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When you are in the great outdoors - 
you need to drink a lot of water to stay healthy 
(at least one gallon per day for every person in your party). 

There's just one question,
 "Is the water safe to drink?". 

The kind of water that is available to you depends on the type of camping you are doing. If you are camping in a campground with a water source provided your needs will differ from a backpacking family who cannot carry all of the water needed for their trip.

Water from a natural source such as rivers and streams 

Water provided by recreation facilities 

The  information following this icon pertains to Backcountry Camping. (Extreme camping, deep woods, no modern facilities, etc.)
Backcountry Water Sources

Generally, your water source is a stream, a lake, or a spring. 

The water may taste wonderfully clear - 


There may be nasty things lurking in your next drink! 

Protozoa and larger parasites, bacteria, and viruses all can be found in backcountry water sources.
If you drink 'em without treating the water first you may get quite ill.
 I could describe some symptoms but I don't want to gross anybody out! 

So how do we get rid of these 'water hazards'? 
There are several different ways that are quite effective. 

1. Boil your water

 This is the only free water treatment you'll find -
but the water tastes a bit funny afterwards. 

Boiling is the surefire way to purify water. 
No waterborne microorganism can survive a rolling boil. 
It must be boiled for 5 minutes or more.  One of the advantages of boiling water is there is no need to filter or chemically disinfect water that will be used to cook with. Just dip your pot in the stream set it on the stove, and bring it to a boil before adding your noodles, or other fooditems. The disadvantage of boiling water is it takes time and fuel.

2. Iodine disinfection

There are three forms of iodine treatments; crystals, tablets, and liquid. For years iodine has been the most efficient way for backpackers to disinfect water, because it is lightweight, cheap, and is easy to do.
But iodine has some downsides. It does nothing to make murky, foul-tasting water more appealing. Iodine itself has a taste most people find unpleasant. But the most important disadvantage of iodine tablets, is that it has been recently discovered that iodine does not kill Cryptosporidium, a protozoan that's becoming increasingly common in North America backcountry water. But some people prefer the bad taste and prefer to take their chance with Cryptosporidium in exchange for the lightweight and simplicity of iodine treatments. Another disadvantage of iodine is it takes as long as half an hour , depending on the water temperature, for effective disinfecting. Some iodine tablets come with "neutralizing pills" that alleviate the unpleasant taste and smell of the iodine.

3. Filtration 

Filters physically strain out microorganisms larger than a certain size. There are two different kinds of water filters. There are kinds that remove, or filter out, protozoa's and bacteria, and there are filters that "purify," which means they also remove viruses as well as protozoa and bacteria.
 Whatever type you choose depends on how much of a chance you're willing to take as well how much you're willing to spend. Purifiers are the safer way to go but they cost more and often clog faster than non-purifiers. Because a clogged purifier does you as much good as a tent with holes, this is something to consider when shopping.


Filter elements

These following are what your filter could be made of, and it's construction, which can be depth or surface. Most good filters today are depth filters. This means that the filter element has some thickness, or depth to it. The complex structure also captures the offending microorganisms. Depth filters can often be cleaned by scrubbing or backwashing. Surface filters, also known as membrane filters, have a thinner, sheet like construction that tends to clog quickly.

Your filter's possible elements:


Activated carbon strains out organic chemicals like herbicides, pesticides, and chlorine. It is always used in conjunction with another filter material.


By nature, ceramic is porous, intricate material with lots of little nooks and crannies that capture microorganisms. The best thing ceramic filters is they can be washed time and time again before they need to be replaced. The draw back of ceramic filters is they are fragile, especially in cold weather.

Fiberglass or glass fiber.

Glass fibers are long and slick and can be molded into intricate structures that effectively catch the microscopic bad guys. Fiberglass doesn't last as long as ceramics, but is more durable.

If you camp a great deal a filter might be right for you.

Water filters produce the best tasting water.

Only water filters can remove pollutants from water.

Water filters do require spare filters -
so stock up! 

Filtration devices are the most expensive alternative.

Water filters can be a bit bulky to carry.


Whatever method you choose -
 please be careful - 
and have fun!

Recreation Facility Water Sources

Your favorite campground has running water; maybe even showers. 
Is that all you need to know?

 I don't think so. 

Many recreation facilities offer water that is not potable
 (not fit to drink).
This is water for washing, showering, and toilets that is not fit for human consumption. These water sources are usually well marked with warnings that the water is not for drinking -
but please use care! 

Potable water is considered safe for drinking - 
but does that mean you want to drink it? 

Many parks treat their water with the same kind of chlorine you would use in your pool. This kind of treatment is not an exact science. Parks that have their own water system are required to test the water on a regular basis. The testing is simple -
but it is also quite easy to fowl it up 
(park employees are not rocket scientists)
and poor testing creates meaningless results. 

Also -
 if the water tests happen to fail
(show nasty things growing in the water)
the day after you visit - 
you may get an unpleasant surprise. 

A friend of mine used to work at and housed in barracks on site at Campground Park. He told me there were warnings in the kitchen and bathroom recommending that employees not drink the water. Bottled water was provided by thier employer. When he asked about it -
He was told that the water was ok to drink on a short term basis but you shouldn't consume it over a long period of time.
The water was considered safe enough for campers but not safe for employees?

I would not recommend drinking water anyplace where you are unsure of its purity.

Some recreation areas have natural springs or wells with incredibly good water.
 Enjoy the water where you can - 
and bring your own everyplace else. 

We bring large five gallon water jugs of our own water!


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