When planning an expedition multi day trek or a holiday, one of the first things people should consider is water. Fresh clean water. Everyone knows that when they are overseas, tap water can be unsuitable for drinking, and could cause illness and potentially the ending of a new adventure.
Water is the essence of life on planet earth. Our bodies rely on it and without it we wouldn’t last one week. Water acts as a lubricant for our joints, regulates our body temperature through sweating and respiration, and helps to flush waste.
In this article I will outline the most common methods used to purify water for consumption and sanitation on expeditions and multi day trekking adventures. Acknowledging that boiling, filtration, distillation and chlorination are the key methods to purify water. I will be also talking about the products and methods to do this that best suit a person conducting or participating in an expedition or trekking.
I will briefly go over the environmental, health and logistical factors to consider and outline what my preferred method is on my expeditions.
What is in the water that can make me ill?
Waterborne microbes can cause illness and have the potential to create serious health problems.
Three types of these are:
• Bacteria such as E. coli, Salmonella, Cholera;
• Viruses like Hepatitis
• Protozoa, also known as cysts, such as Giardia.
It is important to know that it is not just drinking contaminated water that can lead to health problems. Bathing, washing and eating food prepared with contaminated water can also be a factor. Most people remember not to have ice in a cold drink in most places because of the potential for harm.
Most travellers think that bottled water is the solution. But considering the environmental factors and what we now know of the plastics littering our oceans, this is not a viable solution by any means. The most common advice is to buy bottled water and make sure the seal on the bottle is uncompromised before consuming. Apart from the financial cost of buying water, is the environmental cost.
The transportation for bottles of water have a considerable carbon footprint. Plastic bottles also create rubbish which, in countries already struggling to manage their waste, only contribute to the problem.
In remote areas of the world on expeditions or multi-day trekking trips, bottled water is not an option and different methods to purify water are used.
Boiling water is enough to kill pathogenic bacteria, viruses and protozoa. If water is cloudy, let it settle and filter it through a clean cloth, paper boiling water towel, or coffee filter. Bring water to a rolling boil for at least one minute.
SteriPen - SteriPens are a portable UV water purifier. They are a small pen-like electronic device that emits an ultraviolet light and purifies either half a litre or one full litre of water at a time. The device operates on batteries and works with clear water by killing the DNA of harmful microbes and bacteria.
Chlorine Dioxide tablets, the active ingredient in water purification tablets is typically chlorine, chlorine dioxide or iodine. These chemicals deactivate bacteria, viruses and parasitic protozoans, rendering them harmless.By placing one tablet in one litre of water then waiting 30 minutes at which time the water is fit for consumption. Notable brand names are Katadyn Micropur Forte and Aquatabs.
Chlorine Dioxide solution, Chlorine Dioxide solution eliminates parasites and pathogens by adding the recommended amount (usually in drops) to every litre of water to purify your drinking water. Notable brand names are Katadyn Micropur Forte (liquid) and Aquaprove.
As for water purification for washing and bathing well I just don’t bother. I use wet wipes and Utilize the natural surroundings like streams and lakes ensuring that it is safe to do so and that there is no cultural significance.
The method I use most is chlorine dioxide tablets, either aquatabs or Katadyn Micropur forte. I usually have a three-litre camel bag in my pack and 2 x one litre water bottles. I purify water in the bottles before adding it to my camel pack as it is easier to control.
Water is without question integral to health. On an expedition this is very important, and you must be conscience of your surroundings.
I hope this article has been able to assist you to decide what to use when purifying your water in the outdoors. It’s only a brief account of the methods used and the factors to consider.
Yours in adventure,
Earth Trails Expeditions.