hiker's choice is vindicated when lo and behold they arrive further up the stream and find the rotting corpse of a stag. While the truth in this tale is questionable the moral is certainly worth heeding; if you cannot guarantee the purity of your water, do not take a sip.

This is why when camping or hiking it is essential to have a number of water purification methods at your disposal to ensure your water supply is safe and clean. The most common waterborne bacteria are giardia, E coli and cryptosporidium although other diseases that can be passed on in water are salmonella and hepatitis A. Subsequently it is vital that you should carry with you enough water purification knowledge so you can avoid these diseases and ensure your trip is fun and not memorable for the wrong reasons.

The oldest method of water purification is boiling that has been used since ancient times in china and the whole reason that tea became so popular in the Far East. It remains a widely used method for those hiking and camping in backcountry areas as it is simple and yet still highly effective.

The general rule of thumb is to boil water for ten minutes plus another minute for every 1,000 feet of altitude; this should kill more or less any little nasties that may be present. As you will most probably have a cooking pot and will be lighting a fire anyway, this method is easy and does not require packing any specific water purification equipment. As it is time consuming however, modern campers are rapidly turning to more high tech purification methods.

Filters are a water purification solution that many campers regularly use as they are a simple answer to the problem of acquiring clean drinking water. Some may be critical of this purification method as it can be ineffectual. The problem with filters is that they must be cleaned regularly and inspected thoroughly before every use to ensure the filter is in good working order and will filter out any bacteria present in the water supply.

There is a major problem with using filters however; generally filters can not remove viruses from a water supply. This can be an especial problem when travelling abroad but should be a concern on every camping trip. Fundamentally a filter is just that, a filter; it is not an all encompassing solution to water purification as its uses are limited.

Modern methods of water purification include iodine and chlorine tablets or drops. These are an efficient and effective of wiping out bacteria and viruses. They are a perfect solution due to their high mobility being able to purify gallons of water with only a few drops. They may seem the ideal purification method although there are problems with the chemical treatment method.

The first of these problems is the effect they will have on the taste of the water. Iodine is especially guilty of altering the taste, leaving a strong metallic taste in the mouth. While this may be ideal for cooking, it can seriously affect the quality of drinking water. There is however a solution to this problem with some drops adding a citrus flavour while they purify. Using chemical solutions can also cause problems if used for extended periods of time.

There is little doubt that the purity of water is a major concern when camping or hiking. Those who like to keep things simple will just want to boil but with so many other solutions on the market it is probably worth investing in either filters of purifying chemicals.
About the Author
Health expert Thomas Pretty looks into the importance of water purification and the methods used by campers and hikers to ensure safe drinking water.
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