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Chemical Water Purification Systems

The most common chemical water treatments used by hikers and backpackers for drinking water purification are some form of chlorine, iodine, or oxidizing agents. All of these chemical water purification options require time for the chemicals to do their job. As a general rule you should wait at least 20 minutes after adding the chemical treatment - longer for colder water since the chemicals work more slowly in colder temperatures. Remember to loosen the cap on your water container and slosh some of the treated water onto the threads of the cap and bottle to eliminate contaminates that may be trapped there.

Having to wait is probably the biggest drawback to this type of water purification. With a filter of some type you can arrive at a water source, filter, and drink immediately. With chemical water treatment when you arrive at a water source you first have to fill your container, add the treatment, wait 20 or more minutes - then you can drink. But because it is such a light weight solution to the almost universal problem of water purification, even if it is not used as the primary means of water treatment, carrying some form of chemical water purifier as a back up to a filter is a good idea for extra safety. A good item to carry on day hikes too even when you think you're carrying plenty of water just in case you end up staying out longer or get thirstier than you expected.


Probably the least effective, chlorine is somewhat unstable, adds some taste to the water, and leaves behind some chemical residue now associated with a small cancer risk.

Household Liquid Bleach that contains 5.25% sodium hypo chlorite can be used. Do not use scented, color-safe, or bleaches with added cleaners. Add about 3 to 6 drops of bleach per quart of water, mix thoroughly and allow to sit for approximately 20 minutes.


More effective than chlorine, but deteriorates when exposed to sunlight, and leaves behind an unpleasant taste, iodine is another option. It may not be suitable for people with certain types of thyroid conditions. The unpleasant taste of iodine can be countered by adding ascorbic acid (vitamin C) to the treated water, but this should only be added after having waited the recommended amount of time for treatment because it neutralizes the effectiveness of the iodine as well as the taste.

There has been some concern about possible adverse effects from using iodine over prolonged periods, but medical studies including one where prisoners used iodine over a period of several years has not proven this to be the case.

Liquid Tincture of Iodine sold in pharmacies is one possible source. Add several drops per quart of water mix thoroughly and allow to sit for at least 20 minutes. More convenient for hikers are iodine tablets sold specifically for water treatment.


Possibly the fastest acting chemical water purification option, oxidizers adds the least taste, and produce the least undesirable chemical residues, but they also generally more expensive than chlorine or iodine. This is the type of water treatment used by many municipal city water systems.


Hiking & Backpacking
Chemical Water Purification System Products

Katadyn Expedition Water Filter$1499.95
Katadyn Expedition Water Filter Katadyn Camp & Hike Expedition Water Filter 8016389. Ideal for outfitters base camps and expeditions. Exclusive silver impregnated ceramic element lasts up to 26000 gal. Made from durable stainless steel design for lasting performance.
First Need Base Camp Purifier$821.00
First Need Base Camp Purifier General Ecology Camp & Hike First Need Base Camp Purifier 371256.
Katadyn Pocket Microfilter$369.95
Katadyn Pocket Microfilter Katadyn Camp & Hike Pocket Microfilter 8013618.
MSR Guardian Water Purifier$349.95
MSR Guardian Water Purifier MSR Camp & Hike Guardian Water Purifier 2370. Co-developed with the military it brings this advanced technology to international travelers backcountry users and for disaster preparedness. Game-changing hollow fiber media offers the most reliable way to remove pathogens - even viruses - from the filthiest water. Add self-cleaning performance and this purifier shifts the paradigm.
Katadyn TRK Drip Ceradyn Filter$317.95
Katadyn TRK Drip Ceradyn Filter Katadyn Camp & Hike TRK Drip Ceradyn Filter 2110070.
Katadyn TRK Drip Gravidyn Filter$294.95
Katadyn TRK Drip Gravidyn Filter Katadyn Camp & Hike TRK Drip Gravidyn Filter 2110080.
Sagan AquaBrick Water Filtration System-Blue$179.99
Sagan AquaBrick Water Filtration System-Blue Sagan Camp & Hike Aquabrick Water Filtration System-Blue 57098. Here are a few of the highlights of this unique product.
MSR Guardian Filter Cartridge Replacement$179.95
MSR Guardian Filter Cartridge Replacement MSR Camp & Hike Guardian Filter Cartridge Replacement 2407.
Camelbak MAPS Purifier, Foliage Green$169.99
Camelbak MAPS Purifier, Foliage Green Camelbak Camp & Hike Maps Purifier Foliage Green 91169. A.P.S. The M.A.P.S. Purifier is designed to purify water on the go minimizing operator time at water sources. M.A.P.S. is compatible with all Antidote reservoirs and is small enough to be stored in a pack organizer pocket.
Water Basics Water Storage Kit W/filter 30g$159.99
Water Basics Water Storage Kit W/filter 30g Water Basics Camp & Hike Water Storage Kit W/filter 60g 67260. A multi-layer containment includes a replaceable BPA and Phthalate free food grade liner. Pump with shut-off valve series II connectivity and directional nozzle RED line protection fitting kit easy to transport set-up storage filling and dispensing.

Related Information:

Water Impurities

Water Purification

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