Water really is life, so being able to get clean water in the backcountry is a huge priority. It is an immediate need. Generally speaking, the average adult will need to consume about one half-gallon (64 ounces/1.89 Liters) of water per day to remain hydrated. This need will increase if you are in a hot environment or are physically exerting yourself. Extremely hot and dry environments like the desert may increase your daily needs up to as much as 1-1.5 gallons. Sickness and injury are also factors that will increase your hydration needs. Another thing to consider: if you do have a food source, it will require additional water to digest it. You should be careful consuming food if you do not have adequate water. Dehydration is more of a threat in the short-term than starvation.
Water in the wild can be extremely clean and could possibly be safe to drink as it is, but it could also be contaminated with any number of things. The list of potential waterborne pathogens is extremely long. The list includes protozoans, bacteria, parasites, and viruses. In addition to that, in some areas you may need to worry about chemicals and heavy metals. These are microscopic, so it is not possible to determine if a pathogen is or isn’t in the water source you find with the naked eye. Suffice to say, you should assume all water is contaminated and take the necessary steps to make it safe to drink before consuming it. Just because the water looks clean and clear, doesn’t mean it is. Vomiting, diarrhea, and fever will all put you at an increased risk for severe dehydration. This is the opposite of what you are trying to do by drinking the water to begin with.
You should always take steps to make water safe to drink if you have the means to do so. If you do not have the means to make it safe to drink, should you pass up the water resource and not drink it? That is a personal choice that you must make for yourself based on your situation at the time. If waterborne pathogens are indeed in the water, and if you consume enough of that pathogen that your immune system cannot fight it off successfully, you will likely be sick within 24-48 hours after consumption. That sickness will likely result in vomiting and diarrhea which will make the situation worse once it starts. With that said, how dehydrated are you? If you are severely dehydrated, you could die from that within the day. Is it reasonable to expect that you could make your way out and get home or to seek medical care before that sickness actually sets in and becomes a problem? Those are some of the things you should consider based on your situation. I personally would not choose dying of dehydration today to prevent myself from possibly being sick tomorrow.
If you are down to drinking wild water with no way of knowing if it safe to drink or not, before consuming it, take a moment to reflect on your choices leading up to that moment. The question you should be asking yourself is “why?” In the age of affordable filters and unlimited education resources like blogs and videos, why are you still unprepared to safely provide for such a basic human need for survival? There are small, pocket-sized filters out there now that are inexpensive and extremely effective against most of what is going to make you sick. One of them should be in every pack you have in my opinion.
The Sawyer Micro Squeeze fits in the palm of your hand and only weighs two ounces. It has a 0.1 Micron Absolute filtration. This means that particles and pathogens that are larger than this are trapped by mechanical filtration. The Micro Squeeze removes 99.99999% of bacteria (salmonella, cholera, and E. coli), 99.9999% of protozoa (cryptosporidium and giardia), and 100% of microplastics — exceeding EPA recommendations for removal rates. Attach the Micro Squeeze to the included drinking pouch, use the included straw to drink directly from your water source, connect it to your hydration pack tubing, or screw it onto standard disposable bottles (28mm thread).
The Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter is a little bit larger (but still small) weighs just three ounces. ensures you have access to clean water in the backcountry or anywhere in the world. Simply fill up the pouch at a lake, stream, or river, screw the filter directly onto the pouch, and then squeeze the bag to filter water into a bottle. The Sawyer Squeeze uses the same 0.1-micron absolute filtration and is equally effective at achieving the same level of filtration for common bacteria and protozoa as well as the micro plastics.
How long do these filters last? Both filters’ membranes are sturdy enough to withstand backwashing using the included syringe, restoring up to 98.5% of the filter’s flow rate each time you clean it. The Micro Squeeze can be cleaned and reused almost indefinitely with no expensive cartridges to replace… ever. Of course, you want to backwash and sanitize the filter after every outing to get the best results. In addition, the included syringe works well for wound irrigation (when it’s still clean, of course) for those backcountry cuts and scrapes.
So, which one is right for you? They seem pretty much like they are the same. In many ways, they are. The Sawyer Micro Squeeze does claim a rating of 100,000 gallons while the slightly larger Sawyer Squeeze has a lifetime warranty. The Micro Squeeze weighs one ounce less than the Squeeze, and costs about $10 less. Obviously, the life of either can be cut short by lack of maintenance or freezing (which is one of the reasons I don’t use filters in the winter), but even if you had to replace your Micro at 100,000 gallons, that is still a lot of water. To put it in perspective, if you were to supply 100% of your basic daily requirement of one-half gallon of water per day, it would take you 200,000 days (547.94 years) to reach that.
Both are going to be great options. Both are small, lightweight, and affordable enough to pack in every bag and vehicle you have.
Let’s shift gears for a minute from backpacks and vehicle preps and look at the home. We have all probably experienced the “Boil Water” advisory after a storm or power outage. With storm season coming in, this is the time to start thinking about how you will get water for you and your family. Boiling is one option in a lot of cases. I don’t like to rely on any one thing for something so critical. You could use one of the “backpack” filters of course, but for my house I have the Sawyer Tap Filter. I have a well and that well is spring fed, but I cannot be 100% sure what is in that water without sending it off for testing. Same thing holds true for any tap water, I suppose. You assume that it is safe to drink because the municipality says it is. Call me a skeptic, but municipal standards aren’t necessarily my standards for something that I am directly consuming on a daily basis.
The Sawyer Tap Filtration System is fairly new. It gives me the same 0.1-micron level filtration that I expect from my Sawyer backpack filters. The Sawyer Tap Filter removes biological contaminants, guaranteeing immediate clean drinking water when you need it most. Great to use when traveling, during boil alerts, or in emergencies when safe drinking water is compromised, the Tap Filter is easy-to-use and will filter to up to five hundred gallons of clean drinking water per day. It’s the ideal component for use during natural disasters such as floods, hurricanes, fires, and earthquakes. Hitting the road? Consider the Tap Filter your pocket-sized peace of mind for all questionable sources –– campgrounds, festivals, events, in RVs, and when traveling internationally. I have been extremely impressed with this filter and was happy to add it to my lineup of various filters and means of obtaining clean water no matter what comes. It is a must for even household in my opinion.
Avoid that moment of quiet reflection by the pool of unknown water that you are about to have to consume to stay alive, not knowing what could be in it. Be prepared first. Sawyer filters are too inexpensive, compact, and effective to pass up.
Hope to see you in the woods!