Importance of Water
Water is essential for maintaining a healthy body and, ultimately, our survival. Without water, your body will stop functioning properly.
Water helps to regulate our body temperature and keep your tissues moist, which protects our joints. This moisture helps protect the tissue of the body, helps move minerals to other parts of the body and carries out nutrients and oxygen to the cells of the body.
The importance of water is especially crucial in the head region. The mouth, eyes and the nose all depend upon water to help lubricate it. The brain is composed of almost 75% water. Without water for a prolonged period, you can become disoriented, and your memory will falter.
Lack of water in your body can force your heart to pump harder just to deliver oxygenated cells to your muscles. Drinking more water will also help push various toxins out of your body.
In an extreme wilderness survival situation, remember that you can only survive three days without water and three weeks without food.
Food is less important as your body can switch to stored fat to power itself.
It is important to stay well hydrated, drinking approximately two liters of water per day when you are active. You’ll need to drink more if you’re exercising or on a hike, as you could need up to an additional two liters per hour over the course of the day.
The lack of water can lead to fatigue and exhaustion. You need to stay hydrated, or else it will start to impact your ability to perform your day to day activities.
What is Filtration
Filtering your water is important to get rid of a variety of contaminants that are dissolved in your water source. These impurities include hard metals, chemicals, pesticides and other pollutants.
There are some advantages to filtering your water. The first is that you can do this anywhere along the trail. As opposed to boiling water (where you essentially have to stop and set up a fire), you can filter your water in a bottle while you’re on the move. Filtration doesn’t take a significant amount of time.
The drawbacks of filtration systems are that they are costly, they do not remove viruses and you typically have to replace filtration system cartridges on a regular basis.
One choice of water filtration is to use a synthetic cartridge. A synthetic filter pumps water quickly, so you get a lot of water output for not as much work time. They are not fielding maintainable, and they tend to clog faster because the synthetic material isn’t able to be cleaned.
Another option is a ceramic style filter. These pump a lot slower than synthetics but are field maintainable. A drawback is that they can freeze in the wintertime, which could potentially damage that cartridge.
There are also filters available that combine a ceramic filter at the top with a synthetic filter underneath it.
In a pinch, you can filter water using cloth, but it isn’t nearly as effective as the other filters mentioned above.
What is Purification
A UV light water purification system like the SteriPEN uses ultraviolet light to kill the critters in your water. A UV light system is also the type of system that is used in urban municipalities to treat large quantities of water.
The system consists of a lamp that the UV light shines through. Like ceramic filters, these UV lights can be delicate, which is why most models include a protective covering.
The upside to these models is that they are compact and lightweight. This makes them ideal for backpacking applications. They kill all forms of bacteria, including protozoa, Cryptosporidium and viruses.
The drawback for those off the grid is that these systems run on batteries, so you’re at least going to need to pack some spares or have a way to recharge your rechargeable batteries.
Chemical water treatment options have some upsides and downsides to them.
Chemical purifiers like iodine and chlorine are inexpensive and lightweight, barely taking up any space in a pack or emergency kit. Iodine is a popular chemical treatment for water, but it does make the water taste bad.
That said, you can now buy a neutralizer to the iodine which will help improve the taste of iodine-treated water. Additionally, some people are sensitive to iodine, and long-term use is not recommended even for those who aren’t sensitive to it.
Another good chemical option would be Katadyn MicroPur tablets. And boiling water is another good water treatment for killing bacteria and viruses in the water.
One of the most effective ways of treating water, even if you’re in the forest away from supplies, is to simply boil your water. It kills everything and doesn’t change the taste of the water.
You only need to bring it to a hard boil (for even an instant) to kill all the bacteria and viruses.
The drawbacks are it can take longer to boil water at a higher elevation, it uses fuel, your water is hot after boiling and you can’t be moving along the trail when you want to boil water. You can only do it when you sit down and set up a small camp fire.
Why Filtration and Purification are Both Necessary
You ultimately want a system that both filters and purifies the water and brings it back to a spring water type of quality without any funny bacteria and other surprises inside of it.
You’ll need a system with the ability to filter out chemicals as well as bacteria. Also, you have to be careful with the various filters you use as wet filters can themselves start to harbor bacteria. Filters are a necessity, especially when you are no longer dealing with the potable water that is being sent from your city or town’s filtration system.
When you’re using non-potable water (like from rivers, lakes, streams or ponds), you are going to need to filter out the sediment that makes it into the water.
There are all sorts of things you need to filter out, including bug larvae, dirt, leaves, etc. Even if you’re dealing with potable water that’s already been treated, you’ll still appreciate that you can get rid of chemicals like chlorine in the water using a filter.
If you were to drink water without treating it, that could lead to some very bad side effects. Some of the issues you can have when drinking unfiltered water include three common ones.
One is called Giardia, another is called Cryptosporidium and the third is called E. coli. The first two, Giardia and Cryptosporidium, are both parasites, while E. coli is a bacteria.
All three can cause a variety of symptoms: watery stools (possibly even bloody stools), fatigue, confusion, dehydration, fever, vomiting and flu-like symptoms. That’s why it’s important that your water is purified even after you’ve filtered it.