When you’re traveling, whether hiking in the backcountry or exploring other countries, it’s crucial to have access to a clean, safe water supply. Drinking unclean water can result in a host of health problems, including diarrhea and intestinal parasites, which can then lead to dehydration and even death.
Unfortunately, it can be extremely difficult to determine if a water source is truly safe. Simply looking at water isn’t enough, as even the clearest water can be teeming with unseen bacteria. Additionally, local residents of other countries will be immune to certain bacterias and thus won’t become sick when drinking from certain water sources, meaning you can’t rely on them to direct you to a clean source.
What you need is a water filter. A water filter removes harmful contaminants from almost any water source, allowing you to drink confidently.
In this article we’re going to guide you through:
- What is a water filter?
- How does a filter work?
- What water filters work best for backcountry hiking?
- What water filters work best for international travel?
What is A Water Filter?
There is a difference between a water filter and a water purifier. The difference between them is tied to the size of the microorganism each filters out. A water filter strains out protozoan cysts and bacteria that are of primary concern in the United States and Canada. However, a water filter will NOT filter out viruses.
A water purifier removes viruses, which usually are too small for most filters to effectively catch. They typically use specific chemicals, such as iodine, or ultraviolet light.
However, there are some filters, such as our Village Bucket Filters, which actually block particles at the .1 micron level, which is sufficient to purify water due to the fact that viruses by nature clump and attach to sediment. This is a key distinction and is crucial due to the fact that water purifiers typically are too small to clean water in large quantities.
So what does this mean? Most standard water filters such as those used in backcountry hiking or those used to remove flouride are not sufficient for international use. Why? Because they simply don’t filter out viruses. If you use only a filter you could be afflicted by a virus.
However, there are a few select ones such as the Village Bucket filter which can be trusted to remove both harmful bacteria and viruses. If you’re planning on traveling abroad, consider using a water purifier or a powerful water filter, such as the Village Bucket filter, which can act as both a filter and a purifier.
How Does A Water Filter Work?
A water filter uses an element or cartridge to capture tiny bacteria, debris, and protozoa. As with any filter, repeated use causes the filter to clog and it must be thoroughly cleaned or replaced.
Water purifiers typically rely on either ultraviolet light or chemicals to remove viruses.
A prefilter can be used to first remove sediment and debris from the water, thus making it easier to filter and purify. This is especially useful is you need to filter a significant quantity of water that is full of dirt, leaves, or any other type of sediment.
What Water Filters Work Best For Backcountry Hiking?
When it comes to backcountry hiking in the United States or Canada, using a water filter is sufficient. When it comes to selecting a filter, you have a number of options.
Image via cascadedesigns.com
A pump filter allows you to put a hose into a water source, a bottle onto the outlet hose, and then pump exactly how much water you need. It has the advantage of being precise, working easily in shallow water, and coming with a replaceable cartridge. However, pumping a large quantity of water requires a significant expenditure of energy and requires constant cleaning of the filter to remove debris.
As you would imagine, a gravity filter harnesses the power of gravity to force water from a hanging reservoir down through a filter. It’s simple to use, can process large quantities of water, and uses a replaceable cartridge. On the flip side, it can be difficult to find a location to hang a water reservoir and difficult to fill the reservoir from shallow water sources.
A bottle filter is a sippable water bottle that has a built-in filter. Some of them rely on suction to draw the water through the filter while others work in a similar fashion to a coffee French Press. They are extremely simple and portable, but you are significantly limited in how much water you can process.
Boiling water is a simple way to easily remove all pathogens from water, including both viruses and bacteria. However, there are some obvious, significant disadvantages. You must carry the boiling container wherever you go, you must have a sufficient heat source, and you are limited in the amount of water you can purify, both by time and size. Additionally, boiling water doesn’t remove sediment in the water. Clearly, boiling water is not ideal if you’re doing a significant amount of hiking.
A straw filter allows you to drink directly from a water source. The water is pulled from the source, up through the straw, through the filter, and then into the mouth. It’s an incredibly portable, simple solution. However, you must be present at a water source and either willing to pass the straw around or ensure each person has their own straw.
What Water Filters Work Best For International Travel?
When discussing water filters and international use, some careful distinction is required. Most of the filters listed above are not appropriate for international travel or use due to the fact that almost all filters fail to remove viruses. You could use a gravity filter or straw filter and still get terrible sick.
This means you either need to use a filter/purifier, chemicals, or a .1 micron water filter to that can filter out the viruses that have attached to sediment.
Many purifiers use UV light to remove harmful viruses from water. The downside to these purifiers is that they often don’t filter the water, meaning it then has to be run through a filter. Chlorine- and iodine- based chemicals can also be used to purify water but they typically leave a strong aftertaste.
Additionally, UV purifiers are usually small and require batteries, limiting the amount of water that can be purified at one time.
So is there a way to filter and purify significant quantities of water at once? There is. Bucket filters like our Village Bucket Filter allow you to purify and filter a large quantity of water at once without resorting to UV light or harsh chemicals. Because it filters at the .1 micron level, it sufficiently removes both harmful bacteria and viruses.
By filtering at the .1 micron level, it removes the clumped viruses and viruses that have attached to sediment, thus making it safe to drink.
The Village Bucket Pre-Filter can be used to remove sediment and debris prior to filtering, allowing for a smoother flow of water.
When choosing a water filter, it’s crucial to evaluate the circumstances in which it will be used. Will you only be filtering bacteria out of the water? If so, a standard water filter, such as a gravity filter, straw filter, or bottle filter is sufficient. Size and speed of filtering will be your main criteria in selecting your filter.
If you will be traveling internationally, you will need a water purifier or a water filter robust enough to filter at a fine enough level to block viruses.