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Methods of Water Purification

When you're hiking or backpacking out in the wilderness, and see a stream of fresh running water.  Its easy not to take a second thought about drinking the water because it looks clean.  Although even if it looks clean, there is a good chance that it could be contaminated by water borne pathogens like Giardia, Cyclosporiasis, etc (for more information see the following article).

Depending on where you get your water, you should purify all water before drinking it unless you know its from a clean reliable source.  Before heading out into an unknown area, make sure to read up on the different types of available water sources.

There are four common methods available for purifying water.
  • Filters (there are several different products available and comes in many shapes and sizes)
    • PROS
      • Can remove water borne pathogens, debris and other types of contaminants.
      • There is no waiting for the chemicals to take effect, and leaves no after taste.
    • CONS
      • Heavier and bulkier then UV and chemical based products.
      • It's possible for the device to clog or fail when using it.
  • UV (sold under product name SteriPEN)
    • PROS:
      • Lighter then products based on filters, can kill water borne pathogens.  
      • There is no waiting for the chemicals to take effect, and leaves no after taste.
    • CONS:
      • Can't remove debris and other types of contaminants.
      • Requires batteries, if they die you're in out of luck.
  • Chemical (Common products utilize: Iodine and Chlorine)
    • PROS:
      • Lighter then products based on filters, and can kill water borne pathogens. 
      • Doesn't require batteries, and is cheaper then other types of purification products.
    • CONS:
      • Can't remove debris and other types of contaminants.
      • Have to wait for the chemicals to take effect, and can leave an after taste in the water.
  • Boiling (Most common method for purifying water used around the world)
    • PROS:
      • Kills water borne pathogens once you get the water boiling.
      • There is no waiting for the chemicals to take effect, and leaves no after taste.
    • CONS:
      • Requires a heat and fuel source to boil the water.
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