Are you thinking about buying a water filter to include in your inventory of camping supplies? Getting your own water purifier is a must if you plan to spend much time camping in the backcountry. It's also a good idea even if you spend most of your time staying in improved campsites. Using a purifier is a great way to make sure that you'll always have access to clean water and it's certainly more cost-effective than carrying bottled water along for all of your outdoor adventures.
Water Purifier Choices for Campers
There are several types of water purification devices appropriate for recreational campers to use.
Pump Systems for Water Purification
Pump water purification systems allow you to pull water directly from an outdoor source through the device and into potable water storage or drinking containers.
- MSR Sweetwater Guardian Purifier System: This iodine-free system for water purification uses activated carbon to remove chemical contaminants and a chlorine-based solution to get rid of all but .01 percent of waterborne microorganisms. Its handle folds flat for easy packing. It has the capacity to filter more than one liter per minute. This unit sells for $99.99 at Cabelas.
- Katadyn Vario Microfilter System: This pump system has a replaceable carbon core that has the ability to reduce chemicals, odors and toxins from various water sources. The pump can be adjusted based on the type of water you need to purify. Use the ceramic filter for the dirtiest water and the pleated glass fiber filter for water that is less contaminated. It can purify as much as two quarts of water per minute, depending on the level of contamination. This system sells for $95 from Katadyn.
Filtered Water Bottles
Some filtered water bottles do more than filter contaminants out of tap water. Those that can be used to purify untreated water sources and render them safe for drinking are a good water purification option for campers. Be sure that you do not choose a bottle that only works on water that has been municipally treated.
- Katadyn MyBottle Personal Water Filter: This filtered wattle bottle can be used to filter water from virtually any source so that it is safe to drink. It can eliminate 99.9 percent of bacteria and viruses from outdoor water sources, as well as all but .1 percent of protozoa including Giardia, and waterborne cysts. The 24-ounce bottle has a flip top drinking spout. Each filter can treat up to 26 gallons of water. REI sells this item for just under $50. Replacement filter kits are available for $34.99.
Water Purification Tablets
Some campers prefer to use tablets to purify water instead of one of the other options. They are an inexpensive and easy-to-carry option, but can result in an unpleasant, chemical taste.
- Potable Aqua: These purify water by releasing titrating iodine that renders bacterial microorganism useless. It takes approximately half an hour for the purification process to work. You can get a package of 50 tablets from Amazon.com for less than seven dollars. You'll need to use two tablets for every quart of water.
- Micropur Water Purification Tablets: These tablets are made from chlorine dioxide and are effective against viruses and bacteria, including Cryptosporidium and Giardia. One tablet is necessary for every quart or liter of water. You can order online from the Katadyn online store, purchase from an REI store, or REI.com. Packages of 20 tablets sell for $9.95 and 30 packs sell for $12.95.
Water Purification Pens
Water purification pens are another option that can be effective for campers who need to ensure they have access to water that is safe for drinking
- SteriPEN: The SteriPEN-Classic Handheld Water Purifier is a hand-held device that purifies water with ultraviolet (UV) light. It can destroy over 99.9 percent of bacteria and viruses, as well as protozoa, including Giardia. It takes only 90 seconds to purify a full liter of water with this device. Simply place the pen in a container of the water you need to purify, press the button and wait for the UV light to do its job. Several models are available; models recommended for campers start at $99.95. You can order directly from SteriPEN.com.
- MIOX Purifier Pen: This water purification pen requires batteries and salt to work. It creates a dosage of mixed antioxidants (hence the name MIOX) into water that has the ability to render viruses and bacteria -including Giardia and Cryptosporidium- inactive. To use it, simply add water to the unit, shake it and push a button so the MIOX solution can be created and released. The product retails for $139.95 and can be purchased from Amazon's website.
A Word of Caution
You don't want to come home from a camping trip with an illness related to drinking impure water. No matter how pristine the streams, lakes, rivers and other outdoor water sources seem, you can't assume they can be trusted as a source of potable water. In fact, these natural water sources often harbor microscopic pathogens. Always use a water purifier when you are camping to avoid the risk of getting sick.