Filters vs. Purifiers

clean-waterWeight and space are two of the most important factors when it comes to backpacking. You usually want to shy away from items that are excessively heavy or bulky. This is where the need for water gets tricky. Water is pretty heavy. While temperature affects the weight, a gallon of water weighs in at over 8 lbs. Not only will water add pounds, but water containers, be they bottles or reservoirs, usually take up a bit of space.

The best option is to carry a water filter and/or purifier. Refilling a single water container, rather than carrying all the water you need, saves space and weight. To figure out whether you will need a purifier, filter, or maybe both, you have to consider what each one does.

A filter removes larger particles (like rocks and sediment) as well as most protozoa, parasites, and bacteria. Katadyn’s Hiker Vario uses a ceramic filter to remove dirt and bugs, but it also uses a carbon filter to remove tastes and odors that might be in water. The downside to water filters is that they do not remove viruses. Viruses are much smaller than the pores in a filter and pass right through. Water purifiers kill all of the junk in water including viruses, but they do not remove all of the stuff floating around in it. The lightest option for purification would be chlorine tablets or drops. Steripen is another option that uses UV light to purify water.

With a filter the water might look clean and clear, but there could be a virus floating around in it. With a purifier the water will be safe to drink, but it might look like diluted chocolate milk. Some would consider using both a filter and a purifier as excessive, but it doesn’t hurt to be careful — and it can make a difference in how you feel about the water you drink.

Does that sound frivolous? It’s actually very important. If you aren’t sure about the water, either because it doesn’t look clean or because you’re nor sure it is clean, you’ll be less likely to drink enough. Hydration is always important for your health, and especially so when you’re using lots of energy hiking or climbing — which describes most backpacking trips.

Uncle Sam’s has both purifiers and filters, and we’ll be happy to help you decide which you need.

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