Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Art of the Gear - Part 1

The gear I will be examining in this part pertains to the first assumption on my list.
  1. I will need to drink
This is the more simplistic aspect one will have to plan for on the trail.  It thus lends itself to the most variability of all aspects.  Every hiker will think they have the better mousetrap, and will be happy to tell you as much (like I am going to do).

First off it is the number one subject for any person anywhere on the planet to worry about,
an adequate supply of drinkable water.  It has become a readily available trifle in our culture, to the point that we spend more for a bottle of filtered water than a bottle of soda pop that comes from the same bottling facility and uses the same water.   Seriously, you think Aquafina comes from some fancy underground aquifer?  It's the same filtered water they use for making that Pepsi 0 you are probably drinking right now.  Think about that next time you plunk down $2 at the movie theater for a tiny bottle of water instead of that hulking mega gulp cup of soda.

I personally grew up on well water.  For you urbanites, that is where you dig a hole into the ground anywhere from 100 to 300 feet down until you reach an underground water source.    This is kinda like telling city folk where beef or tomatoes come from .  I am hoping in these days of the internet more people have a better clue what happens out in the boondocks that actually affects their health and lives.  But that's another show.
Now, unless you live in the deep south, well water will normally be the cleanest, purest water you can find.  Granted each area will have it's own unique taste due to the local geology, but for those "water has to taste like water" folks, that is easily remedied with filtration through a simple charcoal filter system.   This will also deal with most chemicals that may have been introduced into your water system from the local natural gas fracking operation down the road.

On the trail, one does not always have the option of a treated municiple, or deep well water source.  We rely on surface springs, streams, rivers, lakes, etc.  Unless you happen upon the source of a natural spring bubbling right up from the ground, the water will likely have the potential to be contaminated with all sorts of flotsum, jetsum, flora, and fauna byproducts.  Humans, unless raised in the wild by wolves, have lost the capacity to deal with the extra stuff floating about in "natural" water.  We have become quite intolerant, and our bodies will rebel violently if such pathogens happen to cross our lips in sufficient quantities.

Since water is such an important commodity in ones life, it is a prudent position to have the means to ensure a safe steady supply, even in the comfort of normal civilized environments.  Mother Nature has shown us quite explicitly in the last few years how illusory civilization can be, and how easily she can disrupt the services and systems urbanites take for granted.  The info I have collected could be rather useful in emergencies.

As I walked down the digital aisles of Amazon, Campmor, Rei, and the plethora of online outdoor outfitters, I was amazed primarily at the expense of the water filtering systems available.  With what they are charging, I could buy my own water treatment plant, though I might find it hard to fold one of those neatly into my pack.  That said, I've narrowed my choices down to a primary daily use filter system, and a simple, lightweight, compact backup system.

Katadyn Base Camp Filter Bag
The primary system I've selected is a gravity feed bag and filter product made by Katadyn called the Base Camp.  It is dirt simple to set up and use, incorporates a standard Katadyn filter, and requires no tedious pumping.  Just fill the bag, put the hose in your clean storage container, and let it run. No fuss, and no squatting by the river sweating in exertion for what will seem like hours.  It is a bit heavy at 38 oz., but this will rate higher on my retention of sanity meter and thus is worth the bulk.  I also see it as a social investment as I am certain there will be others on the trail who will be happy to share some of the convenience along the way.  MSR and others make a similar (and lighter) product, but this was in line with my budget, and seems much more durable than the other options.  To extend the life of the filter, it is strongly recommended to use and properly maintain the included pre-filter, and to wrap the filter with a clean bandana for very murky water.

As a backup to this system, I will pack chemical water treatment, most likely Aquamira tablets.  I am steering clear of the old fashion iodine as prolonged use is not all that healthy, and Clorox bleach  is not easily packable nor tasty.  For other effective means of emergency water purification/disinfection, visit the EPA website.  There are also curious links (though I will not debate the validity of the info) concerning water purity and management here as well.

To contain all this wonderful natural filtered water, I will be using a recycled  1L water bottle for general trail use.  I may splurge, or con someone into buying a 2L platy hydration bag with tube and bite valve if budget and weight allows.  We shall see, but going on the cheap may be more practical.

This constitutes my primary system for preventing myself from drying out (not including the occasional beer) on the trail.

More to come soon.

No comments:

Post a Comment