Water is an essential element in our lives and is arguably the most important thing to have on hand when exploring the Adirondacks. When pack weight and limited space come into play, figuring out just how much water to pack for a hike is not always easy. Luckily, for those outdoor enthusiasts that find themselves in the Adirondacks, there is more often than not a brook or lake near the trail that is perfect for a bottle refill.
As fresh and pure as the water in the Park can look, any water source has the potential to be tainted with microscopic waterborne pathogens - nasty little critters that can really make you feel awful. There are three common groups of waterborne buggers that are most commonly linked to water-related illness: protozoan cysts, bacteria, and viruses. While viruses are not typically associated with wilderness waters in the Adirondacks, Giardia cysts and E. coli bacteria have been a topic of discussion for a long time. Because waterborne pathogens exist worldwide, there are many water treatment products on the market that help reduce risks from drinking water along the trail.
Both water filters and water purifiers are available to consumers. It is generally agreed that water purifiers are the more sure bet for treating wilderness water. Water purifiers typically use microfiltration and/or a chemical treatment to meet an EPA standard for eliminating viruses, bacteria, and protozoa. For the past few years, Evan and I have had great success using the Potable Aqua germicidal and iodine-neutralizing tablets that disinfect water in 35 minutes. These tablets are small and easy to pack in any sort of medkit or backpack. More recently however, we discovered the Potable Aqua® PURE™ and the tablets have now become our backup method of water treatment (definitely not a bad thing to have multiple options to get clean water!).
The PURE™ device is an electrolytic water purifier that uses a simple brine solution (just water and salt) to produce a mixed oxidant disinfectant that can purify even the dirtiest water. The science behind the mixed oxidant production and it’s affect on the organisms potentially living in the water is really neat; with chlorine and peroxide working together to effectively kill potential contaminants. This purifier can inactivate the common bacteria and Giardia found in the Adirondacks as well as viruses, killing 99.9% of the organisms all without the need to pre-filter. According to the Potable Aqua website, the PURE™ purifier is expected to treat more than 60,000 liters of water in its lifetime. The helpful directions included with the purifier make the tool easy to use. With an integrated solar panel, there is always a backup in case the battery dies while out on the trail.
So far, Evan and I have been very pleased with the recent addition to our hiking/camping supply - a little (and I mean little) chlorine taste in the water is definitely better than a few days down for the count with beaver fever!