The 3 Best Ways to Purify Water while Hiking

Hiking is a great way to escape the daily grind and explore nature. But, it’s important to stay hydrated, especially while hiking in Louisiana! Drinking water from any natural source can be dangerous because of bacteria and parasites in the water. Luckily, there are some simple ways you can purify your water while hiking!   Read on for 3 easy ways to purify water while hiking.


Boiling Water

If you can, you should bring enough potable (drinkable) water for everyone who will need it along the hike. Of course, this isn’t always practical and some longer trips may require you to stop and boil your water. Simply place potable water in a pot and boil it at a rolling boil for a couple minutes. Boiling will kill bacteria, viruses and parasites that can be found in natural sources of water.

Pros: This method is effective for killing all types of microbes common to water sources in on the trail, including bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Additionally, you may already be heating up water for other uses, like warming up your hiking meals.

Cons: The main disadvantage with this method is time – boiling enough water can take up precious time during hikes when hikers may want to get back onto the trail as soon as possible. Additionally, you will need to wait quite a while for the water to cool down enough so that you can drink it. Additionally, this requires a stove, pot, and fuel source, which just aren’t practical on some shorter day hikes. Finally, while it kills many pathogens, it won’t remove dirt or silk in the water, which can leave a bit of a gritty taste in your mouth.

Bonus Tips: You can use a bandana (or even a t-shirt) to filter out some of the larger particulate prior to boiling. You could also let the water sit, allowing sediment to sink to the bottom. Gently pour off the top water into a pot for boiling and do your best to leave the sediment at the bottom undisturbed.


Chemical Treatment

There are two FDA approved methods of chemical treatment: chlorine dioxide tablets (such as Potable Aqua) or iodine purification tablets. The chlorine tablets usually come in a pill blist pack, so you can tear off how ever many you need. The iodine tablets are usually in a small darkened bottle (UV breaks down the iodine), which makes it very easy to locate at the bottom of your pack when you need them. You generally add these tablets to your drinking water and have to wait 30min to an hour for the chemical treatment to complete.

Pros: This is one of the easiest ways to purify hiking water. They require only a small amount of effort and hardly take up any extra room in your backpack. This method deactivates most bacteria, viruses and parasites, however, both giardia and cryptosporidium have been shown to be unaffected by them. Lastly, its probably the lightest and most compact of the 3 options. A couple blister packs or a small bottle can be stored just about anywhere and can treat a ton of drinking water.

Cons: Many hikers don’t like the taste or color of these chemicals. If you use the iodine tablets, your water will have a slightly yellow tinge to it. Likewise, the chlorine tablets can taste like a milder form of the classic chlorine from a swimming pool. Additionally, chemical treatments are less effective at low temperatures, which isn’t as big of an issue when hiking in Louisiana, but it’s still something to consider. And of course, some people have sensitivies or allergies to iodine products, which can make this method, well, not a good choice for them.



The simplest way to purify hiking water is by filtering it. There are a variety of hiking filtration systems that will work as long as they remove contaminants from the water by various methods. They all work under the basic premise of forcing water through some type of permeable membrane, but vary in their styles, designs, sizes, and type of membrane.

Pros: Filtering your hiking water to kill microbes is one of the easiest ways to purify. You can drink most filtered water almost immediately, and many times the water will still be cold. Unlike the other two methods, filtration will remove almost all the sediment/debris in the water and won’t leave any weird chemical aftertaste. Of the three options, this has arguably the best taste!

Cons: Filtration does not get rid of parasites, viruses or chemical compounds found in some natural sources. You should check the filter size of the membrane before hand and make sure it can filter giardia and other small parasites. Additionally, many of these require some form of manual labor, either by pumping a handle or pressing a squeeze-bag. While it can potentially be the fastest option, it can sure give you a good workout! And finally, maintance on these can be somewhat complicated, depending on the style that you get. Make sure you do your research ahead of time to find the best one for your needs.

I personally like the Sawyer Mini (pictured above),as it hardly weighs anything and is one of the smallest filters you can buy. You can connect it to a sqeeze bag, and filter water into your bottle, or just connect it directly to a Smart Water bottle and sqeeze it from there (my preferred method since Smart Water bottles are actually lighter than Nalgenes and can be found just about anywhere).


Pick the one thats works best for you!

There are three main ways to purify your water while you’re hiking, but which one is best for you will depend on what kind of day you plan to have. If you are only going to be out and about for a few hours, carrying some iodine tablets with the rest of your gear might work well. For more strenuous activities like backpacking or climbing, chemical tablets or filters may be better suited because they can clean larger volumes of water at once. Regardless of how long it takes for you to hike through the wilderness, make sure that your hydration needs don’t go unmet!



Happy hiking!

-The Louisiana Hiker

Posted in Hiking Gear, Hiking Tips.

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