You may not need to boil that backcountry water after all.

If you're like me you grew up being told that when you are in the outdoors all water must be boiled for at least 1 minute to be safe to drink. Boiling water kills or inactivates viruses, bacteria, protozoa and other pathogens by using heat to damage structural components and disrupt essential life processes. The water purification industry features a huge variety of equipment and products to help solve this problem. Turns out that this may not be necessary.

In an article written by Ethan Linck for Slate Ethan states: "The idea that most wilderness water sources are inherently unsafe is baseless dogma, unsupported by any epidemiological evidence." He goes on to say: "These companies are effective in linking their water purification devices with the real need to mitigate waterborne diseases in conflict zones, developing countries, and other regions where the burden of the human population on freshwater sources is great. But in claiming the average hiker or camper needs a $99.95 microfilter pump to avoid illness and death, they far exceed the conclusions of a scant medical literature. To support this statement he says; "In fact, it’s unclear that dangerous protozoans and bacteria occur in very many of North America’s wilderness streams and lakes at all—and where they are present, they are usually found far below levels that should concern humans. Ethan speculates that; "The Professional conservatism from outdoor educators can be likely traced back to a 1976 account of a giardiasis outbreak among campers in Utah implicating waterborne transmission. But four decades later, an evolving understanding of waterborne disease pathology implicates a different, more humiliating culprit for even this canonical incident: Lax hygiene standards while out of doors. Put more simply: The afflicted campers failed to properly wash their hands after using the bathroom."

So I wonder how many of you are willing to give up your straws, tablets and specialized equipment for boiling water. For me it will depend on where I am. If it's a pristine wilderness area I will be more willing to forgo treatment, if there's a lot of upstream activity I probably won't. I will probably wash my hands more often, what will you do?

To see the entire article click here;


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published