It's a Jungle Out There
|Good enough to drink? Don't chance it.|
"Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink," said Coleridge's Ancient Mariner, with his glittering eye. Unfortunately for adventurers, that famous line applies to more than saltwater. Water purification and filtration systems are big backcountry business these days, as pristine water resources are near extinction.
Folks turn to filters when stopping to boil every sip becomes inconvenient and inefficient due to travel goals, group size, fuel requirements, and the like. Unless, that is, you're willing to risk the long-term consequences of a nasty freeloader in your intestinescontagious and semipermanent memories that include flatulence, world-class diarrhea, cramps, dehydration, and other disgusting things.
Parasites. Cysts like the infamous Giardia lamblia. Viruses like polio or hepatitis. Pesticides. Bacteria. Protozoa. Them's fightin' words!
Certainly more than one war has been waged over water. And you thought you'd never have to do battle on your day off. The question is, will the pump filter you use in the States take care of some nasty virus that lurks in a Third World stream? Or will those iodine tabs wreak havoc with your glands and gizzard on an extended backpacking trip?
For those who prefer a foolproof and relatively fail-safe method, iodine in tablets or liquid has been a traditional standby. While lightweight, these usually require careful dosage and patience for the chemicals to work. Taste and some health concerns regarding extended use of iodine are other trade-offs.
Iodine and newer chlorine-based treatments kill waterborne viruses like hepatitis and cysts like Giardia. However, iodine treatments are usually no match for the evolutionary miracle of armored Cryptosporidium cysts, which must be treated with chlorine dioxide, boiled away, or painstakingly seined out with a one-micron-thick filter.
Potable Aqua makes one of the most popular and economical iodine treatments. The company now also makes chlorine dioxide tablets. Other chlorine dioxide solutions include McNett's Aquamira and MSR's SweetWater Purifier Solution.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication