One of the biggest challenges to outdoor sports is having an available source of potable water. Of course, you can take water along if you are camping or have a trailer, but what about kayaking and backpacking? Likewise, when out in the bush collecting berries or bird watching, how would you manage if you were gone for any length of time?
We’ve spoken before about the need for filtering water found in streams, ponds and lakes, but as we said, there is a major difference between filtering and purification. In this article, we want to discuss the best water purification tablets for backpacking.
To clarify, we say the best because you need to understand how this process works. And since not all products are created equal, there are many that just don’t measure up. It goes without saying that drinking bad water can have disastrous results, sometimes fatal, but we don’t want to go there, do we?
Briefly, to refresh our memories, filtration deals with bacteria while purification addresses viruses. So if you use a filter alone, you are not fully protected. But, in some instances, it is not necessary as long as you understand what the system does and where you are going. For example, you would use a different method if having to drink water from a mosquito infested pond than you would a fresh water stream.
Therefore, other than location, how would you know what is best for your travels?
In my opinion, one of the easiest way to determine whether a tablet is effective or not is to find out if it is recommended or endorsed by organizations such as UNICEF, Oxfam, The Red Cross, Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), and WHO (World Health Organization). Because these people deal with life and death situations on a widespread scale, they are obviously experts in what individuals need to reduce risk. For me, their stamp of approval speaks volumes.
Contact time is another consideration when choosing. This means how long the chemicals need to be in the water source to be effective. Ideally, you would want the process to work in thirty minutes or less, so that you can get to the task of drinking the water. It should be noted that the time may vary and be much longer if certain micro-organisms exist. Further, the tablets should be fizzy and dissolve quite quickly. Again, before the contact time even starts, the pills need to be at a point where they are working.
Additionally, they come in three different types including iodine, chlorine and chlorine dioxide. For many people, it is dangerous to use iodine, as it affects other medications and existing medical conditions. For this reason, it is important for those with various symptoms to okay with their doctor before choosing the final product. Also, there is plenty of good information online to assist in the decision making process.
Manufacturers’ instructions need to be clear and to the point. This is crucial for the efficacy of the product. Each product will have different ways to use it and this may change over time, as well. Newer methods become available, plus the older your package, the less potency. Typically, the better ones will have expiry dates for five years from day of manufacturing if stored properly. As you can see, there are a lot of contingencies to take into consideration.
Lastly, I thought about all of the above issues, and a few more actually, in order to choose five of the best water purification tablets for backpacking.