There are several ways to obtain water from natural sources on a hike: rivers, streams, lakes, tarns (high-mountain ponds) and even creeks and waterfalls. The problem with all of them is the probability the water is a carrier of Giardia (see article on Hydration, A4), so the water must be purified before drinking. To purify the water, there are several kinds of pills that can be dissolved to make the water usable after a period of time, typically a half hour. After this wait time, there are still residual taste, color and maybe even odor issues that, while not harmful, can be quite off-putting.
I prefer to use a pump-style water filter, in particular I like the Katadyn Hiker Pro. Its advantages are that it really filters the water, which removes both harmful and off-putting elements, and the clean water is available with no wait time. It also comes with an output hose that makes it easy to fill water bladders and other receptacles. The whole kit, including input and output hoses, weighs only 11 ounces.
From Katadyn: The Hiker Pro filter physically removes particles, protozoa, and bacteria down to 0.2 microns in size, including giardia, salmonella, cryptosporidia and others. The filter component can even handle silt and muddy water and uses an activated carbon core to absorb chemicals and pesticides to improve the taste of the water.
Using the Katadyn
It takes about two minutes to filter a liter of water, and the filter performs even after heavy use in silty water. Operation is simple. Just make sure to keep the output hose from touching the water source or the input hose since that could contaminate the output drinking water. Drop the input hose (the one with the pre-filter on the end) into the water source and put the output hose into whatever needs filling. Then just pump in and out with the handle.
Maintaining the Katadyn In-between Hikes
When you get home, I highly recommend cleaning the filter, it’s not hard at all. This is a summary to encourage you to do it – the full instructions come with the kit.
Remove the pleated glass fiber filter element and see if it looks dirty or if the filter refuses to pump. If so, then the filter needs to be replaced. Otherwise, remove the pump’s handle and clean the filter’s main housing using water. Check to see there is no grit in the check valve; if there is, clear it so the filter will work properly.
Wash everything by rinsing with water and then reassemble it. Then pump 2 tablespoons of bleach diluted in water, through the filter and hoses. Remove the filter and let air dry. This will extend the filter’s life and help prevent mold.
On longer hikes when you are apt to need more water, also use filtered water for your dog. Remember, your dog can get Giardia too!