Pick the Best Water Treatment!
Steripen -Aquamira -MSR MiniWork Filter
Finding clean water is an essential part of everyday life, especially on trail when you are miles from civilization. Finding the best water treatment can be more important than shelter or food while backpacking. Here are some of my favorite water treatments, and how they have worked or didn’t work in the past.
Although I have used all three methods of purifying water, the Steripen has been my favorite for the last three years. The Steripen is a lightweight water purification device that uses UV light to purify 99.9% of the water. The UV light treatment rids the water of bacteria, giardia and viruses. The Steripen is good for over 8,000 treatments, and it will not change the taste or odor of the water. Steripen will send you a new pen if you use the entire life of the pen. The Steripen is a bit pricey at first but the cost is worth the efficiency and longevity of the product. For around 60-100 dollars the Steripen will purify over 2000 gallons of water. The only major con with the Steripen is its inability to purify water with floating particles. The water has to be free of debris and clear. I have never experienced a problem using the Steripen in multiple countries and on multiple backpacking trips. The Steripen can clean a 32 ounce Nalgene in just under a minute and also doubles as a flashlight if needed.
There are hundreds of water filters on the market, but the only one I relay on is the MSR MiniWork EX MicroFilter. Although it is bulkier than the Steripen, the Filter is still very lightweight. The Filter can clean the same water as the Steripen with a little bit of manual labor and it can also clear water with debris. The filter can also screw directly onto a Nalgene bottle making it extremely efficient and convenient. Some of the problems you could face with the MSR filter is the possibility of Bacterial growth in the filter if it is not cleaned properly. Some parts of the filter, including the filter itself, will have to be replaced over time depending on usage. MSR claims it can filter 2000 liters before needing to be replaced. Since it has a ceramic/carbon filter it cannot freeze like some other water filters, but it can still become clogged. Simply scrape off any debris from the filter and it is like new. The MSR filter can change the taste and odor of the water, which is a positive. The MSR filter takes 1 minute to clean 32 ounces of water. The MSR filtration kit also has different adapters for a camalback configuration if you are cleaning water for a large group.
Chemicals such as iodine or chlorine treatments are easy to carry, work in most cases and are an easy back up if either of the previous systems fail, but they have major cons. The tablets have been known to fail or expire. The tablets are even banned in some places, as Iodine is banned in Europe. The tablets also make the water distasteful and can take up to an hour to work effectively. Chlorine Dioxide is the the best chemical on the market at the moment. The Aquamira drops can clean up to 30 gallons without any bad after taste and the drops can last up to 4 years. I always have these in my pack just in case.
This age old water treatment still works wonders today, but it does take a lot more effort and time while on trail. Unless you get a fire going, you will also be using precious fuel to boil water and once you bring your water to a boil, you have to wait for it to cool. Save this for the real survival situation.
In conclusion I still believe the Steripen is the best way to purify you water because it efficiency and convenience. The MSR is an amazing product and probably a more practical filter to cover the entire world of traveling, but it will be my secondary for now. Aquamira Drops will be in my survival pack for a last ditch effort, because boiling water will probably happen before I break them out. You can’t really go wrong with any of these products, so just get out in the wild and figure out what works best for you!