Pure Drinking Water — DIY

Carbon filtering; convenient for hydration packs

Convenient for hydration packs

Although I wish I could leave the Katadyn Hiker PRO Water Microfilter behind, the portable water filter is simply part of my essential backpacking gear now. I’ve had to drink from too many questionable water sources to be comfortable without one. As with all hiking gear, it makes sense to take only what you need. If you’ll be using water that isn’t too terrible — water from a highland lake or mountain stream, for example — there’s no reason to go overboard with a heavy ceramic. Carbon filtering combined with one more method of purification works just fine.

Katadyn gets high ratings from hikers looking for good filtering, high output and a reasonable weight. Both Hiker and Hiker Pro easily pump enough filtered water to supply the needs of one or two people. The Hiker Pro offers convenient hookup to the drinking tubes of hydration packs and bladders but also has a vulnerable plastic fitting at the base of the pump. Careless use snaps it off so beware. The less breakable Katadyn Hiker Water Microfilter filters to the same degree but without the easy output feature. Most people who have tried either one in the field have had good luck. Occasionally one jams or clogs prematurely. Test it on a few gallons at home as you run the first carbon tinted water out of it. Carry some spare parts if you can’t stomach the prospect of boiling as your only precaution.

Simplified and sturdy carbon filtering

Simplified and sturdy carbon filtering

Though the Katadyn Hiker Pro and the simpler Katadyn Hiker water filters claim to be 99.9 percent effective in removal of even the tricky cryptosporidium and giardia organisms, neither technically meets the CDC’s rating requirements. The glass fiber pleated primary stage filter removes particles down to 0.3 microns, good enough to filter out crypto at the minimum of 1.0 microns the CDC demands. In language, the filter specs do not say what the CDC wants to hear and that agency warns that even filters which do meet their high standards may develop faults that bypass small amounts of contaminated water into the outflow.

So, what’s a hiker to do? The company says it works, the CDC won’t back it up, and you need water to drink. The safe thing is to double up — filter and decontaminate. Use purification tablets in the filtered water if you can’t boil it before drinking. Whenever possible, boil. Put it on your list of camp chores for the day. If the filter breaks, don’t panic. Filter through a cloth and boil away. CDC regs say one minute of a rolling boil at sea level is good enough, and three minutes at high altitudes will do. My clean water recipe is better: rolling boil for one minute (three minutes in the mountains), reduce heat and cover, simmer for ten.

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