In the Great Outdoors, Treat Water Before You Use It

In the Great Outdoors, You Must Treat Water Before You Use It

When in the Great Outdoors, it is best to treat all water sources as being contaminated. Therefore, you must treat the water before you using it for drinking, cooking, cleaning of food, and hygiene purposes. If you treat water as always being contaminated, you will never get into trouble drinking the water you find.

So, why would wilderness water be contaminated? In the wild, water can be contaminated for many reasons:

  • Bacteria
  • Pathogens
  • Microorganisms
  • Feces (animal defecation making it into the water supply)
  • Urine (animal urine making it into the water supply)
  • Contaminants from nearby towns making it into the water supply
  • Decaying animal carcuses in or near water supplies
  • Many other things I am not remembering

So, you now assume the water is contaminated, but how should you treat it? One way is to use a portable water filter from Katadyn or similar manufacturers. Katadyn water filters kill organisms by passing the water through a silver-impregnated ceramic filter. Basically, the filter removes anything that is .2 microns or larger from the water.

Another method is to boil the water. You don’t actually have to bring the water to a boil as once it reaches 185 degrees, it is safe to drink. However, if you do decide to bring it to a boil, you don’t have to boil it for 10 minutes or more. Once the water reaches that temperature, all the organisms are dead. Besides, boiling for 10 minutes or more wastes fuel, which may be precious commodity in a survival situation. Now, I tell you this, but you may wonder how do you know the water is 185 degrees unless you have a thermometer? Well, you won’t, unless you’re a professional water boiler and just know from looking. However, you know when it’s boiling, that’s good enough.

Now, heating water kills the organisms, but it doesn’t remove any chemicals that are present in the water. So in the end, it is safest to filter the water before using it.

You may be wondering how I know this? Well, this information is available in survival books, however I learned from experience. And it only took one time to learn.

I had just graduated from college, and I was spending the summer in Europe studying for Master’s degree credit (no I don’t have a Master’s degree, I just wanted to go on the trip). While in the Italian countryside outside Rome, there was often natural sources of water available. I had an enjoyable day of drinking the clear, cold water available in the area. Well, I spent the next two days in bed and in the bathroom. The diarrhea was horrible. I learned my lesson the hard way and fortunately didn’t have to go to a hospital.

I know how enticing that mountain stream is. Just look at that cold, clear, inviting water. But filter it first, and you won’t make the same mistake I did. And you won’t spend some of your holiday in bed and in the bathroom.


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