When we go out to the mountains and go hiking, most of the time we find that the amount of water we have taken with us is not enough to hydrate us properly. In this type of outdoor activities, even if we are not aware of it, we dehydrate quickly, which can become a serious health problem, so knowing how to make water drinkable and purify it is essential.
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Who has not drunk from the crystal clear waters of a river, from one of the solitary fountains that we find on our route or even from the snow that dyes the landscape white? Water of apparent purity that refreshes us and tastes like glory, but in many cases its potability is not guaranteed.
A difficult question to answer when we are in the natural environment. Although in the mountains or when we go hiking it is possible to find places to obtain drinking water, and surely some expert mountaineer will tell us that he has been drinking from rivers and springs all his life, there is a good chance that it is contaminated.
The usual presence of livestock, the possibility of an animal carcass submerged in the water upstream, together with other factors, should make us doubt the purity of the water we are going to drink.
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It is true that the consequences for our health will depend on the concentrations of these contaminants in the water, and also on the frequency of consumption, as well as the type of microorganisms or pathogens contained in the water.
That is why drinking and purifying water in the mountains and in nature is essential, so it is good to know how to make it drinkable in order to, in addition to hydrate ourselves properly, get rid of intestinal problems or worse, problems with our health.
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Fortunately today we have a wide variety of water filters and water purifiers available, as we will see below, but we still have to follow some basic rules when it comes to getting water.
1-The water that flows is good. This popular belief will serve as a reference to follow. It is always better to take the water that flows down the valley and avoid pools, puddles and stagnant water.
2-The closer to its source, the purer it will be. Water from a spring is less likely to be contaminated by animals in the area.
3-We will try to avoid water from fountains and springs if there are livestock in the area. Cows, goats and other animals are not stupid, they are the first to refresh themselves by drinking from the places where the water is purest and freshest.
4-Be careful with snow water. In places where human presence is limited, snow is usually a good option, although we must be aware of the lack of minerals that this water has. This lack of minerals can dehydrate us, so it is important to add an isotonic supplement. If we want to avoid stomach problems, it is not advisable to let it melt at room temperature.
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There are different pathogens and contaminants that can be found in the water available to us. Pesticides, minerals, antibiotics and fertilizers are joined by several dangerous pathogens, let's see what they are:
In general, viruses in areas with little human presence are not usually a problem present in water. In addition, their usual characteristics or those of the vast majority of viruses do not contribute to the water of mountain rivers being a means of transmission used by them. Another thing is the waters where there is a high concentration of people and where the presence and quantity of viruses in the water can be a problem if not treated properly.
Viruses are the smallest microorganisms that we can find in water, so their size is something to take into account depending on how we purify the water.
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Cholera, typhoid, are diseases that surely sound familiar to all of us and that are caused by bacteria. Bacteria that can be found in water and that, unlike viruses, yes it reproduces in water, surviving much longer than viruses in it.
These microorganisms are somewhat larger than viruses, which broadens the possibilities for water purification.
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Amoebae, protozoa, worms are the largest of the three microorganisms and the ones that in most cases a simple water filtration can prevent from making our digestive system their home.
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There are different systems or methods that allow us to obtain water almost free of substances, or what is the same with a practically innocuous load for our organism. In any case, and although in some of them it is not initially necessary, it is always advisable that the water is clean, not cloudy, so it is a good idea to filter or decant the water in some way before applying any water purification system.
Perhaps this is the most traditional method par excellence. Boiling water for several minutes guarantees that we have eliminated many of the pathogens it may contain. But not all of them disappear with this method, some of them quite dangerous for the human being. Not to mention the complication involved and the time it will take to have the water available.
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In this section are the filters and membranes, which ensure a high water purification power. This non-chemical system, known by some mountaineers and runners as "puddle suckers", has evolved a lot up to now. From the heavy and large models intended for camping, very light models have emerged and we even have canister systems, such as Katadyn Befree, Lifestraw Go.
These canisters are like the typical canteens of all life but with a filtering system of 0.1-0.2 microns, depending on the model. This filtering system guarantees the elimination of bacteria, parasites and most viruses. As we have already said, viruses are the smallest microorganisms and some of them can save this filtering so it is important to know the filtering power, i.e. the microns of our filter.
There are even models available that not only filter, but also remove turbidity, bad taste and odor from the water.
You can view and purchase water filters at this Amazon link. See water filters
Perhaps the best or the most effective method that we can use because with a small device of just 140grs of weight we can effectively eliminate 99.9 percent of viruses, bacteria and parasites. The biggest drawback is that the water cannot be cloudy, we must filter it before applying the "shot" of ultraviolet light, although there are models that incorporate a canister with filter. It is true that it is not very comfortable or fast if we need water for many people, since it purifies from 1l to 4l per use depending on the model.
You can view and buy lamps ultraviolet of water purification in the following Amazon link. See ultraviolet lamps
The famous and classic water purification tablets or drops used years ago for their low price, weight and the little space they took up in the backpack. They are still a good option especially in populated areas or trips to places where the water is not very safe, since this system eliminates viruses that may be in the water. Generally we are talking about chlorine compositions, bleach suitable for consumption, and even iodine that we apply to wounds. Although they leave some taste in the water and we must be very precise with the dose to be applied to avoid poisoning, which forces us to check the amount of chlorine in the water before use if we are taking tap water or treated water. It is not very convenient to use this type of water purifiers for a long period of time. Another disadvantage is the time that we will have to wait to make sure that they have done their work. We will have from 30 minutes to 2 hours of waiting to eliminate certain viruses and bacteria. This is not very useful for a hiking route or a daytime ascent to any mountain.
But for travel it is still an effective system, we can drink bottled water, and use these systems in a trouble, to brush our teeth, in case of mistrust of the origin of the water, etc..
In any case, and since these are chemical products, the instructions must be followed to the letter, in which all issues are detailed exactly.
You can view and purchase water purification tablets at the following link on Amazon. See water purification tablets