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.
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.
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),
Current total for Water System Category
- 2 empty soda bottles (plastic ring and label removed): 2oz
- Bottle of SweetWater Purifier solution: 2oz
- Bucket: 3 oz
- Funnel: 1 oz
- Sawyer Squeeze Filter/Mylar pouches: 4 oz
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: