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Garpyttan Guide:
Purifying water in nature

Stay properly hydrated during the hike

Stay properly hydrated during the hike

Being able to purify water in the great outdoors is a necessity to avoid getting sick or having to carry the unnecessary burden of several liters of water. In this article, Johan Skullman presents three reliable methods for purifying and filtering water when you're in the wilderness.


When embarking on a hike, it's important not to underestimate the importance of drinking enough water, preferably with a regular addition of carbohydrates (sugar) and minerals (electrolytes) in the water approximately every third time you drink. The lack of carbohydrates and minerals can affect both mood and the body, which can quickly lead to energy deficiency, causing sluggish thinking and poorly functioning muscle cells. An adult is recommended to consume about 3 liters of fluids per day, including the fluids contained in food. A good rule of thumb is to drink small amounts regularly, such as 200 ml every 20 minutes, to allow the body to absorb the fluids as optimally as possible. It's important to drink even more in particularly hot or cold weather conditions and during physically demanding activities that also require higher focus, such as hiking in challenging terrain.

How do you know where to find water and how to make impure water drinkable? We'll guide you through it!

As long as the water is clear and comes from a bubbling spring, it can usually be considered drinkable.

Can you drink water directly from nature?

Drinking water from rushing mountain streams is often considered safe. Clear water from a babbling spring can easily appear drinkable, but appearances can be deceiving, and you should always be cautious if you want to minimize the risk of contaminated water, such as gastrointestinal infections. Avoid drinking from stagnant water sources, as the water there can also be contaminated. You should also avoid choosing cloudy and discolored water, as it may contain small particles and sediment. Choose to take water from lakes and streams that are clean and free from dirt, discoloration, and foul odors.

The primary threats in various water sources are bacteria, viruses, and protozoa (organisms that do not survive boiling water), often caused by poor hygiene practices or by sick and dead animals contaminating the water in nature.

As a conclusion from the above, I strongly recommend always purifying the water you take directly from nature and being meticulous about both personal and general food hygiene to ensure safety.

Drinking water is especially important when hiking!

Purifying water in nature – in three different ways

Always start by filtering the water to remove sand, gravel, and other debris! For purifying most freshwater sources, there are essentially three reliable methods...

1. Boiling

An effective and simple method for purifying water when you are stationary, such as at a campsite. By boiling the water, it becomes safe to drink, meaning it boils vigorously according to the saying 'Big bubbles, no troubles,' so that bacteria, viruses, and protozoa die! It's a good idea to use an outdoor stove with an efficient but fuel-efficient multi-fuel burner, such as the Primus OmniLite.

Boil the water thoroughly and for a long time to ensure that any bacteria and viruses are killed.

2. Filtration & UV purification

"This is usually an effective and convenient method when you are on the move. There are many different types of water filters available, some complicated with pumps and hoses, UV-based technology powered by batteries, and others much more user-friendly. What they have in common is that they should purify water free from bacteria, viruses, and protozoa to 99.99% safety to be certified and approved. The cleaner the water to be purified, the longer a water purification filter will work, regardless of the filter type, it will gradually become saturated over time and with the number of uses and eventually need to be replaced. We believe that models where only the filter is replaceable and otherwise reusable are preferable - a very good example is the Grayl Ultrapress, which is very reliable and quick to use thanks to its simplicity!

3. Water purification tablets

"Water purification tablets are a compact option for chemically purifying drinking water. Since they contain chlorine or iodine, the tablets kill harmful bacteria and viruses and have a good effect on protozoa found in the water. It's worth noting that the water may have an unpleasant taste due to the iodine or chlorine in the tablets. Additionally, it can take up to half an hour for the tablets to work. This method is practical to have as a backup in your backpack, as they are easy to carry and take up minimal space. Good examples include Micropur, AquaTabs & Puritabs.

IMPORTANT TO NOTE!

It is often discussed regarding so-called natural filters, i.e., filters that you can make yourself using ingredients from nature, usually layers of charcoal, ash, peat, and sphagnum moss organized in a jar or PET bottle, and they are claimed to solve water purification in situations where you lack the conditions for the three secure methods we have described above. The method has been tested and proven to be very unreliable in securely filtering out bacteria, viruses, and protozoa, and I STRONGLY DISCOURAGE the use of these improvised solutions!

When it comes to water purification with specific complexity and threats, both specific expertise and technical solutions are required, such as purifying saltwater and brackish water to make it drinkable, areas in the world with a high risk of microorganisms that survive the boiling point, or general filter technology and water contaminated with harmful chemicals and heavy metals.

In conclusion, I would like to recommend always having the ability to combine different purification techniques such as water filtration, boiling, and tablets. Invest in a good outdoor stove, a water purification filter, and a package of purification tablets. To pre-filter the water you will later make drinkable, it is practical to have a cloth bag or just a piece of cloth that collects dirt, particles like mud and sand in an initial filtration. This way, the filter that purifies the real threats will work much longer.

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