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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Hiking Hydration and Water Treatment


How much water do you carry on your hikes? Do you carry all your water for the day or do you replenish your supply? If you do, how do you re-supply your water?

First of all how much water should you consume to stay hydrated. The figure can vary widely but the Mayo Clinic says that most men should consume 3 liters a day and most women 2.2 liters a day. That's a little over 100 fluid ounces and roughly equivalent to carrying 6.5 pounds.

I often carry two 40 ounce stainless steel bottles and a couple of 12 ounce juices. I like the juices for the sugar. The weight of the bottles doesn't bother me. I like the fact I don't have to stop to re-supply water during the day. So realistically, I consume about 9 to 13 ounces an hour over most hikes that are between 8-12 hours which are on average 15-25 miles. That is my preference, but many people do it differently. This article  says that people like me are carrying too much. However I've given up on the "fast and light" method. I know I have to eat and drink, so why not do it on my terms? There is a huge debate in the hiking community that at times is laughable.

How do you purify your water? While the usually mentioned threat is Giardia or Beaver Fever, there are a lot of human diseases you are susceptible to since you are rarely alone in the wild.  Methods for purifying water are chemical treatment, filtering, boiling, and UV treatment.

Chemical Treatment is done with Iodine or Chlorine. Iodine has a shelf life and performance wise can be subject to working better in certain atmospheric or temperature ranges. Most packaged products will also have a dosage for a certain amount of water and will have a time to wait usually about 30 minutes for the product before it is safe to drink. It is often suggested to add vitamin C to take away the iodine taste. There also used to be tales when I was in the Army back in the 80's that long term use of iodine was not good for the bacteria in your stomach.


Filtering has become fairly quick easy and expensive these days. The Sawyer basic filter is $24.95 in many places and provides a great level of safety. Filters are usually measured by the number of microns that they filter down to and the flow or numbers of liters that you can pump per minute. It is important with any filter to not contaminate the end that the water is coming out of. There is also maintenance on the filters, then need to be back-washed on a regular basis and the filter has a life span. Filters need maintenance and care and should be inspected before you go out. My hiking partner has one of the sawyer filters that split in an bad place that may not be repairable.

Boiling is one of the most fool proof methods. However the time to stop and boil water can be significant and you have to carry a stove and fuel. At higher elevations boiling becomes increasingly difficult. Water must be boiled for 30 minutes at 160 degrees Fahrenheit to kill all pathogens.

A relatively new method of water treatment is UV treatment. UV light induces a disconnection of covalent linkages that allow DNA to reproduce. A concern with UV light treatment is that some pathogens are much less light sensitive than others.

It is important to think ahead about what type of treatment will work best for you. It is also important to have a backup form of purification and to think ahead as to what water sources will be available on the trail based on the weather that you have been having. For example in this area currently it has been dry but we are still getting snow melt in many places. so there are good water availability points in places in the Adirondacks and Whites that you would not see under the same conditions in July through September.

Questions email info@vtarmynavy.com or call 800-448-7965.


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