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Oregon Public Broadcasting Ultralight Backpacking Video
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Bob Bankhead
(wandering_bob) - MLife

Locale: Oregon, USA
No water filtering? on 03/06/2012 13:36:35 MST Print View

Every time you drink from an untreated water source, you are rolling the dice. Most of the time, you will win.

The more you do it over time, the stronger your immune system becomes as it adjusts to the presence of the bad bugs; much the same as developing a tolerance to alcohol, drugs, or snake venom.

Most of the time when you do lose, you get a slight belly ache. HOWEVER, when you do bite the big one, you lose a lot - often all at once and for a considerable chunk of time.

I'm reminded of the story of the man standing on the corner snapping his fingers to keep away the elephants. When told there were no elephants in the country, he replied "See, it's working."

Just because you don't get sick this time is not proof of your invincibility or the robustness of your mountain man gut. A gentle reminder:


Edited by wandering_bob on 03/06/2012 13:39:44 MST.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: No water filtering? on 03/06/2012 14:03:31 MST Print View

There are threads about water treatment with strong opinions either way

Many people think you don't need to treat water that is, for example, from alpine areas

I usually don't treat such water

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Re: No water filtering? on 03/06/2012 14:17:35 MST Print View

If he has a wood stove, it would be easy enough to boil up water pretty quick.

Angus A.
(mangus7175) - F

He treats his water on 03/06/2012 14:58:09 MST Print View

I think he treats his water. At the 9:38 mark of the video, you can see what looks like the aquamira bottles on the pocket of his pack.

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Re: No water filtering? on 03/06/2012 18:38:00 MST Print View

I'm reminded of the story of the man standing on the corner snapping his fingers to keep away the elephants. When told there were no elephants in the country, he replied "See, it's working."

Careful, Bob (if you care about certain things) ... stories like that can date you. My experience regarding that story suggests you remember Eisenhower being president. he-he

Yes, that dates me too ... but I done give a **** about that.

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Re: No water filtering? on 03/06/2012 18:44:05 MST Print View

Ditto Bob's comments about rolling the dice.

I'll drink untreated water only in very particular situations. I treat almost all the time.

I know a hiker who filters his water ... then steripens it ... then micropurs it. Ten days after giving him no end of s**t about that I spent a long night in the ER. And I was treating water on that trip (must have gotten a bit loose with procedures that time).

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Re: No water filtering? on 03/06/2012 18:46:11 MST Print View

If he has a wood stove, it would be easy enough to boil up water pretty quick.

Yes he could ... but not pretty quick ... and remember he's hiking long hours.

Matthew Zion
(mzion) - F

Locale: Boulder, CO
Re: Water treatment on 03/06/2012 19:49:30 MST Print View

I wouldn't parallel not treating water and avalanches, I can afford to deal with the consequences of not treating. I have over 3000 miles without treating water. I'm not going to tell you guys not to treat your water -- I still carry tablets(for crappy sources I have to drink from) and metronidazole if something does happen. Goes back to packing your fears -- and traditional backpacking marketing.

William Johnsen
Re: No water filtering? on 03/06/2012 21:19:24 MST Print View

Bob, I think you had the general concept correct, I just want to add some caution to anyone thinking of taking that approach. An immune system will develop a 'memory' if it is constantly exposed to the pathogen (it's not the only way, but the one you were referring to), so if someone is drinking from a lake or stream and not getting sick, they may not be exposed to any pathogens and not developing an immune memory.

This is *if* an immune memory can for for giardia. It's seems like it can (and also for cryptosporidium), though I don't think it's conclusive yet. They haven't developed a vaccine (but wouldn't that be a true test of a ULer!) & part of the problem is giardia has a pretty big (~190) variety of surface proteins it can express. Your memory immune cells are thought to 'hold' onto degraded pieces of these proteins for fast recognition and response of the adaptive immune system. If the protein is different, it might not be efficient (depending on how similar the coat protein structures are).

It also depends on how much of the pathogen you consume, which you don't really have control over. Too much could overwhelm. One thing anyone could do to help reduce the risk of infection (not just from giardia) is to make sure they have ample, healthy commensal gut bacteria, ie. acidophilus, etc. as they will out compete the pathogens for nutrients and essentially starve them.

Bob Shaver
(rshaver) - F

Locale: West
water from alpine sources on 03/07/2012 09:49:52 MST Print View

My first exposure to giardia was from a trip in the north cascades, in which we traversed the northern picket range. Taht was in the mid 70s, and we didn't even have filters then. You could not get any more remote or alpine. We went over the shoulder of Mt. Challenger, and camped on Challenger Arm, by a huge glacier. There was a small stream flowing with glacier meltoff, and some small pools with standing water. We don't know where Marc got the bug, but I drank out of the flowing stream, and he drank out of the standing pools.

He got the bug after we got home, and it devastated him for several months. He lost maybe 40 pounds of muscle, and it was a year before he felt good. He never got all the muscle mass back. I filter water since then.

David Olsen

Locale: Steptoe Butte
Water pathogens on 03/07/2012 10:02:41 MST Print View

Others have claimed to get Giardia drinking from huge alaskan rivers. Places where you
couldn't get enough cysts to contract the disease due to the shear volume of the water.

Giardia is more commonly spread by human contact. It is common in day care centers where
drinking water is from the tap.

In other words, if you got Giardia while drinking from a huge isolated springtime snow melt water source, someone wasn't washing their hands after going poo.

Mike W
(skopeo) - F

Locale: British Columbia
Giardia on 03/08/2012 00:49:22 MST Print View

The biggest mistake people make is looking at water sources as a whole when it comes to Giardia and other bugs. It's not an all or nothing scenario. A small section of a stream or lake can carry a much higher level of contamination than other spots in the same water body, as there may be beavers, otters etc. that are active directly upstream or beside the spot where you gather water. It's important to remember that "remote" means not much human involvement but the contamination is just as likely to come from the "locals" in a remote area (the animals).

One of the reasons you should take your water from moving sources if possible is that the slow moving water in a back eddy won't disperse the organisms as quickly as the fast moving current (but unfortunately, the slow moving water is where it's easier to fill your bottle).

As a long time fly fisherman, I've seen all sorts of things happen "just around the bend" that could easily make you sick. I'll treat my water regardless of what the source because it's quite possible that I might be drinking out of Mr. Otter's latrine (which really makes not-treating a "crapshoot"!).

I did however, really enjoy the video and also noticed the bottles of Aquamira in Lint's pack, so it's obviously still something he uses occasionally.

Edited by skopeo on 03/08/2012 00:51:43 MST.