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Water Filters
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, non-interchangeable cartridge.

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.