Those photos are best viewed before you eat anything because they show what organisms floating around untreated water look like in all of their glory. These organisms accompany the story written by Infectious Disease Senior Writer Helen Branswell.
She’s no stranger to researching and compiling editorial content related to infectious diseases, outbreaks, preparedness, and vaccine development.
“Never drink untreated water,” Branswell warns and you will want to follow her advice – especially if you dare to scan those photos at. Convinced? You should be.
Potable Aqua Water Purification Tablets With PA Plus – OUR PICK
- 2-for-1: Contains 50 regular and 50 PA Plus Purification Tablets
- Purifies faster than competitor products
- Affordable and effective
- Little to no iodine aftertaste
- Takes up little room in backpack.
- No expiration date on bottles; shelf life is 1-year only
- Double the wait time if water is extremely cold
- Dilution instructions may not be clear.
If affordability and high ratings are among the criteria you use to select a product, getting 2 50-count bottles of tablets for around $11 could make this safety product the one you select.
It takes only 35 minutes to turn a suspect bottle of bacteria-ridden and contaminated water into a suitable drink that safeguards the gastrointestinal system from being assaulted by bacteria and Giardia lamblia.
Used by military and emergency organizations to protect troops and workers from contaminated drinking water, these tablets even improve the taste and color of water so it’s not just safe but palatable as well.
Read more: 5 Best Electrolyte Powders for Hydration During a Hike or Camp
Aquatabs Water Purification Tablets – Also Great!
- Subject to stringent manufacturing standards
- Promises 5-year shelf life
- 1 tablet produces 0.75 liters of clean drinking water
- Can kill viruses in addition to bacteria and micro-organisms
- Manufactured in EPA-approved facility
- Tablets can be hard to remove from strip
- Use instructions could be missing
- Ratio of water-to-tablet may be difficult to gauge.
Aquatabs safely remove a variety of harmful bacteria, viruses, and micro-organisms commonly found in contaminated water. The company has been producing this product for 20+ years, so the brand is well established and recommended for adults, kids, and even pets.
Using methods and materials that meet exacting standards, production of these tablets is undertaken in a stringently controlled environment meeting NSF/ANSI Standard 60 Certification criteria.
Prepared in an EPA-registered facility, Aquatabs are often the first choice of aid agencies, non-governmental organizations, and defense forces. When added to water, tablets dissolve fast to produce a potable drink that tastes pleasant.
Sold in lots of 10-tablets per strip in multi-strip boxes, you will pay around $15 for 100 tablets.
Katadyn Micropur MP1 Purification Tablets
- Every package is printed with an expiration date
- Tablets are sealed in foil packets for freshness/safety
- Easy to understand the water-to-tablet ratio
- Especially effective against Cryptosporidium
- Good value for the price.
- Won’t improve the taste of the water
- Expiration date could be suspect
- It may be hard to find this product.
At $18 per package, the Katadyn Micropur MP1 Purification system comes in both tablet and liquid form, but for the purpose of outdoor enthusiasts not eager to carry liquids into the wilderness, tablets sealed within waterproof strips are the product of choice.
Katadyn tablet manufacturer claims that it’s the “only tablet or liquid has proven effective against viruses, bacteria, Giardia, and Cryptosporidium in all water conditions.”
No math required to use this product: every tablet treats a liter of water. Drop it in, wait 30 minutes and drink up. If the water is cold and dirty, Katadyn recommends waiting for 4 hours.
EPA registered for safety, you’ll pay a little more but the water-to-tablet mixing ratio requiring no calculations could make that decision an easy one
LifeStraw Personal Water Filter
- Great alternative to iodine-based tablets
- Package weighs just 2-ounces for ultralight portability
- Offers a high flow rate when drinking from water source
- Hollow fiber membrane technology is brilliant
- Comes with sealed bag to store LifeStraw between uses.
- Won’t filter out chemical toxins
- Shelf life may be shorter if exposed to constant hot sun
- Shouldn’t be used to process salt/sea water.
The LifeStraw Personal Water Filter aims to be unique so it can’t be compared to competitor products. Priced at around $17.50, this award-winning filter has become a must-have for any trek or occasion that requires water purification.
How effective is it? LifeStraw can filter up to 1,000 gallons (4,000 liters) of contaminated water without using iodine, chlorine or other chemicals.
LifeStraw purports to remove a minimum of 99.99% of waterborne bacteria and 99.9-percent of waterborne protozoan parasites. It surpasses EPA filter standards, requires no batteries and has no moving parts.
At just 2-ounces, this product is worth a try if you’re eager to avoid ingesting chemicals in order to get potable water.
FREEMOVE 2L Hydration Bladder Pack & Cleaning Kit
- Smart solution for sanitizing drinking vessels
- Use to sanitize every type of container
- 24 tablets will last a year
- Can improve the taste of water
- No other method/products required to maintain cleanliness.
- Replacement parts aren’t available
- At 2 liters, the kit will add to backpack weight
- Bladder leakage has been a big problem.
No, this is not a water purification tablet but it’s an essential product for people using hydration bladders. For folks who just want clean water when they explore the wilderness, this product doesn’t serve as a water purifier; it’s a system with tablets that clean hydration bladder so they don’t retain odor- and germ-causing contaminants.
You can buy just the cleaning tablets and use them to sanitize your personal vessels or buy the bladder with cleaning tools.
Priced accordingly (between $9.50 and $16.50), sanitizing is done by tossing 1 tablet into the bladder, adding 2- and 3-liters of water and allowing the tablet to do its work in from 15 to 30 minutes. Use tablets on the go while camping, hiking, traveling or anywhere you worry about the cleanliness of your drinking vessel.
Why drinking water in the wilderness can be dangerous
When Dr. John Snow investigated cholera cases in London in 1849, he tested water from a community source that verified his hunch: the Soho water system was filled with deadly microorganisms responsible for the area’s illness and death. Since that time, purified water has been standard throughout the world
Does this mean that you can drink from springs and lakes removed from urban settings? Not unless you want to tempt fate. Drinking wilderness water could make you so sick, you will have to call for help. Avoid this scenario by putting purification tablets into your pack before you head for the wilderness, so you stay safe.
Read more: How Much Water to Bring Camping
What to consider when buying water purification tablets
3 Types of purification tablets
Chlorine-based purification tablets are touted as ideal for removing the Giardia lamblia parasite that can lurk in contaminated water. This type of product doesn’t win high marks in the taste department because it’s known to leave a nasty aftertaste that can only be mediated by leaving the bottle open until evaporation takes place.
Keep this in mind if you pick one of these products: water may become re-contaminated if the cup or container is left standing or remains in storage too long.
Chlorine Dioxide-based tablets represent a completely different chemical structure, which is why these products are so highly effective against bacteria, viruses, cysts and Cryptosporidium.
Scientists look upon this agent as extremely efficient because it can destroy so many types of organisms. In fact, major cities throughout the world choose chlorine dioxide over other chemicals to maintain healthy water supplies. But this is far from a perfect solution. It could take up to 4 hours to purify water, so you may have to wait awhile to sip.
Iodine-based tablets also remove the Giardia lamblia parasite from contaminated water, but in order to achieve best results, scientists recommend using these purifiers in warmer water and allowing them to dissolve for 30 minutes to do the job.
This type of tablet is known to leave an aftertaste and the smell that can turn people off, which is why savvy users add vitamin C before the tablet evaporates to neutralize that odor. Doctors warn people with thyroid conditions to steer clear of anything with iodine, and this is no exception.
What to look for when shopping for purification tablets
- The largest number of high-quality tablets for the best price
- Time factor. If a 4-hour wait is too long, factor it into your buying decision
- Right dosage. Choose a product with an easy-to-understand tablet-to-water ratio
- Intended use. Some tablets are made for travel; others for emergency or military use
- Contamination specificity. Match the right purification tablet with problems you’ll encounter at your destination
- Shelf life. Individually-wrapped tablets can be viable for up to 5 years; non-encapsulated tablets are best used within a year of purchase
- Price. Most purification tablets fit into a narrow price range and are affordable
- Added ingredients. If you have health issues that could be exacerbated by ingredients used to make a certain tablet (e.g., TGHP; Tetraglycine Hydroperiodide; Sodium Dichloroisocyanurate; Chlorine Dioxide), check with your doctor before you buy it.
Who benefits from using water purification tablets?
- Backpackers. These tablets rarely weigh more than a few ounces, even if a trekking trip to the wilderness lasts a long time.
- Disaster relief volunteers. These folks need to stay safe and strong to undertake their humanitarian work and they can’t afford to get sick.
- People in transit who don’t want to drag bottled water. For truck drivers, farmers and people working in remote places who haven’t a conduit to purified water, these tablets can be lifesavers.
- Victims of catastrophes. hurricanes, tornadoes, and tsunamis can all impact water systems that have been destroyed. Health authorities highly recommend using water purification tablets until systems are tested and declared safe again.
- People in underdeveloped nations. Relief organizations rely upon these tablets for their volunteers and the people they are helping.
- Military personnel operating in war zones, folks undertaking peacekeeping missions and disaster relief rely upon tablets to assure purity when water is dodgy.
- Utility companies. Urban water processing systems can be targets for sabotage or may be otherwise compromised. The ability to purify tap water in such circumstances is critical.
So I think by now you should be totally convinced that water purification tablets must be an essential part of any hiking gear checklist.
10 benefits of using water purification tablets
Aside from aforementioned benefits that include killing harmful pathogens, ease of use and immediate ability to provide clean water with little waiting, folks who rely upon water purification tablets benefit in ways that may not be evident
- By staying hydrated, your immune system remains strong
- Drinking purified water allows you to maintain proper body temperature
- You needn’t cut back on physical activities if you get adequate amounts of water
- Use tablets to forestall organic spoilage
- Your mobility won’t be impaired; purify as you go if you pick tablets over liquids
- Water purification tablets can help rid fruits and veggies of contaminants when water integrity is questionable
- Can’t invest in high-tech purifying machines right now? Tablets can hold the line until circumstances change
- Extended shelf life tablets are ideal for survivalists prepping for an apocalypse
- Tablets rather than liquids won’t leak or otherwise damage items in your backpack or luggage
- You can always help a stranger in need of a clean potable water