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Sipping the Waters: Techniques for Selecting Untreated Backcountry Water for Drinking
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Mike Clelland
(mikeclelland) - MLife

Locale: The Tetons (via Idaho)
Selecting Untreated Backcountry Water for Drinking on 08/04/2009 22:14:54 MDT Print View

I love this article!

Michael Swanson
(wutzmyname) - F

Locale: Northern California
Re: Sipping the Waters: Techniques for Selecting Untreated Backcountry Water for Drinking on 08/05/2009 17:22:44 MDT Print View

Great article. It certainly proved invaluable during my hike through Desolation Wilderness in Tahoe last week.


Nate Meinzer
(Rezniem) - F

Locale: San Francisco
Wait two weeks on 08/05/2009 18:08:46 MDT Print View

Then you'll know for sure....

Glenn Douglas
My experience in South America. on 04/16/2010 20:30:29 MDT Print View

I have been hiking in South America for about the last year and a half. I have drank all water untreated from Santiago south to Ushuaia and never had any problems on either side of the Andes.

However in Peru and Bolivia I did. I used a katadyn mini water filter and had problems for the first three treks in the following areas.
Bolivia - Cordillera Real - Choro trek and Sorata Area.
Peru - Ausungate Circuit.

I then switched to using Chlorine tablets and did not use the water filter for treating all water including cooking water and had no further problems in either country.

I believe the problems come from livestock (llamas) grazing even at high altitudes in Peru and Bolivia. Its hard to get closer to the source than the animals do.

I will use chlorine tablets in Peru and Bolivia in future.

Ted E
(Mtn_nut) - MLife

Locale: Morrison, CO
Re: Re: Sipping the Waters: Techniques for Selecting Untreated Backcountry Water for Drinking on 04/17/2010 14:01:39 MDT Print View

I personally think all water should be pre-filtered at least with something similar to a coffee filter. i've hiked into the indian peaks wilderness, and while i think the water would probably safe to drink on the west side of the divide, pre-filtering it keeps bugs and other stuff out of the water.

Also, now with things like the steripen, all my water will be sterilized with UV light, and then i can still get fresh tasting water without having to take a chance of getting very sick in a remote place...

Edited by Mtn_nut on 04/17/2010 14:02:52 MDT.

obx hiker
(obxcola) - MLife

Locale: Outer Banks of North Carolina
frontier pro on 04/17/2010 14:44:31 MDT Print View

Hi Frank,

Per your post: "I notice that McNett has introduced the Aquamira Frontier Pro Filter, which appears to be exactly what I was looking for last year. Namely, something that filters worms and other large parasites but isn't so fine as to clog easily. I'll be using this on future trips."

I have had positive and negative experiences with the frontier pro; recently having it clog up from suspended solids from what could fairly be considered fairly pristine sources within 200 verticle feet of the uppermost ridge. Maybe I was getting suspended leaf mold that would be less of a problem once things greened up but the water appeared to be VERY clear and was coming out of the ground within sight. (this was late March, southern appalachians)I'd pre-fiter with a bandanna or something and be careful! If the little cotton type pre-filter disk clogs you'd better have a back-up or you to will be drinking al fresco sans filtro or whatever.

I'm in the process of making a home-made amigo pro

Buck Nelson
(Colter) - MLife

Locale: Alaska
Anecdotal or scientific? on 09/27/2014 12:20:00 MDT Print View

Let me lead off by saying that water treatment is a personal choice.

That said, the author's rules are not backed with good data. The author suggests looking for cold water, while other authors point out that giardia cysts survive longer in cold water, making it more risky. The author suggests using fast moving water, some have suggested lakes are safer as giardia cysts tend to sink in calm water. The author suggests avoiding main streams, other authors say main streams are safer because "dilution is the solution." The point is, these are theories without solid data to back them up.

It is human nature to believe in our own experience. In threads like this there are usually people who've gotten giardia after drinking backcountry water. I'm one of them. Will someone's experience match mine, or someone who has never gotten sick? There's no way of knowing.

The EPA says Cysts have been found all months of the year in surface waters from the Arctic to the tropics in even the most pristine of surface waters. Another quote from that paper Hibler (1988) found Giardia cysts in 19% of springs. Look at that paper and do a search for "pristine" and see how often giardia is found in even pristine waters.

Some people can build some immunity over time to various waterborne diseases, but there are many strains of giardia. I've had giardia three times and it's easy to find tales from other hikers who have been stricken multiple times over many years, just as it's easy to find hikers who rarely or never treat and have never gotten sick.

The incubation period of giardia is usually 3-25 days, but can be as little as 1 day. The Dr's reported onset was on the 4th day after drinking the suspect water.

Sheep DO sometimes carry a strain of giardia that can infect humans, as can many other species of animals.

"Giardia and crypto are also easily shaken off by a healthy adult." Sometimes. Sometimes not. Several backpackers appear weekly at Centinela Mammoth Hospital in Mammoth Lakes sick enough with giardiasis to need urgent care

"Incidentally, there is no reason to get too worried about cow manure near the water." ...animal manure can carry many pathogens ranging from Giardia to Salmonella to E. coli. Here's a fact I recently uncovered: Giardia-infected cattle excrete nearly 100 million Giardia cysts per day Dr Robert Derlet.

Unfortunately while researching this I was saddened to learn that the author of this article, along with his daughter, lost their lives in the Colorado mountains in 2011.

Edited by Colter on 09/27/2014 12:23:43 MDT.