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water filter advice
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Robert Connor
(bplnole) - F

Locale: N E Fl
water filter advice on 03/20/2012 06:02:09 MDT Print View

I am planning a multi day trip along the beautiful but tannin rich Suwanee river. I want to have a filter to use in conjunction with my steripen that will help remove the tannin and improve the taste. I have seen some good ideas on myog gravity filters and I may wind up going that direction. But I wanted to run an idea by the collective genius that is BPL.
Shameless sucking up complete, here is my simple idea; take a 16oz. water bottle, cut the bottom off, glue (superglue or silicone?) a circle of 1 micron Bio diesel filter inside, add an inch or so of charcoal from an aquarium store, then glue a second disk of bio diesel on top of that.
Do you think this would be effective with the tannins? Keep in mind I would be using a steripen (aquamira backup) after filtering.
Thanks in advance for the input.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: water filter advice on 03/20/2012 07:20:19 MDT Print View

I've used Katadyn filter on tannins in the Olympics

Does nothing to tannins

They must be very small

Tannins are harmless, although I don't like the taste

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: water filter advice on 03/20/2012 07:41:38 MDT Print View

I've used a First Need filter on tannins in the Olympics and it reduced it, but did not completely remove it. As I'm writing this, I wonder what effect tannins have on the filter life.

I would use a paper coffee filter with the Steripen-- get the big stuff out and live with the rest. I made a filter holder from a seal-a-meal bag. See

Seal-A-Meal filter holder

John Almond
(FLRider) - F

Locale: The Southeast
FL Tea on 03/20/2012 08:59:44 MDT Print View

I've also used a Katadyn Hiker Pro (which has an activated charcoal element in the filter) in several places down here in FL. Not the Suwanee, but several tannin-rich streams and ponds (Ocala National Forest, Black Creek Ravines, etc.). It didn't do anything for the tannins, though the taste was better than my Sawyer In-Line offers (no charcoal in that one).

Honestly, I haven't heard of anything portable that gets rid of the tannin in "FL tea". If you find something, please share it with the rest of us!

David Scheidt
(dscheidt) - F
Re: FL Tea on 03/20/2012 10:23:23 MDT Print View

tanins aren't going to be removed by mechanical filtration. They're soluble, and go through filters. Activated carbon with the right sized pores can adsorb some of the stuff, but not all of them ('Tannins' are a big range of disovled organic molecules, and require a range of activation sizes.) . In commercial water purification systems, tannins are removed by anion exchange (same principal as a water softener to get rid of calcium, but anions (negative charge) instead of cations (positive charge)), which isn't terribly practical on a hike. Reverse osmosis ought to do it too, but again, not terribly lightweight.

Robert Connor
(bplnole) - F

Locale: N E Fl
well... on 03/20/2012 11:49:37 MDT Print View

Thanks everyone for the insight.

I guess I better change my thought process on this.

Does anyone know where I can hire a sherpa to carry a reverse osmosis/anion exhange system for me? :)

Hopefully if the charcoal doesn't remove the tannins, it will at least taste ok.

Has anyone used silicone on one of these bio diesel filters? I want to seal it around the inside of the water bottle.

Thanks again.

David Goodyear
(dmgoody) - MLife

Locale: mid-west
steripen and tanins on 03/20/2012 16:22:19 MDT Print View

I switch from a steripen to a myog gravity filter when I hike in Tannin rich areas. Maybe it is just me but if the water is colored, then I worry about the light penetrating to kill all of the nasties.



Kevin Beeden
(captain_paranoia) - F

Locale: UK
flocculation on 03/21/2012 12:42:45 MDT Print View

This question pinged one of those deep memories, so I googled and found this which was what I was struggling to remember.

Water treatment works use a flocculant to cause microparticulate matter to precipate out, and this flocculant is often alum (aluminium sulfate).

I wouldn't like to suggest using this, or the amounts that might be needed. However, quoting the above 'cleanwaterstore' website:

One method that we have successfully used to remove tannins in well water involves injecting a flocculant such as alum which allows the microscopic suspended particles that create the color in water, to lose their positive charge and "floc" together into larger clumps. This is easily done on small scale systems by using a metering pump and injecting 2 -5 ppm of "Cat-Floc" (one of many types of flocculant aids used for this purpose) into the water as it flows into a holding tank or storage tank.

It's also worth pointing out that errors can occur at water treatment plants.

If you can persuade the tannins to flocculate, you should be able to filter them out with a conventional filter.

Usual caveats apply...

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Flocculation (YEAH!). And carbon. on 03/21/2012 13:16:52 MDT Print View

Kevin's right about flocculation. And people have had good ideas about carbon. I deal with this at home (middle of a spruce forest) and on toxic waste sites (my day job) and while rafting.

Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) can remove tannins (both the color and the test) from drinking water. The Brita filter in the Brita pitcher does fine at my house, although I hate the price per pound in those little cartridges - when I buy GAC by the thousand pounds, it's $2-3/pound.

I use a lot of GAC vessels, have designed a few, and more often tweak other designs to do what I want. You need a certain contact time and anything that moves the water quickly past the GAC isn't going to acheive high removal efficiency. This makes it not so great for a pumping/sucking scheme because you want that to happen quickly. But it makes GAC ideal for a gravity-fed system because they you care much less how long it takes. Make your carbon container long to maximize contact time and relatively narrow to minimize weight and volume. For 2 people x 10 days, you'd need so little GAC, 1 cm ID by 10-15 cm length would more than do it. Syringe bodies would be one off-the-shelf item of that size and the tips could fit nicely into your tubing (maybe drill out the inside of that tip for better flow and strap two together back-to-back to get those "hose adaptors" on each end. But you could also look for a plastic filter housing with room for a cubic inch of GAC and use fine screen or coarse filter paper to hold in the GAC.

Then play with it - a high head will move more water and maybe that's fine, but if you still see color or taste, use less height in your gravity-flow system for a lower flow and longer contact time.

But the real UL method is bring some alum. It's in the baking or spice aisle at the grocery store, is food grade and really speed up clays and silts settling from the water (think Colorado River water). Just add a pitch to the water in your biggest pot, come back in 15-30 minutes and sediment will have gone to the bottom and they'll be a floating scum layer that was the dissolved tannins. Decant the clear water off gently, and/or use a scrap of (unused!) toilet paper or coffee filter to wipe the scum off the surface/edges of the pot. (Mostly, it adheres to the edges of the pot, and you can eliminate 95% of it by just pouring it gently into other containers. 10-20 grams would last you two weeks - finding a SUL container for it will be most of a weight!

Now, whatever purification you are using - UV, halogens, physical filtration - has less to deal with. UV travels further in clear water. Chlorine and Iodine aren't used up on tannins and sediments. Your filter won't clog up as soon. And some bacteria, cysts, and viruses will have settled or flocc'ed out - potentially a large fraction (90-99%) of them, but I'd still treat with something, but I worry much less about the amount and time of UV or CL/I if the turbidity has so dramatically improved.

Ty Ty

Locale: SE US
another approach... on 03/21/2012 13:54:22 MDT Print View

How about just use the steri pen or aquamira then add a flavoring powder?

Edited by TylerD on 03/21/2012 14:03:28 MDT.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: water filter advice on 03/21/2012 15:45:43 MDT Print View

Tannins are NOT harmful. Bugs and wogs in the water can be, but not tannins.

The best way to deal with tanins is to heat the water, add a little sugar and milk, and call it tea or coffee.


David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Not your cup of tea. on 03/21/2012 15:51:53 MDT Print View


So Americans pay extra to make their water perfectly clear, while Brits and Aussies pay extra to ADD tanins to it?

The groundwater we were pumping up from under an old lumbermill (because of fuels in it) was so rich in tannins it really looked like tea (because that's what tea is - soaked leaves) and everyone called it "bark juice".

Okay, I'll shut up now before we get started on the warm beer / cold beer thing.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Not your cup of tea. on 03/21/2012 16:38:26 MDT Print View

Hi David

> while Brits and Aussies pay extra to ADD tanins to it?
Dunno 'bout the Poms, but we have free gum leaves which are real good at it :-)
Some country, like swampy stuff, has no clear water. So, no big deal.


Stephen Barber
(grampa) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
Tannins = Tea on 03/21/2012 17:41:20 MDT Print View

"The best way to deal with tanins is to heat the water, add a little sugar and milk, and call it tea or coffee."

Dang it, Roger, you beat me to it!!!

Historically tannins were used to turn hides into leather. On old method to toughen your feet was to soak your feet in strong tea, to do the same to them!

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Tannins = Tea on 03/21/2012 17:45:08 MDT Print View

Stephen: "soak your feet in strong tea". Thanks, I didn't know that. Makes sense.

Here's the reverse for footwear: Your rubber-soled shoes will have better traction on ice if you wipe the soles with Clorox bleach. Just like the drag racers do to their tires. It softens the rubber and makes it stickier.

Kevin Beeden
(captain_paranoia) - F

Locale: UK
re: water filter advice on 03/22/2012 12:04:06 MDT Print View

> Tannins are NOT harmful.

No that's fair, but the OP was bothered by the taste, so I guess we tried to address his enquiry.

> Bugs and w*** in the water can be, but not tannins.

Roger, be warned if you ever come to the UK, don't use the 'w' word; most definitely not PC, even though I'm sure it must have an entirely different meaning in Oz. It would be like using the 'n' word, before it was 'reclaimed'...

I'd google it for you, but I'm not going to put it in a search engine at work, just in case IT/HR are watching...

Thanks to David; nice to have someone who actually knows what they're talking about, rather than having a vague memory about things...

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: re: water filter advice on 03/22/2012 16:01:33 MDT Print View

Hi Kevin

> Roger, be warned if you ever come to the UK, don't use the 'w' word; most definitely not PC
Like I care about PC? :-)

Oh yeah, same problem here, but we are a bit more relaxed about it. Also, the phrase 'bugs and wogs' is recognised.


Craig Price
(skeets) - MLife

Locale: Melbourne, Australia
steripen in tannin stained water? on 03/23/2012 05:49:57 MDT Print View

to bring it back closer to topic: if you didn't remove the tannin, do you think the steripen still works? if so, how stained would it need to be before it was a problem? to put in layman terms, colour of strong overbrewed tea, normal strength tea, or weak tea? I've been ok so far in darkish water in whcih I can see the blue light part penetrating to the edge of the container, so assumed (hoped) the UV was doing likewise. Reasonable or just wishful, blissful ignorance?

John Doe
(jessearl) - F
Water filter for Suwannee River on 03/23/2012 11:11:14 MDT Print View


We did a 20 mile hike on the Florida Trail along the Suwannee River 3 years ago. We did it over 3 days of hiking. I only remember having to filter our water out of the river once or twice. The taste was fine. It comes out looking like Sweet Tea in my platupus bag. We used a Pur Hiker and a Katadyn Vario filter.

All other water was obtained from the many springs and a couple of spring runs that you'll pass along the trail. I don't remember any "great" campsites along the river, but plenty of great places to stop and relax along the trail in the springs.

The timing of our hike had us walking through the Florida Folk Music Festival at Stephen Foster State Park in White Springs. It was a coincidence and quite the surprise after being on the trail for a few days.

This section of the trail is very sparsely populated and we never saw another hiker while on it.

Lance Marshall
(Lancem) - F - MLife

Locale: Oregon
Steripen and water clarity on 03/23/2012 12:20:02 MDT Print View

Here are a few pictures from Steripen test documents of 'clear' and 'challenge' test waters. The test waters are a carefully controlled mix of desolved solids, organic carbons, pH, temperature, etc. Although you have no way of knowing exactly how your water compares in the field, the pictures give you some sense of the clarity standards used in testing.

Steripen test waters

Steripen general test waterSTeripen challenge test water

Hope this helps,

Edited by Lancem on 03/23/2012 12:26:27 MDT.