Gear Check – Water Purification

by Woodsbum

Mainly due to having had to pull out my water purification systems over the weekend, I decided to do a quick post on the different products that are out there that I like. Of course, like almost all subjects, there is a lot of opinion based around my preferences. This is posted and put out so that those that went to the gear check can have a reference for what we discussed.

My most used piece of water purification gear is my Katadyn Mini Ceramic Filter. I use this thing on almost every outing. Although it is slow to fill a canteen and even slower to fill a large bladder, it really is a great piece of gear. Every couple times I use it I clean off the ceramic filter. It doesn’t really go bad. It lasts longer than my gear breaking mind can comprehend. It truly is worth every penny.

Katadyn Mini Ceramic Filter
Katadyn Mini Ceramic Filter

MSR also makes a filter called the SweetWater Microfilter. I have also used this filter and it does work well. It actually pumps out water faster than the Mini I mentioned above. The problem I see is that you have to replace the filter cartridges regularly. The O-ring seals also failed for me on the 3rd or 4th use. I found that you really have to keep the seals from getting dry or they crack and leak very easily. I keep my Katadyn in my truck 99% of the time and have had the same exact configuration of the filter for years without issue. Not trying to knock MSR’s product, but you need to compare them with others in the market to assure that you are getting the right filter for your needs before you purchase.

MSR Sweetwater Filter
MSR Sweetwater Filter


I have also used several different types of straws. LifeStraw makes one that I have packed away for emergency purposes. It doesn’t last as long as the Katadyn, but it is really effective in purifying water. If you don’t mind replacing your filter and just want to drink out of a cup of muddy/murky water with an oversized straw, then this might be your choice.

Some people also like to use iodine tablets or bleach drops. Both can be effective and viable choices. Having been in the military and had to use both of those methods quite extensively I would suggest you not do this and save up for a good filter. The iodine tablets seems to give people a stomach ache over prolonged use (me for instance) and the bleach just seems wrong. Sometimes you can find the military surplus tablets at a cheap price as well. Here are the guidelines for using those:

In 1 quart of water, use:

  • One tablet for clear water

  • Two tablets for unclear water

  • 3 or 4 in Thailand, Okinawa, or Central America

You should also keep the cap loosely screwed on (not tightly) and shake it so that the threads get wet. You should then let it sit for 15 – 20 minutes, then take the cap off and let it sit for another 10 minutes or so.

My take on the tablets and drops is as such: Using chemicals to make water drinkable just seems to be like using perfume to avoid taking a shower. Ewww……

Another tried and true method is boiling your water. All you need to do is filter the water going into your pot with something like a scarf or shirt, put the pot over your fire or stove, and bring it to a full boil. You don’t need to boil it for 10 minutes or any such nonsense. Just a full boil is sufficient. You can then drink the water afterwards. I do use the method for cooking about 50% of the time, but for drinking it is not my favorite method. Simply put, I don’t want to drink very hot water on a very hot day. I want something nice and cool.

Not matter what method of purification you choose, make sure that it will work for you and fits within your needs. Spending money just to spend money is never advisable, unless you are buying guns or custom knives…..  Don’t tell my wife I said that last part.

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