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lightest, safest water treatment?
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Colleen Clemens
(tarbubble) - F

Locale: dirtville, CA
lightest, safest water treatment? on 10/11/2005 16:10:51 MDT Print View

i'm a mom to two children, one of whom is 3.5 months old and so won't be doing his own walking for quite some time. when we had kid number 1, we started out carrying an insane amount of weight for all of us, but i was able to reduce it all down to about what the average mainstream backpacker carries for him or herself.

well, i'm on the hunt to slash the family packweight yet again. we have been carrying an MSR Miniworks EX, which is a fantastic filter but weighs at least a pound. i'm not sure i want to know exactly how much it actually weighs. i have used Aqua Mira for grownups-only trips but have never trusted it for my children. i figure i can recover more readily than they can if i am so unlucky as to catch a water bug.

if the big ol' solid filter is still my best bet, we'll just put up with it. but should i be reconsidering Aqua Mira? the weight is so tempting. i was trying to see if there was a really authoritative article here, but my searches have not been successful.

what about the hanging filters that are available? can their filtering effectiveness be compared to the Miniworks?

i should add that we are in southern California and do the high country (sierra nevada, san gabriels) in spring - fall and the deserts in the winter. thanks for any help.

R Alsborg
(FastWalker) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
H20 Amigo on 10/11/2005 16:57:22 MDT Print View

The H20 Amigo

Next best thing to having the kids carry some of the load is the ULA H20 Amigo @ 7.5 oz it’s a gravity feed water filtration system (and shower!). It would be great for a small group, no pumping. Spec’s say it effectively removes 99.8% of waterborne contaminants to assure quality drinking water without chemicals.

Amigo on 10/11/2005 17:33:32 MDT Print View

I own an Amigo and have used it on trips ranging from the dessert to Tahoe. It's a beautiful thing, removing all sorts of dirt from the water. I do supplement the filter with drops from Sweetwater's Viralstop. It's less than an extra ounce to carry, and makes me feel better as filters never (to my knowledge) eliminate virus'.


paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Re: lightest, safest water treatment? on 10/12/2005 02:07:21 MDT Print View

you've stated where you will be hiking with the "wee bairns" (as the Scots say). good. i'm not from that area, but many posters have, in the past, posted links to fairly authoritative articles on wilderness water quality for that area. perhaps a 'Search' of the Forums or the Forum Index will yield some fruit and shed some light on your question.

are you talking practical here? or, theoretical?

since your children are involved, are you attempting to eliminate any theoretically possible biological agent?

depending upon your reply to these questions, will determine your course of action. if you prefer (other Forum readers will undoubtedly prefer that you do), you may email me at either or and i will reply with suggestions. i will attempt to keep the answer of moderate length - maybe the equivalent of 1/2 page to full page (if it were printed out). i won't go into details on the "bugs" (unless you specifically request it), but will explain generally what you can expect from each type of purification process and what might make it past any single method of water purification. this would largely be theoretical. it would be practical only if hiking in an area that might have highly contaminated water. from what i've read, your water out there seems to be much cleaner than some parts back here in the northeast.

not a problem if you care not to email me. the Forums have several times dealt with this topic in nauseating detail (mainly, courtesy of this poster).

enjoy the treks with your kids. used to love doing that; good memories.

remember, if, for any reason you adopt the prev. respondents gravity filter recommendations (good recommendations IMHO), and if after filtering you want to eliminate viruses and anything else that might make it past the filter (depends on filter pore size), but prefer not to use chemicals because of the young children (check with their pediatrician on the advisability of the chems available), a UV-C sterilization product can be utilized. the new AquaStarPlus is now "unbreakable" and does not need to be carried in the included Lexan bottle. its approx. wt. is a tad (the universal standard "tad" is meant here) over 3oz. - including batteries (i've read that on their website, but haven't weighed it myself). I've spoken with Meridian Design (mfr's of AquaStarPlus) and they assure me that other than a hard fall on an unpadded unit, it will not break when outside the bottle - even though it still looks fragile. you can throw it to the ground (a flat, hard surface) & it will "bounce", not break.

[note: as far as UV goes: since i'm not familiar with how sharply the light wavelength "cut-off" is of the generating units. i don't recommend looking at the tube when it is generating UV. if it produces only UV-C wavelength, then most (or possibly even all) of the UV-C will not make it through glass or plastic. however, if the tube does not have a sharp "cut-off" and some longer wavelength UV light is also emitted, some of this can pass through glass and plastic. this may be an unecessary precaution. i only suggest it since i am not familiar with the precise specs of the light generating tubes used in the various products available for our application.]

hope this info helps.

Edited by pj on 10/12/2005 02:24:08 MDT.

paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Re: Amigo on 10/12/2005 02:14:15 MDT Print View


good suggestion on a two-step purification process. if viruses are an issue, then you're doing the right thing.

i'm not sure, but aren't the anti-viral drops mainly bleach? [this is a question; not a criticism] is there a second chemical you can add to the treated water to remove the chlorine taste? or am i thinking (really "forgetting") of another totally different product?

Edited by pj on 10/12/2005 02:24:51 MDT.

cat morris
(catt) - F

Locale: Alaska
Re: Re: Amigo on 10/12/2005 07:29:29 MDT Print View

I got anti-viral drops with my SweetWater Filter (Viral Stop) & yes, the active ingredient is sodium hypochlorite, which I understand is the active ingredient in household bleach. The main difference is the price, with a 2oz. Viral Stop being $9!

paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Re: Re: Re: Amigo on 10/12/2005 09:59:00 MDT Print View

"sodium hypochlorite"...yup. sounds like household bleach to me (~5% NaClO if i recall correctly). should work well on viruses - in the proper concentration which varies based upon a number of factors: water temp, turbidity, how "old" (shelf life related) is the chem. being used, possible minerals in the water that may react with the NaClO, and contact time. did i miss any?

what do you do about the taste?

Edited by pj on 10/12/2005 09:59:33 MDT.

Colleen Clemens
(tarbubble) - F

Locale: dirtville, CA
Re: Re: lightest, safest water treatment? on 10/12/2005 10:51:32 MDT Print View

paul, thank you. my older son's name is paul, so i'm charitably inclined toward you from the get-go.

purely practical. no time for theory ;)

i am not terribly concerned about the chemical effects of Aqua Mira itself (must admit that never even occurred to me). i'm concerned about effectiveness of water treatment - does it kill most everything? my body can fend off the stray cootie much better than their bodies can, and so it's water cooties i'm most concerned with. although i can't trust Paul to not just drink right out of a stream, so motherly paranoia can only control so much...

thanks to you and to all respondents.

paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Re: Re: Re: lightest, safest water treatment? on 10/12/2005 11:00:13 MDT Print View

please dbl-check the following with a reputable expert/source:

AqM, MIOX, bleach, or iodine won't kill the eggs of certain larger parasites, e.g. tapeworms. they are easily filtered out however. viruses will pass through any "mechanical" barrier filter. various chems. kill these easily enough, however. most everything else in between them in size can either be filtered or killed with chems or UV-C light. the theoretical two-means method of water purification is only practical if you also suspect viruses and/or tapes in addition to other potential microbiological agents.

BTW, ask your children's Ped. about other chems too, not just AqM. Dr. may not be familiar with a product, so bring the label/packaging. Dr's are real good, but simply can't be expected to be familiar with every product - esp. if this is the first time they have heard of it. Not sure what you'll be told by your Dr. & i hesitate to say more. Best to follow her/his advice. contact time with UV-C - if the kids are thirsty, this could be an added plus.

[to Anon: tryin' to keep this short and to the point. any better? please advise.]

edit: Emma, i do own the SteriPen - very fine product. a little heavier than the AquaStarPlus. all of my comments on the efficacy of UV-C (and its short-comings) apply to both AquarStarPlus and SteriPen.

Edited by pj on 10/13/2005 07:03:56 MDT.

Douglas Frick
(Otter) - MLife

Locale: Wyoming
Re: Re: lightest, safest water treatment? on 10/12/2005 12:02:28 MDT Print View

>the new AquaStarPlus is now "unbreakable" and does not need to be carried in the included Lexan bottle. its approx. wt. is a tad (the universal standard "tad" is meant here) over 3oz. - including batteries (i've read that on their website, but haven't weighed it myself).

Weight of the Aquastar Plus is 3.8 oz, including batteries. It's what I use for myself and the kids, although I'm considering adding a 2um (that's 2, not 0.2) filter to catch big nasties such as tapeworms that the UV sterilizer might not kill (details elsewhere in the BPL forums).

Chris Bunnell
(chrisb) - F
Re: lightest, safest water treatment? on 10/13/2005 06:56:42 MDT Print View


You might want to check out SteriPEN. From my own experience, this is exactly what you are looking for. It weighs only 8 ounces and easily fits in a backpack or pocket. It uses u-v light to kill 99/99% of all the bad stuff quicky - 32 oz in only a minute and a half.


Neil McDonald
(neil) - F
reconsider aquamira for children on 10/16/2005 19:24:49 MDT Print View

Hi Emma:

To speak to your original question, you should definitely be reconsidering using Aquamira with your children. Its principle byproduct, chlorite, has the potential to interfere with the blood's ability to take up oxygen. At low doses, this isn't a big deal for healthy adults, but it can be dangerous for infants (its the same process as nitrites leading to blue-baby syndrome).

For reference, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (US Dept of Health and Human Services) has published an Intermediate-duration oral Minimum Risk Level for chlorite of 0.1 mg/kg/day (, click "Regulations and Advisories").

Guessing your baby's weight to be about 15 lbs, which is just under 7 kg, the "safe" amount of chlorite for your child to ingest is about 0.7 mg/day.

The amount of chlorite produced by Aquamira varies a little bit with the source water, but independent tests have shown it to produce up to 7 mg/L at the normal dose in wilderness water. If it happens to produce 7mg/L where you are, and if your baby drinks a liter of water over the course of a day, then your child will have consumed 10 times the amount that is known to be safe.

These levels are very conservative and are designed around what's known to be safe rather than where unsafe begins. As well, I haven't found a definition of "intermediate" dose, as opposed to short- or long-term. But it's probably worth considering other options.


Re: Re: Re: Amigo on 10/16/2005 21:54:13 MDT Print View

Paul -

Honestly I haven't read up on alternatives to the bleach-like Viralstop, and I don't do anything about the taste. I would say that 4 out of 5 times, my treated water tastes as good as any store bought spring water. Occassionally it does come out tasting like pool water.

As a side note, I used Aqua Mira for the first time this past weekend on a (moving) water source that was of medium clarity. The resulting water tasted worse to me than any batch of my Amigo treated water. Kind of like bad tap water.


Colleen Clemens
(tarbubble) - F

Locale: dirtville, CA
Re: reconsider aquamira for children on 10/16/2005 22:50:13 MDT Print View

Neil, thank you. the baby is approaching 15 lbs, but as he is exclusively breastfed right now the issue would be how much chlorite passes into breastmilk, and those are stats i'm not expecting anybody here to have handy. he'll be nursing until he's at least 1 year old, at which point he ceases being technically an "infant." but it could be an issue for my 3.5 year old, i suppose.

actually, my question was "should i ditch the filter and go with Aqua Mira?" so the kids have never had A/M. but i greatly appreciate your information! thank you.

Edited by tarbubble on 10/16/2005 22:53:09 MDT.

paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Re: Re: Re: Re: Amigo on 10/17/2005 01:03:18 MDT Print View

thanks for taking the time to reply. appreciate you sharing your experience. take care, pj

Mitchell Keil
(mitchellkeil) - F

Locale: Deep in the OC
Re: H20 Amigo on 10/19/2005 10:42:41 MDT Print View

Nice and caring as we all have been and are in responding to Emma's concerns about water treatment for her children in particular, none of us are doctors or epedemiologists. Therefore, none of us should be providing what amounts to medical advice to her about what water treatment methods would be "safe" and or "appropriate" for her children.

Sad to say but she should discuss this with her doctor and/or call the Center for Disease control and seek their advice about water quality and treatment modalities. We have no business commenting on what a minor should do in this case. Adults can chose to make their own health decisions about water treatment, children cannot.

paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Re: Re: H20 Amigo on 10/19/2005 11:06:55 MDT Print View


did you ask Neil if he was a Dr? hey...Neil, you still there? are you a Dr? I sure don't know if he is or isn't.

also, think your advice, as to asking her kids' Ped. was already suggested twice in earlier posts. but, certainly nothing wrong on your part in mentioning it again since it's an impt. point.

Edited by pj on 10/19/2005 11:10:26 MDT.

Matt Weikel
(fecamel) - F
Re: Re: reconsider aquamira for children on 10/19/2005 19:29:27 MDT Print View

If you're really interested in Chlorite transmission in breast milk, check out . Page down to about page 20. There have been dozens of tests on lactating rats, but none on humans AFAIK. The lowest NOAEL (point that no adverse effects are noted) for breast-feeding rats that I could find was 0.75mg/kg-day, however that was in regards to fertility issues, the NOAEL and LOAEL levels for more serious issues were much much greater. Based solely on Chlorite issues, you could likely ingest that amount with little chance of enough Chlorite being passed through breast milk to advesely effect your wee one. Two things to remember are that these studies were on rats, human mileage may vary; and also keep in mind that these studies generally involved levels of exposure over a period of several months. A few days of hiking and consuming AM/ClO2/ClO2- won't have the same effects as constant exposure over a longer period of time.

Neil McDonald
(neil) - F
forum advice on 10/19/2005 19:31:25 MDT Print View

Hi Mitchell,

I am not a doctor, but if I would write the same post if I were. That is, I would still not give medical advice over the internet and I would still refrain from telling Emma (or anyone) what she should or shouldn’t do beyond reconsidering her choices in light of information she might not have had.

Regardless of my qualifications, my post pointed someone with a legitimate question in the direction guidelines supplied by a federal agency, illustrated how they might be applied, and suggested a few common-sense limitations to them. As the post clearly states, it is the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, not me, that has an opinion on how much is safe and for whom. Far from providing medical advice, my previous post and the one in the thread titled “Aquamira Byproducts” simply share research and highlight public information so that readers can make their own decisions however they wish.


Edited by neil on 10/19/2005 19:33:56 MDT.

Colleen Clemens
(tarbubble) - F

Locale: dirtville, CA
Re: Re: H20 Amigo on 10/22/2005 10:13:54 MDT Print View

Mitchell, thank you. i won't be making my decision based solely on what i read here. my initial inquiry was really intended to be solely about the true efficacy of Aqua Mira. i have had oodles of additional information given to me, all of which is appreciated, but i am still looking and still reading. the point is actually moot until next spring anyway, as we head for the desert in winter and must pack in our own water.

i expect that government agencies will err on the side of overkill, or perhaps to leave my children at home. that's what rangers & such tend to tell me.

and as i have yet to find a pediatrician i actually like, i have not found medical professionals to be of much assistance when i have made these inquiries in the past. the typical response is "just leave them with Grandma." when (or if) i find a pediatrician who isn't on HMO-overbooked auto-pilot, my life will be one step closer to perfect.

the information on chlorite is new to me and i will be reading up on it. but i think that most likely we will be sticking with filtering; the in-line models look like a great compromise on weight.

again, thanks to all.