Editing Down: Ultralight Water Treatments
After 2,181 miles of rugged hiking I learned a few things about treating water in the wilderness. In a perfect world, I would carry a different method of treatment dependent on the region I am hiking through. However, in the world of ultralight hiking, we can’t afford to be picky. What I mean to say is… on the Appalachian Trail, there were certain stretches of trail where the water was less than desirable. I am talking about New York and portions of Southern Connecticut. However, the total mileage between those 2 states is small beans and not worth switching out your water purification system.
I commenced my journey with an MSR Sweetwater Filter. It rocked! However, filters require a ton of maintenance and contain many working parts that often break down. As I moved further north on the trail, I discovered that New York and Connecticut’s iron-laden water sources killed my Sweetwater. Filters are not meant to remove heavy metals and they often jam up when forced to do so. The one great thing about my Sweetwater was its ability to remove awful tastes from the water. Although it was a huge annoyance to filter water in the north, it eliminated the gross taste of heavy metals.
Much later in my journey I dropped my Sweetwater off and picked-up a new method. I bought an old-fashioned bottle of iodine. I am not talking about those fancy iodine tablets either… just a small vile of iodine you can purchase at Walgreens or CVS. It contained about 2 ounces and lasted forever. I followed SOLO Wilderness Medicine’s standard protocol: 3 drops iodine per liter of water for 30 minutes prior to consumption. It was so simple it was ridiculous. All those days of pumping the filter, cleaning it out, transferring water back-and-forth were over.
I was faced with another interesting challenge. Since I eliminated my water filter I eliminated the ability to strain the nasty floaters, algae, and creatures that live at the top of most water sources. I saw a lot of folks hold bandanas over their water bottles, but that just didn’t work very well. As you continue into Maine, the water sources also get more-and-more questionable (like creepy stagnant ponds). I came up with a really simple, really cheap solution. I bought a panty-hose sock from Wal-Mart out of the women’s hosiery department. It cost about a $1. I then placed the open-end over the mouth of my water bottle. Over the opening of the sock and the mouth of the bottle I placd a rubber band to firmly fix the two together. I then submerge my bottle underwater. I was amazed at how clear the water in my bottle was and how none of the debris in the water could make it through the sock. The panty-hose sock is so fine that none of the debris was able to pass through. Pretty ingenious huh?
The whole “system–” iodine, panty-hose sock, and rubber band– weigh in at an incredible 2 ounces. Pretty awesome considering that my MSR Sweetwater weighed 11 ounces.
This ultralight water treatment system is incredibly easy and a great one to experiment with at home. I dare you to try it out one day and see how simple it really is.