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If your next adventure includes multiple days in the backcountry, water treatment is one of several things you should be considering beforehand. When it’s necessary to collect drinking water from springs, streams or ponds, a very real threat of water-borne illness presents itself. There’s a variety of methods to make water safe from creatures inhabiting your water source, ensuring your time is spent Combating the Deficit – not diarrhea. A big thank you to our friends at Bill & Paul’s Sporthaus in Grand Rapids, MI for helping us out with the following products here. They carry all these brands in-house.


If you listened to our episode Conflict, PTSD and Healing From The Trail, (Subscribe on iTunes) then you heard Tim Keenan mention his preferred method of water treatment from his time on the Appalachian Trail – a chemical solution called Aquamira. A chlorine dioxide treatment that comes in 2 parts. Follow the directions, mix equal drops of each solution into the lid of your bottle, wait 5 minutes, (the solution will turn yellow). Dump it into your water, shake it up, and wait while it kills off the micro-organisms. Kills viruses, bacteria, and Giardia.

Weight: 2 oz

Product life cycle: One package treats up to 30 gallons.

Ready to drink? 15 minutes for clear water. 30 minutes for very cold or turbid water.

Benefits: (and why Tim Keenan loves it) It’s lightweight & easy to use, and kills everything. Cheap.

Limitations: Some say cryptosporidium takes longer to kill, thus prolonging the already painful wait time to somewhere in excess of 30 minutes.

Maintenance: Keep bottles capped tightly and away from extreme heat/direct sunlight. Use before expiration date.

Price: $15.


A gravity-style filter integrated into a 10-liter carry bag. Fill the bag with untreated water, elevate, unclench the tube valve, and watch drinkable water flow out. Removes bacteria & cysts.

Weight: 13 oz.

Product life cycle: Varies, depending on turbidity. Up to 1000 liters per cartridge.

Ready to drink? I timed 2 quarts (64 oz) in 1:09, which is in the ballpark of 2 liters/min. Plan on a full gallon of clean water in two minutes.

Benefits: Simple, integrated design. Easy to use. No waiting around. Great for high volume usage – i.e. bigger groups, or base camp applications. Packs down nicely, considering large volume capacity.

Limitations: Filter will eventually clog, and this one will need to be replaced when that time comes.

Maintenance. Mix a cap-full of bleach into 2 liters clean water and run it through the system. Hang dry, upside down, ensuring it’s completely dry before storing it. Test it out at home prior to heading out or carry a replacement Ultra Flow cartridge ($40).

Price: $99


A handheld wand using UV light to kill off bacteria, cysts, and viruses. Turn it on, plunge it into your water, stir and listen for the beep. The device lets you know when it’s ready. Model as shown, is discontinued. Newer versions (same concept) include the Steripen Classic, and the Adventurer.

Weight: 4.5 ounces with batteries.

Product life cycle: Depends on battery life, we recommend taking back-up’s.

Ready to Drink? It takes 90 seconds to prepare 32 ounces.

Benefits: Lightweight. Small. Kills off all the nasties, quickly and with very little effort. No chemicals.

Limitations: Battery dependent, (not a deal breaker, just make sure you have extras). Won’t pull out sediment. May want to use an optional pre-filter.

Maintenance. Cap it, case it. Store in a cool dry area when not in use. Feed it batteries.

Price. $90


This hollow-fiber filter treats water as its forced through the 0.1 micron absolute filter. All bacteria, protozoa & cysts are removed. To use, simply fill up one of the included pouches (64, 32, or 16 oz), screw on the filter, and squeeze out clean water.

Weight: 3 oz (filter only).

Product life cycle: Use until the flow rate slows, then back-flush (plunger included). Use until the flow rate slows, back-flush. Repeat. They’re guaranteed to work this way, and Sawyer will take care of you if it doesn’t happen just like this – unless you do something weird, or let one freeze.

Ready to drink? We timed 64 ounces in 1:06 with fairly firm pressure. Expect somewhere in the neighborhood of 2 liters per minute.

Benefits: Lightweight, no pumping, no chemicals, no batteries. Back-flushing allows for years of reliable use. Modular design and many accessory options make Sawyer products compatible with a variety of hydration-packs, common sized drinking vessels, gravity bags, or even larger scale humanitarian/purification applications.

Limitations: With a handful of adapters needed for their variety of applications – things can become confusing. Once you have the filter arranged for your desired application, it’s quite simple.

Maintenance: Mix a cap-full of bleach into 2 liters, and run it through the system. Lay everything out to dry before storing it.

Price: $49


A pump-style filter that uses pressure to force dirty water through the ceramic/glass/carbon inside the unit. Filters through bacteria, protozoa & cysts at 0.2 microns. Unit has an “in” port, and an “out” port. One tube goes into the water source, the other secures nicely onto your water bottle. Pump away.

Weight: 11 oz.

Product life cycle: 1100 liters.

Ready to drink? Expect a liter per minute, if you’re not going after any world records. After all, you are in the wilderness, so you shouldn’t be late for any work meetings.

Benefits: Proven, reliable. Removes sediment.

Limitations: Plan on doing a lot of pumping if you’re looking for more than a liter. Some equate this to a waste of energy.

Maintenance: Clean off the filter protector by swishing it around in the water. Cycle all the water out of the unit, store in included bag. When the pumping gets strenuous & the flow rate slows you need to replace the cartridge – ($49)

Price: $70

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