Adventures in the wilderness are uplifting for the body and spirit, a chance to connect to the untamed beauty of nature beyond the daily grind of civilization. But properly equipping yourself for the experience is critically important, to avoid a terribly uncomfortable – and possibly life-threatening – scenario.
Put simply, few things are more important to human health & safety than access to drinkable clean water, especially in the wild. When you’re a good distance from the amenities of civilization, preparation could mean the difference between life and death. While it’s recommended that people drink roughly a half gallon (8 glasses of water) a day on average, an active hiker will consume approximately a gallon of water a day – far too much to carry for the duration of a lengthy outing.
That hidden lake you’re hiking toward or river you’re camping beside may look as beautiful as a painting, but there’s a strong likelihood that dangerous parasites and bacteria are lurking in the water, undetectable to the eye. Drinking contaminated water can make you severely ill, and can even be fatal.
The immediate health risks to wilderness water are pathogens, most frequently spread through animal or human waste. Ingesting untreated contaminated water from a stream, lake or RV campsite is an invitation to gut-wrenching illness from the following:
These “treacherous 3” can take you down within just a few hours, beginning with flu-like symptoms such as nausea, gastrointestinal cramping and diarrhea – a nightmare scenario if you’re miles from civilization, especially if you’re out of cell range.
The best practice is to treat water from any source, to minimize the risk of waterborne illness, and make it safe for drinking. As a result, a personal water filter or purifier should be at the top of your packing list for all camping or backpacking trips – it’s even a good idea to have at home, for treating your tap water. Clean drinking water is essential. When seeking out water sources for drinking in nature, look out for signs of likely contamination and avoid locations with these features:
Once you find a suitable water source, be sure to gather water from the surface in the least cloudy or murky area of the water you can find, using a clean container (and clean hands). Use caution not to stir up the sediment at the bottom of the body of water, if any.
The answer depends on the type of adventure you’re planning, and your needs in the field. You can add any of the following water treatment methods to your camping gear:
The Scout II from ProOne is a conveniently small, portable version of a traditional gravity filter. It’s BPA free and independently lab tested to remove over 200 contaminants including lead and other heavy metals, chloramines, VOC’s, fluoride and more. It features a “set and forget” method that filters up to 1.5 liters of water at a time.
There are many methods for making sure the water you are about to drink is clean, to stay out of harm’s way on your next wilderness excursion. Learn more about various water filtration methods for outdoor and home use here.