Water Filters

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picture of a woman using water filters to clean her drinking water while backcountry camping
Water Filters Are a Must When You Are Backcountry Camping

Good day, and welcome to the super good camping podcast. My name is Pamela.

Tim: And I’m Tim.

Pamela: And we are from supergoodcamping.com. We’re here because we wanted to inspire other families to enjoy camping adventures, such as we have with our family. And today, we want to talk about water filtration for people that are doing backcountry camping. For front country, you have water taps, and that water is drinkable unless they have a boil water advisory. They will post a boil water advisory at all the water taps if you must boil the water before drinking it. Other than that, you don’t need to boil the water in the front country. But in the backcountry, it’s pretty essential that you do unless you want to take home some extra bugs with you.

Tim: which is always fun, so I hear. Thankfully, I’ve never run into it. The reason we filter water is that there are lots of bad things in the water aside from dirt and bits of trees and what have you. Fish pee there, just saying.

Pamela: You had to go there!

Tim: You have issues like Giardia, E. coli, Salmonella, and Cholera, that’s why we purify water. It’s going to go badly for you. You’re going to have tummy cramps, spending a lot of time on the thunderbox in the backcountry or somewhere that you’re getting emptied out. Boiling water, that’s your first round of defence. It’s also sort of the most cumbersome. It takes a while to boil water. You’re using up fuel. Especially in the backcountry, that’s something you don’t want to have to lug a bunch of. You have to boil water for a minimum of a minute. And then if you want to drink it, you’re boiling it and then waiting while it cools down. You still have to carry bottles to put it into if you want to travel with it, which you will, especially if you’re in the backcountry. So that covers your front country, if you need to, they will post it that you have a boil water advisory and in the front country that’s the easiest way to do it. It doesn’t require any additional equipment. Of the other four types, the dead simplest is tablets. They’re cheap. They’re light. They treat the water for what you need to get out of it or what you need to not have in it. The downside is that you only get about a litre of purified water per tablet. And it doesn’t filter the water. So if you’re in the backcountry, if you’re in the middle of a lake, chances are you’re not going to pick up turbid water, it’ll be relatively clear water. But if you’re on a campsite, near shore, chances are pretty high that you’ll pick up some sand, some decomposing wood, that sort of jazz. The tablets don’t do anything to remove that, so you’re going to be drinking that. UV – I’m going in order of how I see them being effective and or working well. UV or ultraviolet light you buy a UV wand, a waterproof one that you stick in a bottle. You turn it on, and you swirl the bottle around. It does about half a litre at one go. It’s fairly quick. It’s about a minute to do it. If you have a litre, you have to do that litre twice. It’s rechargeable, but it uses electricity. So you’re lugging a battery pack for it, or a power cell or whatever. It works really well in rural residential homes, it’s not so great in the backcountry. Again, same as tablets, it doesn’t filter anything out of the water. It kills off E. coli, etc. If you’ve got bits of wood in the water, you’re going to be drinking those.

Pamela: extra carbon fibre.

Tim: If you’re backpacking in Europe, or somewhere in the Middle East, somewhere where you might possibly come across some dodgy bottled water or you’re not sure what’s coming out of the taps, that would be an excellent place to take a UV filter for water because it’s clear water. It’s theoretically it’s filtered, but you just don’t know what’s in it. And when you’re in a hotel, you could plug it into a wall and recharge it. That would be an excellent application for that type of filter.

Alright, so now to the final options, the ones that I’ve seen most used in the backcountry:
Pump: It has an intake. You use a lever. You manually pump it back and forth, hence the term pump and it pumps the dirty water through a filter into a clean reservoir of some type. Most of them come with a reservoir bag, but you could pump it into your drinking bottle. The benefits, aside from the fact that it’s quite fast, you can get up to two and a half litres a minute. I believe it’s 60 to 80 pumps per minute. These are also factoring in a brand spanking new filter that doesn’t have any dirt in it, etc. You don’t have to look for somewhere to hang it. You can do it while you’re out in the canoe in the middle of the lake. That said, gravity filters also can be done in the canoe, it’s just a little bit trickier and slower. The pump is faster. Faster than a gravity filter. I don’t have one. We have a gravity filter. The coolest feature I think about the pump is that it auto backflushes. So about 10% of each pump does a backflush and takes the larger chunks of crap that will get caught in the filter and kicks them out of the side. So you don’t have to spend the time backflushing down the road in order to make the filter go back to its original efficiency. They’re not very expensive. You can get a microfilter for like 100’ish bucks, 120 bucks. But you can spend four and change, four hundred and 60 bucks easily on a high end one. The next is gravity filters the two big players there, MSR and Platypus. For the record, we own a Platypus four-litre gravity filter. Those things cost, you can go as cheap as a buck 20, I think we paid $150 for ours. You can hit $350. What we like about it and why I chose this is that it’s a set and forget it. You fill up the dirty bag, attach it by a hose through a filter and a hose on the other side to a clean bag. You hang those two on a tree with the dirty bag higher and the clean bag lower and walk away. We go and we start setting up tarps and tents and stuff like that. I want to say our four-litre bag is about five minutes on average before it’s filtered an entire four litres and we’re looking at clean water. It may still have some of the colouration of the lake that you’re in. But I can assure you that we have never had a problem with bacteria. We’ve been places where they have Beaver Fever (Giardia) and stuff like that and it’s not been an issue. There’s a downside to them, you have to manually backflush them. So Thomas and I over the course of an eight-day outing will probably backflush it at least once but often twice because it will slow down a little bit. Just depends on how much effort you put into getting a little farther away from shore and not collecting up all the crap that’s right there, that has washed in. I love it. We’ve had it for I don’t know, five years now. And it’s fabulous. We haven’t replaced the filter. There’s a clip that you can choke off the host so it doesn’t continue to run. We have to do a bit of juggling on it because that clip disappeared. I actually shot a tweet out to Platypus today to see if we could just buy the clip as opposed to buying the $25 hose kit that has the clip in it. That’s it for water filters.

Pamela: Cool! Okay, and it’s Easter Sunday as we’re recording this so Happy Easter! Happy Passover to those who observe that and Ramadan is coming up so Happy Ramadan to the people that are celebrating Ramadan. Happy everything!

Tim: You know what? Happy, stinking sunny, wonderful spring day, everybody. Here’s hoping it is when you’re hearing this.

Pamela: Tim’s got a dad joke for us.

Tim: I would tell you a joke about oil but it’s rather crude and I know you all have a more refined sense of humour.

Pamela: That’s it for us for today. Have a wonderful rest of your day and we would love to hear from you. Our email address is hi@supergoodcamping.com. You can visit our website at supergoodcamping.com and connect with us on all the social media because we’re there and otherwise we’ll talk to you again soon.

Tim: See ya.

Pamela: Bye.

By Pamela and Tim Good