Hiking Gear: Water purifying system

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I’m preparing for an Appalachian Trail thru-hike. In addition to physical and mental preparation, I’m working through what gear to carry. My goal is to have less than 25 total pounds for a week’s hike, including food, water and fuel. Today I focus on the water system.

Water Purifying System

The Appalachian Trail has lots of running water. Of course, it’s mostly running in rivers, springs, and ponds. So you need water carrying containers and a way to purify the water you find along the trail.

It's sturdy, but weights in at about 7ounces, before you add water. And you need two.
Sturdy, but weights about 7ounces, before you add water. And you need two.

I’ve long since ditched those nice fancy water bottles (at about 7 ounces each and $10-12) and just carry a couple empty soda bottles, plus a spare lid. It’s not fancy, but the bottles weight almost nothing—an ounce each when you remove the label and the little plastic ring near the lid. If I lose or damage one, I don’t feel badly. Plus, I’m recycling! For years I’ve been using the MSR Sweetwater Water Filter Pump and I’ve been very happy with it. When it clogs, it’s easy to take apart and clean out with the brush (included). A new system cost about $90 at REI. Replacement filters are about $45. BUT it weights 26 ounces (including filter, tubing, pre-filter, brush) and a backup filter is another 16 ounces. And I still have to carry an additional treatment to kill viruses, so add another 2 ounces! Based on my own hikes and on the advice of a longtime backpacker, Skittles, I believe that most of the water along the AT is fairly clean. My goal will be to use clear, sediment free water and treat it with something to kill virus and bacteria.

MSR Sweetwater filter pump I've used for years has been dependable, but it just weighs too much.
MSR Sweetwater filter pump I’ve used for years has been dependable, but it just weighs too much.

I will bring liquid water treatment—either a bleach based solution (like MSR SweetWater Purifier Solution – 2oz, $15 and I already own a bottle) or AquaMira (a tried and true hiker standard). I’m not big a fan of the taste of water treated with iodine tables –though that is the lightest option and cheapest option, at $7–but will consider them. I’ve eliminated the ideas of using one of the new Steripens. To facilitate easy water carriage and give me something to let particulates settle out, I’ve purchased a collapsible water bucket. It will do double duty to wash clothing or dishes (or me!) and is large enough to soak a foot in. I’ve purchased the Sea to Summit Folding Bucket – 10 Liters, $30 and won’t use the little carrying case, 2.8 ounces. This allows you to carry water back to camp for washing up. Convenient and you don’t contaminate the water source with soap or your icky body funk. Oh, and just in case I need to filter large particulates out, I’ll use this collapsible funnel and strain the water through my bandanna. What I hadn’t anticipated was how much easier this funnel would make it to fill the mylar bags in the Sawyer system (below),

SP131L

I’ve switched to the new Sawyer squeezable filter. This is new to me and I used it for the first time on my November shake down hike. Worked great and I’m excited about it. I paid $49.95 at REI.

I'll opt for two recycled soda bottles. Remove the labels and even the little plastic ring. It all adds up.
I’ll opt for two recycled soda bottles. Remove the labels and even the little plastic ring. It all adds up.DSC_0387

Current total for Water System Category

Total: 11 ounces

Weight saved by not bringing the filter pump, 26 ounces, plus another 16 ounces if I had a spare replacement filter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is how Mike C deals with water treatment:

 

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Beth

I'm a professional vagabond. I quit my cubical job in January 2014. Since then, I've hiked the Appalachian Trail, The Camino, and taught English in Vietnam, Turkey, Russia, Spain and Mexico. I'm exploring the world.

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