Monday, April 7, 2014

Notes about Water and Purification Systems for Hikers

While I am feeling fairly secure in the fact that during our hike on 8/9/14 up Barr Trail to Barr Camp and then on to the summit of Pikes Peak on 8/10/14 that will have plenty of drinking I always favor on the side of being prepared.  We will take water with us and there is typically drinkable water at Barr Camp and then again at the Summit House but there in the event we need to rely on one of the water sources on America's Mountain I will be packing a water purification system.

There a few sites out there the have write ups on comparisons but by far the best I found was from Outdoor Gear Lab from the which the below information is taken.  But first a little on the importance of water especially as it pertains to physical exertion and altitude.

Physiological Facts
According to the United States Geological Survey web page up to:
60% of the human body is water
73% of the brain and heart are water
83% of the lungs
64% of the skin
79% of muscles and muscles and kidneys and
31% of our bones are water!

Here it is a graphic from the USGS site.  Notice that little blurb in the lower right hand concerning the aid in delivering OXYGEN to the entire body.  I am thinking that will become even more critical the greater the ascent into higher altitudes.

On a normal day the adult male needs 3 liters of water and females 2.2.  According to the Outdoor Gear Lab site when exercising in the mountains the required amount of water can increase by 50% meaning men may require over 4 liters of water and women 3 per day.

By the way; water weighs 1 kilo (2.2 lbs) per liter.  This is something important to keep in mind as you pack the amount of gear you will be carrying.

Concerning altitude sickness I have come across contradicting information but most of it ways towards the fact that drinking additional water helps reduce the risk of altitude sickness.  What seems more plausible is that dehydration is mistaken for altitude sickness.  Dehydration will be more prevalent during the hike due to a couple of factors, the most obvious being the additional exertion of hiking up the side of mountain.  Another factor is increased water vapor lost from the lungs, according to WikiHow.

Water Purification System Options
Items to consider when selecting a system:

  • Cost - How much will the system set you back your pocket book?
  • Reliability and Effectiveness - When out in the middle of nowhere will you be able to count on the system?  Will the system rid the water of both bacteria and virus?
  • Amount of water treated - How many hikers will be needing the water?  Will you be expecting to cook with the water?
  • Time to treat - Will treatment be fairly instant or will have to treat for several hours.
  • Weight - How much weight will the system be adding to your gear
  • Ease of use - Will you need an engineer degree to put the system together or will be as simple as dropping a tablet into a bottle of water?

Types of Systems: Those that CLEANS / Those that PURIFY

  • Pump filters - cleanse water by pumping it through a filter
  • Gravity-fed filters - cleanse water by using gravity to push it through a filter
  • Drops and tablets - purify water by treating it with a chemical
  • UV Light - purify water by treating it with ultraviolet light

My Selection(s)
For our trip up Barr Trail my understanding is that risk of virus is extremely is typically more a concern when hiking outside the US and Canada. We will hopefully only be minutes or a few hours away from receiving assistance if so needed.  I would like to be able drink the water almost immediately and not have to carry around additional water while it treats.  Hopefully we will be staying at Barr Camp where they will be cooking our meals, so that shouldn't be a concern!

Bottom line I may not really need a purification system but as I mentioned before I do believe in being prepared AND the geek in me wants so new toys to play with!  I initially chose the Sawyer Squeeze System. This was due to the fact it met my requirements; low cost, light weight, eliminated pathogens and very small particulate and was rated a best buy by Outdoor Gear Lab.

The Squeeze System does not eliminate viruses and after performing some additional research for this post I decided to cover some additional bases (and yes get another toy) and decided to purchase the Steri-Pen as well to eliminate any viral agents that may be in the water source.

So to wrap up I realize my "newbness" is showing by adding extra weight to our gear and spending a little more than I need to but the bottom line is a will be able to squash bacteria, virus, and sizable particulate from our water.  I hope others find this information useful and as always I welcome feedback and most importantly advice.


  1. You will need to filter at Barr Camp. Everyone I know that goes there does. I'm find your project great.

  2. Thank you for the heads up Chris! I really do appreciate the feedback!