Hiker Logo

Hiking Water Treatment

Home Hiking Gear Stores Trails Search
Home > Gear > Tech Notes

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.

Chlorine

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.

Iodine

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.

Oxidizers

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

Expedition Water Filter$1499.95
Expedition Water Filter The Katadyn Expedition Filter is the best microfilter for large groups and relief organizations. Ideal for outfitters, base camps and expeditions. Exclusive silver impregnated ceramic element lasts up to 26,000 gal. Made from durable stainless steel design for lasting performance.
Pocket Microfilter$369.95
Pocket Microfilter The Katadyn Pocket Filter is the most rugged, longest lasting microfilter available. This robust water filter made of heavy duty materials is ideal for long lasting continuous use even under extreme circumstances. The silver impregnated ceramic element is effective against bacteria and protozoa. The Katadyn Pocket is the only water filter with a 20 year warranty.
Guardian Water Purifier$349.95
Guardian Water Purifier WORLD'S MOST ADVANCED PORTABLE PURIFIER The MSR Guardian purifier combines military-grade engineering and game-changing hollow fiber technology to create the safest, easiest way to purify water virtually anywhere on earth. 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.
TRK Drip Ceradyn Filter$317.95
TRK Drip Ceradyn Filter The TRK Drip Ceradyn Filter from Katadyn is simply a water container with a built-in filter; requires no pumping. Does not contain activated carbon - that is the difference between the Ceradyn and Gravidyn filter.
Pocket Replacement Filter$199.95
Pocket Replacement Filter Katadyn Pocket Replacement Filter.
Guardian Filter Cartridge Replacement$143.96
Guardian Filter Cartridge Replacement The MSR Guardian Filter Cartridge Replacement - Replacement hollow fiber cartridge.
First Need Xle Purifier$132.95
First Need Xle Purifier First Need XLE (Elite) retains all the great features of the First Need XL and introduces more robust survivability and extended capacity with a new convenient, sanitary back rinse port, to remove accumulated debris without changing hose connections. The XLE canister is interchangeable with many earlier First Need systems. Removes bacteria, cysts, and viruses. "Direct Connect" fits most water bottles and hydration packs. Output: 2.0 qt/min. Cartridge capacity: 180 gal. Wt: 16 oz.
PURE Electrolytic Water Purifier$119.99
PURE Electrolytic Water Purifier Potable Aqua PURE is a highly effective water purification device that is both the smallest and lightest-weight available. The PURE device creates a powerful mixed oxidant solution utilizing a small amount of brine solution (salt + water) capable of purifying even the dirtiest water. With no replacement parts or pre-filtration required, the PURE device is great for water disinfection for outdoors, travel, and emergency preparedness. The PURE device is scalable - purifying from one liter to 20 liters per cycle with a lifetime capacity of 60,000+ liters.
Combi Ceramic Replacement Filter$119.95
Combi Ceramic Replacement Filter Replacement Filter for the Katadyn Combi Filter.
Mission - High-Volume Water Purifier$115.96
Mission - High-Volume Water Purifier The LifeStraw(R) Mission gravity powered water purifier removes 99.9999% of bacteria, 99.99% of protozoa, and 99.999% of viruses, while purifying an impressive 18,000 liters of water. Simply fill the BPA-Free bag, hang, and enjoy clean, purified drinking water. It's Ideal for camping, group hikes, and expeditions, and is available in 5 liter or 12 liters sizes.

Related Information:

Water Impurities

Water Purification


Home | Hiking | Gear | Stores | Trails | Search

The Hiking Web Site. Copyright 2000-2007 by Eric Olsen. All Rights Reserved. Email Contact