by Rob Horne
They are advertised as
being able to purify the raunchiest water you may ever encounter on a hike.
With their ultra fine filters and charcoal purifying filaments, you should be
able to drink from any slimy, Giardia infested, cow polluted mud hole you come
across. Even though I prefer to drink from a picturesque, clear bubbling
stream, I still use a water filter.
I’ve noticed that styles in
backpacking water filters change every few years. The most common filters range
in prices around $60 to $100 so I have always attempted to purchase one that
will last for several years. The trick is finding replacement filters for your
older model that has just been replaced with a better though,
This year I went
with the SweetWater Guardian microfilter that was offered on sale at REI for
$59. It came with a free bottle of “ViralStop ” chlorine and a free 2 liter
Platypus water bag. Theoretically, you shouldn’t need the chlorine though it
is provided for those who wish to make double sure that their water is safe.
This filter comes with a collapsible pump handle and a pre filter attached to
the intake tube. When the cartridge filter becomes clogged with contaminants, a
pressure relief valve is in place to prevent damage to the pump. They also
provide a bottlebrush for filter cleaning and they suggest you freeze your
filter cartridge for long term storage. I was please with the operation of this
filter and I appreciated the detailed instructions they provide for cleaning and
maintenance. It was refreshing to find a company that provided instructions on
lengthening the life of their filter rather than the more profitable tactic of
recommending the purchase of a new cartridge at the first sign of clogging.
Alternatives to a water
filter? For the weight and space conscious, you can try iodine tablets or you
can boil your water for at least 3 minutes. Frankly, the iodine method tastes
pretty bad and the fuel you burn up boiling water is more than the negligible
weight of a filter.
While backpacking through
Spain I once became so desperate that I drank directly from a pond without
taking any precautions at all. I dodged the bullet that time but a water filter
would have eased my mind considerably.