On many short hikes, you’ll be able to bring all the water you need with you. But for longer hikes, you need a way to treat the water you find in creeks, rivers, and lakes. That’s because bacteria and viruses found in untreated water can lead to some pretty uncomfortable illnesses. There are a couple of reliable ways to treat water. Having a backup with you is always a good idea.
The simplest way to treat water is to boil it. Boiling it for one minute will do the job, but add two more minutes if you are above 6,000 feet. This requires that you carry a stove and pot with you, and is more time consuming than other methods. (If you are making pasta for dinner you don’t need to filter your water before cooking. Just make sure to boil it long enough.)
Chemical treatments, like iodine and chlorine, are also effective. They’re light in your pack and don’t take a lot of time (you can treat the bottle of water and throw it in your pack while it does its magic). Make sure to fallow the instructions.
Water filters have become increasing popular. They treat your water without changing its taste, but are heavier than the chemical alternative. Different models offer protection against different contaminants, so make sure to find the one that works best for you.
UV light purifiers are high-tech devices that use light to kill the organisms in contaminated water. They have similar advantages to filters, but are much lighter. They also require a battery, so it’s a good idea to have a back-up in case your batteries die.