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Water treatment thoughts
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Harrison Carpenter
(carpenh) - M

Locale: St. Vrain River Valley
Water treatment thoughts on 09/03/2012 10:09:47 MDT Print View

I'm going back and forth these days between relying upon my Steripen (the Adventurer Opti model) and AquaMira. Pardon me while I share my thoughts, in writing, with you all. (I write for a living, so I do this all the time.)

I know that using a chemical treatment saves pack weight, so that's one of its merits. When I've gone out onto the trails with AquaMira, I've taken two full 20 oz bottles of water from home with me to the trailhead. I drink all the water in one bottle before I stop to refill it, then after refilling it and treating the new water, I set the treated water aside while I drink out of the second bottle of water from home. This two-bottle approach gives my newly treated water anywhere from 60-120 minutes to work before I even take one sip.

Yet the last time I went out, I came down with giardiasis. Not fun, as I'm sure you're aware. My hypothesis is that 1) I failed to "bleed" the bottles well enough to eliminate all the remaining untreated water from the bottles' mouths. The competing hypotheses, of course, are that 2) I needed to wait longer after first treating the new water, or 3) I needed a more effective pre-filtration method to eliminate cysts/protozoa from the new water, or 4) a combination of any/all of the three competing hypotheses. Regardless, it's made me start wondering about my ability to use AquaMira.

In the past, I've used my Steripen in combination with its FitsAll prefilter and an old 1 L Nalgene bottle. Weighty, I know. But for some reason (maybe technophilia, or chemophobia) I found the use of UV water treatment my best option. However, the Steripen can't be used with narrow-mouthed bottles. (I've yet to experiment with using the Steripen in a bottle whose mouth is the size of a Gatorade bottle.) This approach seemed to work effectively, although it required me to insert the prefilter into the bottle's mouth, and then submerge the bottle into a water source, in order to fill it. I operated the Steripen according to the manufacturer's rules, but on my first use of it (in my ignorance) I neglected to bleed the bottle... and (guess what) came down with giardiasis.

Now here's my current thoughts:

The first (and most obvious) thing is that regardless of what water treatment I use, if I keep working the way I have in the past, I must never forget to bleed the bottle.

The second is that I need to work on my prefiltration methods. (So here I go...)

If I cannot submerge a bottle into which I've inserted the FitsAll, then I'll need to find another means of prefiltration, perhaps by using one bottle to gather water directly from the source, then pouring that untreated water carefully though the FitAll into another bottle, and then treating it. If no untreated water got onto the mouth of that second bottle, I'd not have to bleed it. If I could treat the water in the second bottle with the Steripen, I'd not have to wait to drink it. But in order to treat that water with the Steripen, the bottle would need to have a wide mouth; that, of course, would likely mean a significant weight penalty.

Treating the water with AquaMira would eliminate that penalty, since the mouth size of the bottle containing the water undergoing treatment would be inconsequential. I could still keep my two-bottle arrangement. But rather than have a bottle of water undergoing treatment as I hiked, I'd need to carry a bottle of untreated water, which would be filtered/treated later (presumably, when the bottle of treated water was empty and/or when I arrive at a water source). That would require me to wait a good amount of time between treating water and drinking.

I could elect to augment the AquaMira/two-bottles-of-home-water approach with a third water vessel (perhaps a cut-down Platypus 1 L) that I could use to collect water from sources. When I'd need to refill one of my bottle, I could collect water in the third vessel, pour that water through the prefilter into the empty bottle, and treat it as I hiked, drinking now from the second bottle. With no contact between the bottles' mouths and untreated water, I may be able to forgo bleeding. And if I chose the third vessel wisely, the weight penalty could be minimal.

My third idea is that I might be able to replace the Steripen completely, even though its and effective, technically precise, and lightweight option. It seems that if I could work with AquaMira in combination with 1) an effective means of prefiltration and 2) keeping the bottles' mouths clean, then the Steripen wouldn't be needed. That would mean that the risk of dead batteries would be eliminated.

Pardon me, again, for sharing all this text with you, but I think on paper. Reading back over my text, I seem to feel that my best option (given where I hike most often) is to augment the AquaMira/two-bottles approach. But like all writers, I feel like I can't completely trust my own reading, especially when reading my own text.


What do you all think? Am I thinking along the right path? Or can't you tell, from what I've written? Do you have any ideas for me?

water on 09/03/2012 10:23:15 MDT Print View

Was your giardia confirmed by lab test?
Lots of ways to get sick, the most common is from your hands

In practicle terms, it takes some quantity of bacteria or cysts to make one sick, not just one cell or cyst. While bleeding the threads on a bottle doesnt hurt, it is actually unlikely to have enough bacteria there to actually cause sickness.

Edited by livingontheroad on 09/03/2012 10:26:17 MDT.

michael levi
(M.L) - F

Locale: W-Never Eat Soggy (W)affles
filter on 09/03/2012 10:45:54 MDT Print View

For me I like my water to pass through a filter, it gives me peace of mind because it gets all the bugs and dirt out unlike steripen or tablets. I use a sawyer squeeze.

Colin Krusor
(ckrusor) - M

Locale: Northwest US
Filtration on 09/03/2012 11:18:47 MDT Print View

I use a Sawyer Squeeze, too. After filtration I treat with Aquamira if I'm filtering water that might contain Lepto or viruses (lowland or heavily used areas). This combination is light (<4oz excluding containers), very reliable, and nearly foolproof.

By the way, using Aquamira alone might be unwise in some areas. There is some evidence that, even with very long exposure times, it doesn't completely inactivate Crypto. The rangers in Olympic National Park, for example, have a policy of unequivocally telling all visitors to the Port Angeles main ranger station that chemical water treatment doesn't work, and in high-risk lowland areas (like the Ozette coast), water is not potable unless filtered or boiled. This policy seems a bit reactionary to me, but there are reasons to be cautious about using chemical treatment alone.

Paul Johnson
(johncooper) - F

Locale: SoCal
Re: filter on 09/03/2012 11:25:54 MDT Print View

I have used AquaMira and Steripen optis as well. A few comments.

Aqua Mira drops don't treat for Giardia. AquaMira tablets effectively weigh 34oz (ie super heavy), if needed during the day.

Steripen opti with large mouth Gatorade bottle works well for solo hiking and is light.

The Sawyer squeeze with evernew bladder is great for solo or group use. I would classify the Sawyer bags that come with the filter as a consumable.

Being vigilant in hand sanitation and water sources near pack animals are my top two priorities for avoiding giardia. Knock on wood so far.

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: Water treatment thoughts on 09/03/2012 11:31:37 MDT Print View

Tom Lyons
(towaly) - F

Locale: Smoky Mtns.
3rd vessel on 09/03/2012 11:35:20 MDT Print View

I use a freezer bag as my dirty water collection vessel. It's light, fairly durable, and you can get them in the sizes you want.
I often use a 2 gallon freezer bag for collecting water.

I collect the water from the stream in it, and close the ziploc enough to let it stand for a while and settle the sediment to the bottom. If it's really bad, I'll use some alum as a flocculent to help it along.
If there's anything floating on top, I skim that, and then decant it into the chemical treatment vessel.
This is typically a Platy bottle that I decant into, using a funnel and a coffee filter for extra help in removal of anything during the decanting process.
If there is reason to suspect minor presence of volatile chemicals in the water, you could put some activated charcoal into the coffee filter while decanting, to help extract anything like that during the process.
Lately, I have been using bleach drops for the chemical shock treatment, but the tablets or Aquamira drops could be used the same way, by dropping them into the Platy.
Then I put a Brita charcoal filter in the top of the Platy and screw on the cap.
The Brita removes the bleach and leaves a clean taste.

Wait the appropriate amount of time, and you're GTG.

In my log cabin, I used a larger scale method of this water treatment for years, by pumping water out of a surface stream into a barrel, treating it with bleach, and then pumping it into the cabin thru a carbon block filter. It worked great, never got sick, and it's cheap and easy.

Edited by towaly on 09/03/2012 11:39:02 MDT.

John Whynot

Locale: Southeast Texas
Re: Water treatment thoughts on 09/03/2012 12:16:11 MDT Print View

To me, the real advantage to the Steripen is not having to carry water that is "being treated".

I stop at a water source, treat and drink my fill, and then treat and carry just enough to get me to the next water source.

I don't worry about the tiny amount of water on the bottle threads (or dry the threads off with my bandanna)...

Edited by jdw01776 on 09/03/2012 12:20:57 MDT.

Re: Re: filter on 09/03/2012 12:20:02 MDT Print View

"Aqua Mira drops don't treat for Giardia."

This is not true. Chlorine dioxide is highly effective on giardia.
The difficulty is in certifying effectiveness, with the variations that occur in the liquid drop system, this is why it is not certified as such.

That is totally different from being effective in practical use.

"AquaMira tablets effectively weigh 34oz (ie super heavy), if needed during the day. "

I believe that the 4 hrs is the treatment time for Crypto, and it is the same necessary for drops too. Fortunately, it is rare and not usually a concern. Because tablets have been CERTIFIED for use, they can only put the directions for the use they were certified for. You can still use tablets with shorter time when crypto is not a concern, just need to allow a bit extra time to dissolve relative to drops.

"For me I like my water to pass through a filter, it gives me peace of mind because it gets all the bugs and dirt out unlike steripen or tablets."

Nothing gets out "all". Effectiveness depends on starting concentration. In reality, water found in places we like to hike, is not that highly contaminated to start with.

How do you have piece of mind if you dont know if your filter is compromised, and have no way possible to test it? A common dilema in winter conditions.

There is unfortunately no perfect water treatment solution, besides boiling.

Edited by livingontheroad on 09/03/2012 13:46:29 MDT.

Dena Kelley

Locale: Eagle River, Alaska
Re Water treatment thoughts on 09/03/2012 13:38:54 MDT Print View

I am old-school and still boil my water which is 100% effective against bacteria, viruses, giardia and crypto. Chemicals have iffy-effectiveness- Alaska water is clear, but very cold and chemicals ask for 7 hours treatment time in cold water- I can boil and even cool the water much faster than that! I'm not a fan of most chemical tastes, either. The amount of add'l fuel I have to carry in order to boil water once a day is less than what it would weigh to carry a Steripen or filter as I'm already carrying a stove and fuel for cooking a hot meal for dinner and breakfast. I do admit having some interest in Steripen as it would meet my desire for quick, no-taste treatment and they are getting lighter in weight.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: filter on 09/03/2012 13:57:05 MDT Print View

"AquaMira tablets effectively weigh 34oz (ie super heavy), if needed during the day."

What kind of strange joke is this?

I can't even imagine what two pounds of tablets would look like.


michael levi
(M.L) - F

Locale: W-Never Eat Soggy (W)affles
I get it on 09/03/2012 14:03:19 MDT Print View

He means that to filter a liter of water you have to carry it around until the chemical process has been given the time required. You can not camel up either. This is really why I only will use tablets as emergency backup, they weigh nothing for a few.

But for everyday use nothing beats a filter (or steripen) which Ive never used.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: I get it on 09/03/2012 14:14:44 MDT Print View

"He means that to filter a liter of water you have to carry it around until the chemical process has been given the time required."

To filter a liter of water, you don't have to carry any chemicals, so it takes almost zero time.


Nick G
(HermesUL) - F
Hygiene on 09/03/2012 14:18:31 MDT Print View

What I've heard about Giardia is that you are much more likely to get sick from your fellow campers and general hygiene issues than you are from drinking untreated water. It is almost certainly the case that this is why you got sick, not from water. There are ways to improve back country hygiene (I'm admittedly not an expert), such as using liberal soap/hand sanitizer, washing dishes, etc.

Relying on a steri pen is dangerous because they can break and don't work in cloudy water. If you go this route, I'd recommend bringing a small quantity of iodine tablets as a backup.

Willie Evenstop
(redmonk) - F

Locale: Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem
Water treatment thoughts on 09/03/2012 14:37:17 MDT Print View

Bob, please pay attention and attempt some level of understanding.

Substitute filter for treat. Seriously. Try to read the post in the context of the thread.

How are you celebrating your 7500th post ?

You say BPL spammed you.

How long do you plan to spam BPL before you call it even ?

Edited by redmonk on 09/03/2012 14:38:38 MDT.

filter on 09/03/2012 14:39:03 MDT Print View

"To filter a liter of water, you don't have to carry any chemicals, so it takes almost zero time."

That... would depend on the filter, some are better than others.

And of course, when it clogs, and they all do unless filtering pristine water, it generally takes quite a bit of time.

Tom Lyons
(towaly) - F

Locale: Smoky Mtns.
re on 09/03/2012 15:46:03 MDT Print View

I have never heard of not carrying some water.
If you are carrying it, I don't see any difference about whether it is purifying during the carrying, or not.

I would never set out on any trail without carrying some water.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Water treatment thoughts on 09/03/2012 16:06:45 MDT Print View

"Substitute filter for treat. Seriously. Try to read the post in the context of the thread. "

Cameron, I do pay close attention, but I go by the actual words as typed, not what somebody might have been thinking.


michael levi
(M.L) - F

Locale: W-Never Eat Soggy (W)affles
Re: Re: Water treatment thoughts on 09/03/2012 16:21:10 MDT Print View

Seriously? I misused the word filter get over it.

Harrison Carpenter
(carpenh) - M

Locale: St. Vrain River Valley
More on 09/03/2012 16:47:28 MDT Print View

It's not a question of carrying water or not carrying water. It's more a question of how to make sure the water I carry is safe to drink.

When carrying water that is undergoing treatment (to which AquaMira has been added-- in my case, that means the drops-- but still needs time to work), you are carrying water that would be unsafe to drink. That would be true even if the water had been gathered using a perfect prefiltering method. Presumably, a bottle of water that had been treated with a Steripen would be safe to drink the moment treatment is done, if the water was effectively prefiltered (and wasn't cloudy, muddy, etc.).

The issue of hygiene is one that always comes up, but frankly, I've never felt it was my problem. My hands get washed/sanitized more often on the trail than they do at home. Yet...

It occurred to me as I was reading everyone's posts that I don't remember sanitizing my hands after gathering/bottling water, despite having my hands immersed in untreated water. I must confess to snacking from time to time without washing first, probably because I usually eat single-serving pillow-packs of nut butters, and prepackaged snack bars (both of which allow one to eat without touching the food-- if and only if one can open the packaging correctly, which is more difficult than it seems. Since I follow the "freezer bag cooking" method, the only things ever in my "pot" (that is, my 600 mL mug) are boiling water and hot coffee, so I haven't been careful in washing the mug. (in my office, my cup sits between washings. Longer than I'd care to mention, I'd add.)

Perhaps these are parts of the problem? I can see how necessary it would be to sanitize before a snack. But how necessary would it be to treat my hands after refilling (and for that matter, to wash up my mug immediately drinking a cup of coffee)?

I'm sorry. Those are questions for another thread, eh?