How Do You Purify Water When Camping?

Finding yourself sitting in your tent at night with a stomachache may not be from eating bad food. It could be the water. Most campgrounds use a well to pump water out of the ground and lack any filtration system to clean it. A camping water purifier can provide clean, safe water for drinking and cooking without carrying a lot of extra equipment.

Remember the difference that a water filter is simply forcing water through a filter to remove unwanted substances from the water, typically about one micron in size. This is about the thickness of a human hair. A camping water purifier, whether by mechanical or chemical means, will also kill the disease-causing germs and bacteria in the water that may have caused the trouble with your stomach.

purified water in camping

It has been shown that the mountain streams, lakes, and rivers in North America are much safer than those in many other countries, it has also been found that many microbes, pathogens, and cysts exist in most waters. A good camping water purifier can remove the majority of them. When shopping for a water filter, the industry standard is .2 microns, which means that nothing over .2 microns will get through.

Risk Not Worth Taking Chances

Another way to look at taking your chances in the wild is that it is possible to drink water directly from a stream or lake without becoming ill. It is also possible to ignore red lights while driving down a busy city street without getting into an accident. Most people believe that neither is worth the risk and carry a camping water purifier with them.

Chlorine and iodine are typically used to purify water chemically, and boiling the water is the time-tested means of destroying bacteria. When camping and using a water filter, it is recommended to boil the water for at least one minute before running it through a filter. This kills the bacteria and then removes any unwanted chemical or hard metal impurities that may be in the water. A camping water purifier can accomplish the same task in less time.

The smaller the filter size of a camping water purifier the better it will purify the water. Although more expensive, the result is generally cleaner and much safer drinking water supply. Even when cooking with boiling water, the food itself may not reach the recommended 185-degrees Fahrenheit, allowing some bacteria transferred from the water to food to survive.

Camping Water Purification Methods

You will need some kind of camping water purifier to stay healthy. If your camping trips take you to places where fresh water is not available or you run out of bottled water, you should not drink out of streams or lakes. They can easily contain bacteria and parasites that will make you sick. Unless you like running to the toilet often, you should take this seriously.

There are 4 methods you can use to purify water: boiling, chemical tablets, portable water purification systems, and filters.

1. Boiling

Boiling is one of the best and inexpensive methods to use to clean and filter the water you are drinking. Boiling water will help you kill bacteria and harmful microorganisms such as Cryptosporidium Parvum, Amoeba Cyst and Giardia lamblia which are normally found in lakes and rivers. A combination of boiling at standard pressure plus filtering with triggered charcoal can counter balance the pollutants and pathogens.

Boiling water to make it safe to drink or use for cooking is a method that has been used for many years. A few minutes boiling at 180 degrees F, will kill most bacteria and viruses.

You need to boil the water for 5 to 10 minutes.

This uses up camp fuel that you will need to pack and carry with you unless you use a campfire. However, a campfire is not always permitted at some locations.

Then you need to wait a long time for it to cool down. This is time-consuming and doesn’t make water totally safe.

2. Chemical Tablets

Water purification tablets are a good choice. They use chemicals with the ingredients of iodine, chlorine, or chlorine dioxide to kill harmful bacteria. It’s easy, inexpensive and fast. Just dissolve in your water and drink. Follow the directions that come with them. They can affect the taste somewhat and they do have a shelf life.

Do water purification tablets work?

One of the techniques of portable water purification is the use of iodine. Iodine plays a part infiltration as it is used to kill microorganisms. This chemical is a major player in water disinfection. The system is called iodine water purification.

Iodine water purification makes use of either iodine tablets or iodine crystals. Iodine can kill many pathogens thriving in natural freshwater sources. Thus, it is a good friend when going to camps or traveling. Iodine tablets work at least 30 minutes in warm and clear water, but longer in cold or turbid water.

On the other hand, the use of iodine crystals is better as it is more convenient and economical to use as only a small amount of iodine is used. Iodine water purification using a crystallized form just requires a small amount of water poured into a small container that contains the iodine crystals.

For it to work, the user should wait for 30 minutes before pouring the mixture into a larger source or container of untreated potable water. Then the user should wait again for a short time before he can consume the water. The waiting period is longer if the water is cold.

The tip here is to wait for all crystals to be dissolved because it is harmful to ingest the crystals. Iodine crystals are also cost-effective because of their longer or unlimited shelf life as compared to iodine tablets with a shelf life of only three months.

For better iodine water purification, vitamin C or ascorbic acid may be used to take off the iodine taste from the water. However, putting ascorbic acid should be done after the iodine has done its work in disinfecting the water because it can cause the iodine to precipitate.

Speaking of taste, iodine is better preferred to chlorine because its taste is less offensive and it works more efficiently. If you let the iodine settle longer in the water, its taste will disappear as it does not stay in the water over time. It sublimes into the air.

Many people recommend 10 percent povidone-iodine (Betadine) in doing iodine water purification. Four drops of Betadine can disinfect one liter of water, such that 30mL of Betadine is enough to disinfect 150 liters of water. This is a good technique when faced with doubtful water in an eatery or restaurant. Just add two or three drops to a glass of water, stir, and wait for a few minutes.

Do chlorine tablets and iodine pills expire?

You may have the question on how long do water purification tablets last. Well, these tablets can be used for several years. On average they can last for 5 years.

Tablets Brands

Here are some brands of the best water purification tablets for backpacking.

  • Katadyn Micropur MP1
  • Aquatabs
  • Molecular Hydrogen Tablets
  • Potable Aqua

3. Portable Water Purification Systems

You can bring portable water purification systems for camping if you need clean. One of the simplest systems that are out in the market is a plastic drinking straw with a filter inside. All you need to do with this straw is drink. Even young ones will be able to take advantage of a system like this. Although the system sounds a bit condensed, it has been tested and certified as eliminating waterborne bacteria from drinking water. Another similar device that proves to kill bacteria works by using ultra-violet light.

When looking for a portable water purification system, you certainly wish to find something that is really handy. If you want to bring one and go camping, you will not want to hold a bulky, weighty machine. You will certainly need a larger capacity system than you can use if you are only looking to purify water for your family on a weekend camping trip in a far-off area. Portable water purification systems are available to answer your needs no matter how large or how small.

Some portable water purification systems work using solar power. These are suitable in remote locations, where it is not possible to set up other types of water purification systems. Since these systems operate on either solar batteries or regular commercial batteries, there will never be a problem getting them to work, no matter what the conditions are.

4. Filters

Filtration elements do an excellent job in removing germs, bacteria and fungi pollutants from drinking water. Filtration removes unwanted contaminants down to the smallest possible sizes between the ranges of 0.2 to 0.3 micrometers.

A camping water filter uses mechanical means to remove particles from water. Some filters even use iodine to kill bacteria as well. You just pour or pump water through the filter and drain into your container.

You should purchase one with a pore size of 1 micron or less. Look for one that removes protozoa and bacteria. They are lightweight and easy to use and maintain.

At some point, the filter will become clogged and will need to be replaced. Some also use carbon to remove pesticides, heavy metals, and chlorine. These also need to be replaced periodically.

I highly recommend a water filter as the best choice for your camping water purifier.

Read also: How to Prevent and Protect Yourself From Leeches Bite?

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