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Water Purification - Really?
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Scott Crutchfield
(MirrOlure) - F
Water Purification - Really? on 04/11/2011 10:24:49 MDT Print View

I certainly understand the need to purify water from streams, creeks, etc.

But also from the wells?

My only Philmont experience is frmo 30 years ago, when I was 14, and I certainly could be wrong, but I am virtually certain we drank water straight from the wells, without any purification, etc.

Is the requirement of purifying all water, including from wells, a reality, or is it BSA "abundance of caution?"

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: Water Purification - Really? on 04/11/2011 11:11:32 MDT Print View

I don't know anything about the Philmont situation, but when the Clean Water Act was renewed ('87 I think) its reach expanded to small and seasonal water systems. It may be the Boy Scouts began testing their wells and found they didn't pass, or they may have decided to not test and make treatment mandatory. There should be records for the wells filed...somewhere. The relevant county(ies) perhaps?

As to whether wells can be contaminated, they sure can. It depends on several factors including the source water, the well constuction and wellhead design. Routine tests with negative results mean the water won't require treatment.



Edited by halfturbo on 04/11/2011 11:12:30 MDT.

Ray Spagnuolo
(Ray_S) - F
Water purIfication on 04/11/2011 17:08:00 MDT Print View

We were there in 2009, going back this summer. There were several staffed camps that had potable water and were identified as such. Camps that I recall were Baldy Town, Hunting Lodge, Miranda and Ponil. Unless identified as potable we were told to treat it.

We took msr filters which worked well except for at Baldy Skyline where the water looked like diluted skim milk and clogged the filters after 1 liter, the katadin filter another crew had seemed ok.

Overall water quality was very good except at Ponil where it had a subtle petroleum taste to it and at Baldy Skyline.

George Geist
(geist) - M

Locale: Smoky Mountains
Re: Water Purification - Really? on 04/12/2011 17:11:34 MDT Print View

Hi Scott,

Remember Philmont is an active cattle ranch.

Yes, at Philmont unless the water is explicitly declared potable
(true in many of the staffed camps) You should filter or use tablets
even from a well. During our trek in 2009 we had two occasions
where we got water from unlabeled spigots. I had carried a
10L water bag and we filled and pumped from the bag.
We found bugs in one, and the other had an awful smell.

Yes. Purify the water. Philmont supplies all the micropur
tablets you need. Give them your empty wrapper and they
exchange it for a new full sheet.

Matthew Zion
(mzion) - F

Locale: Boulder, CO
Re: Water Purification on 04/12/2011 23:28:31 MDT Print View

If I remember correctly, we were told to not even drink from the water sources that ran through cattle pastures. Our trek was in the northern part and with the experience I've had since I don't think you would technically need to treat even the stream sources. However, yes, some wells when tested will have traces of coliform bacteria, etc. And I think simply from a liability stand point, you might as well treat anything that isn't labeled potable.

By the way, watch out for the staff camp that serves root beer. Their water is methane filtered--might as well take a spoonful of a cow patty and chase it with water. Great time, enjoy your trek!

ed dzierzak
(dzierzak) - F

Locale: SE
Water purification on 08/17/2011 09:38:41 MDT Print View

Short answer -

Purify ALL water unless told by staff that the camp water is potable.

Karen Lewis
(karenlewis65) - F
portable water purifiers on 09/02/2011 04:11:05 MDT Print View

I am planning to buy those portable water purifiers. How good are those, just curious?

Ryan Elsey
(paintballswimguy) - F

Locale: Kansas City
Portable water purifiers on 09/04/2011 09:57:30 MDT Print View

They work well, they are just on the heavy side. I've used the MSR Sweetwater Purifier, and I've also used the Katadyn micro filter. I've also used the MSR Hyperlight

My favorite was the MSR sweet water purifier. You could practically filter mud, and it came out tasting fine and looking clear. I'm not a fan of the other 2 purifiers i listed, the katadyn doesn't filter as well, and broke on me, while using it in the boundary waters...So i boiled all my water. The hyper light, basically uses paper filters, that seem to clog quite often, while easy to use, it can also be a pain. The problem is, the sweet water is very heavy, and is also slow to pump.

For Philmont, You would be fine using polar pure, or aquaria to whole time. You may also look at using a steripen. I recently used one for a month on the AT, and liked the simplicity quite a bit.

One thing to keep in mind, is that if you use a pump, you will need more then one pump for the group. because, otherwise, water stops will take forever. If you use aquamira , you just put some drops in everyones bottles and then you are on your way.

Walter Underwood
(wunder) - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Pumps, bleah on 09/21/2011 23:57:54 MDT Print View

Pumps are heavy, a hassle, and slow. I have better things to do with my time in the backcountry than pump water.

Philmont will supply you with Katahdin Micropur tablets. Those are the best available chemical purification. Use them. You do not need to bring anything else.

Donald Howard
(DonH) - F
Water treatment on 04/09/2012 13:47:34 MDT Print View

I own two SteriPens. Would they be worth taking? Sure is nice to have almost instant pure water from a cold stream to drink on a hot day.

pen on 04/09/2012 18:30:39 MDT Print View

Take what you like, you have to carry it.

You will have tabs also for backup, so you will have both. Begs the question of why carry the pen. The answer is of course convenience.

You will need to use to treat everyones water so they can drink as quick as you though.

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
Re: Re: Water Purification on 04/09/2012 18:52:39 MDT Print View

"If I remember correctly, we were told to not even drink from the water sources that ran through cattle pastures. Our trek was in the northern part and with the experience I've had since I don't think you would technically need to treat even the stream sources."

When you hike the PCT I would suggest treating all water even remotely close to cattle and grazing. Read this:

Walter Underwood
(wunder) - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Steri-Pens on 04/23/2012 19:34:34 MDT Print View

I wouldn't bother. Something else to carry.

Is the whole crew going to wait while you treat your drink of water? They get to decide, advisors are along for the ride. I tried to be a little drag on the crew as possible.

Water purification is crew gear and a crew decision. Ask your crew leader.

I don't remember a lot of cold, clear mountain streams. Agua Fria was a trout stream, plenty of insects and plants. We crossed Cimmaroncito Creek about thirty times, so it was pretty stirred up.

Scott Bentz
(scottbentz) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Water Treatment on 05/11/2012 12:05:32 MDT Print View

I think it is real hard for some to get over the need for a pump.

I have been using Chlorine Dioxide, the same type you are given at Philmont, for years. In the Sierras we pass groups all the time that all have their pack off and are standing around pumping stream water. We just walk up, bend over, fill our bottles, and keep on hiking. I bet they think we are all crazy and are going to get sick and they are not.

I sometimes use a Steripen when I am by myself or with another person. I like the fact I don't have to wait 20 minutes. I would not use one in a group as it slows things down. Remember, part of hiking light is "fast and light".

If you can't get over not filtering water just go through BPL and read all the relevant information. I have articles that I print out and give to Scout leaders that are planning trips so they can make informed decisions.

alan saggers
(767dad) - F
Water Purification/Filtration on 09/12/2012 07:37:07 MDT Print View

My son and I are gong to philmont next summer. In the meantime we are starting to try (borrowing some and purchase some) gear testing ahead to decide what sort of compromise between risk (bad water), weight, fragility and processing capacity. Technically the chemical and UV treatment are good as long as there is not a lot of sediment (sediment at low ppm levels is not always that visible), the chemical and UV cannot necessarily penetrate particles and destroy microorganisms inside the sediment particles (sorry too many years working in the waste water treatment business), hence the desire to use a filter as well.

I have seen in some forums/online store good reviews of the General Ecology First Need system relative to the comparable MSR/Katedyn products. My son has had mixed experience with Katedyn pump in northern MIon relatively clean water sources Comments No experience with the MSR systems

I have also seen good reviews of the Platypus system for larger volumes.

Some technical knowledge on water treatment and a lot of information out there is making the evaluation process more complicated than we would like. I value replies in these forums and would appreciate input.

Dan Lee
(scoutbuff) - MLife

Locale: Colorado
WATER PURIFICATION, 2012 FEEDBACK... on 09/12/2012 12:23:53 MDT Print View

Our crew used a combination of the micropur tablets and a Platypus Gravity Works filter. I have a Katadyn Hiker Pro in my personal gear (that I didn't take) but after using the GW filter on our warm-ups, ALL the boys loved it. I don't think I'll use my pump ever again... Too much weight and effort for the return...

I'm sure you'll find many other opinions but here's one of our Philmont experiences. We are passing through a site with an "ample" flowing spring to water up. (Be careful when interpreting the water board as "ample" means different things to people...) Anyway, another crew is pumping water as we arrive, taking turns every couple of minutes for a new set of arms. A couple of our boys walk up, scoop 4L of "dirty" water from a small pool that had formed and sit down for a couple minutes of chit chat. Repeat the process and pretty soon we have watered everyone up while the other crew is still pumping. I think they were still pumping when we finished our lunch.

You will always be able to get more micropur from commissaries and staffed camps on the trail. We didn't run into any really foul water so could probably have left the GW at home and just used tablets. Personally, I could taste the difference and preferred the filtered over tabs. This also gave us a couple of large reservoirs for dry camps...

FYI, on the issue of treating well water... Some camps have solar-powered chlorination systems and will test the water periodically. The camps will generally put a sign up if the water needs purification. When we hit Abreau we timed it just between testing and the sign posting. After everyone had chugged some and topped off, we were told that the water needed purification. Uugghhh! Fortunately, no one developed what the boys coined the "Abreau Super Squirts."

I'm overly cautious, especially when I have other parent's kids, so recommend some kind of water treatment unless your absolutely sure of the source. Hope this helps some!

alan saggers
(767dad) - F
Water Treatment on 09/12/2012 14:02:46 MDT Print View


Thanks for your reply. I will get another dad to purchase the gravity filter and we can do some head to head tests on our practices hikes.

My other concern with the gravity system was fragility. How did you pack it to ensure it was not damaged (perforation of the bag would my biggest concern)

Dan Lee
(scoutbuff) - MLife

Locale: Colorado
GRAVITY WORKS FILTER FIELD TEST... on 09/13/2012 07:07:35 MDT Print View

I, too, was a bit concerned about durability. Every member of the crew used it at some point in the trek and during our warm-ups so were familiar with how to assemble. This is extremely easy to do... To protect it, we simply rolled it up and kept it in the carry bag that it comes with. (Our crew method was that the same scout carried the same crew gear throughout the trek.) We did caution the boys to watch for sharp rocks or branches but had zero problems.

One small lesson learned that you'll probably read about in reviews is that you may need to "back flush" the filter to restore flow. No biggie...

Two thumbs up for the GW!

Dan Lee
(scoutbuff) - MLife

Locale: Colorado
GRAVITY WORKS, PT. 2... on 09/13/2012 07:10:37 MDT Print View

BTW, you may want to purchase through REI when they have their semi-annual 20% off sale. If you find it doesn't measure up, fails in some way or the boys don't like using it, you'll be covered...

Gordon Forrest
Micropur on 09/17/2012 18:28:53 MDT Print View

I think a filter is completely unnecessary at Philmont. Our trek this past season was during one of the driest periods of a very dry summer. We had 4 dry camps instead of the 2 planned but we always found water that was either already potable from a staff camp or that was treated just fine using the Micropur tablets. I can't envision a scenario where you would want to filter water for your crew versus adopting the convenience of using the Micropur tablets.