What Are Water Filtration Options For Backcountry Hunters?

Think about the last time you were watching a creek flowing. Can you reminisce on the sound of the creek trickling and the amazingly cool feeling near the water. I right now am dwelling back onto last year’s backcountry hunt where I hiked in for roughly 3 1/2 hours before stopping to set up camp right next to a river. It was actually looking like I took up space in an outfitters’ camp. There were spots for horses and a campfire ring. Oops! I wouldn’t have cared if they joined but I knew I picked a good spot since they had to of been there the prior season.

With that said, I was set up right by a creek that was flowing from the top of the mountain. It was a great feeling to know I would have water to fill up in camp and I could leave plenty hanging up in my water bladders for a couple days.

So, how did I filter my water and how did I choose what to use?

The true question is, “why can’t I drink the water by itself?” Well, you can and nobody is stopping you but the best thing to do is be safe. You could catch a few bugs without filtering your water.

Giardia and Cryptosporidium are parasites that will ruin your days in the field quickly. You will be going to the bathroom and wanting some pepto within half a day. You also will be so dehydrated that it will ruin your days out in the field and can become life threatening if it’s the wrong situation.

Now, here are different options for how you can clean up your water to be safe.

Pump Filter

The MSR MiniWorks EX Water Filter is a perfect example of a pump filter. It essentially has a ceramic tube inside that has very tiny holes that allow water to go through but stops all the goobers from coming through. The benefits of a filter like this are that you can get through quite a bit of water and set up either Drom bags or other hydration packs and set them aside so you dont have to run out and refill all the time. It’s also pretty quick. Takes a few minutes to pump a couple liters of water.

Steripen is another option that seems to be really popular out there. This option is a water purifier. Notice it is not a filter. What this does to clean your water is using a light to kill the rough stuff in your water. If you have a leaf or a twig floating, the pen isn’t going to do anything for that so you will have to remove it before drinking. I haven’t heard of anyone getting sick from using these pens. The positives here are that it is light and easy to use. You don’t have to worry about too much weight when packing this into your pack. The con of having one of these is that debris can still be in your water and that you have to rely on a bit of technology here that is running on a battery. If your battery dies and you are not packing good ole tablets, you are screwed.

Lifestraw is another water filter on the market that is quite popular. It is very inexpensive and good in a jiffy. You basically use it as a straw. You can fill up water from the creek in a nalgene bottle and then suck the water up through your Lifestraw. You also could just lay down next to a puddle and get your water that way. I see this option a little more inconvenient and more of a survival tool than a water filter but nevertheless, it works!

Old Fashion Tabs or Aquamira

This option is by far the simplest. You can pack tablets in a ziploc bag or these aquamira bottles and just put part A and Part B in your water. The worst part here is that you have to wait for the product to work. I personally let things sit overnight but if you needed it right away, I’d tell you to wait a good 30 minutes before drinking. This option is what I personally pack as a backup plan. I like this more than tablets due to the taste being way better but there is a bit more risk. Tablets can break but they can still be used when crumpled up. However, if my aquamira bottles happen to pop or the top comes off and they leak out, they are no longer available to use. This is a worst case scenario but this is always how I think when I’m miles deep in the backcountry.

As you can see, there are many different options out there to use. I think the beat option out there is the one you feel most comfortable with. I like the pump filter while others like tablets. Whatever way is your favorite, stick to it. All I would advise is that you carry a backup plan due to things happening and you don’t want to be in a rough situation. If you have a buddy with you, I would pack one option with them and you have a different option on you. Or both of you can pack the same filters and if one breaks, you have your buddy to rely on.

I hope you have a great time outdoors this week.

Scout, Hunt, Repeat



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