As we get closer to embarking full-time with our nomadic idea, we recently had an opportunity to “test” it all out in our newly converted Camper Van and do some serious boondocking. By the way, our Van is also our tow vehicle for our 76 Airstream Argosy. Scott was able to take off an entire month, driving with our two dogs across the country – landing in the warm desert lands of Quartzsite Arizona for the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous event held every January. From there, he would head north to visit family in Cottonwood, near the beautiful backdrop of Sedona Arizona. Then West onto Las Vegas Nevada to complete the one-way stretch of our journey. The purpose of this road trip was to test the van’s set up, learn from our travel and make adjustments now for a smoother transition when we’re full-timers. I’d say our test was a success, learning from a few major flaws along the way. While we were on the road for one full month, it only took less than one week to offer more insight into this life that became invaluable.
The learning curve is often abrupt, without forgiveness and adjustments are inevitable and should be expected. As for anything you do, it comes down to understanding your lifestyle and learning what will work for you. We are backpackers, having learned to live with less already. The idea of taking a minimal backpacker’s life – one of which is so often crammed into a 40 liter pack – giving it an upgrade to a spacious van with added comforts and living nomadic lifestyle is great in theory. Though as with anything new, you have to learn as you go! This boondocking thing is still new to us – this van thing, this nomadic lifestyle. A new world to explore. No two lives are lived in the same manner, what you need to function and the perimeters you are comfortable with plays a large part in these lessons learned.
LOCK IT DOWN
The road is ALWAYS bumpier than you would anticipate and weather often offers a considerable factor in this. The majority of boondocking locations are off the beaten path – dirt roads, rocky or sanding terrain, even un-maintained forest roads. While easy to navigate, the unevenness of these roads can equate to a very bumpy ride! You learn rather quickly that things are never as locked down or secured as you might have thought. Our van is entirely DIY built without applying professional carpentry skills and as structurally sound as we imagined it would be, although Scott might argue that. The road will teach you just how top-not your skills truly are – so be prepared for a bit of humility if you’re anything like us! For the most part things held together rather well but frequent build maintenance is something of a reality. We’ve already made minor adjustments on the road and more structural aspects of re-building will be in our near future when we return home.
In addition to your build, everything – and I mean everything – gets locked down, bolted, put away and tucked securely! Otherwise you’ll van will end up looking a bit like a frantic episode of spring cleaning spewed from every cupboard in your home simultaneously. Started but never completed. Trust us on this one.
Why would it? After all, you have the freedom of wheels to assist in guiding you with ease on the uphill! You have the comfort of an interior to protect from the winds.
Understanding elevation and how to prepare for the rapid change in weather and exposed climates is something we’ve learned extensively from being backpackers. Though all our routine knowledge in preparing on a backpacking trip, we were not as prepared this time around. Boondocking is new to us and entirely different than backpacking regardless of the similarities. The apps we were using to locate our campsite for the night do not provide elevation and often found ourselves a bit surprised by the climb up into the mountain ranges! Initially we were so focused on other details in our searches, we forgot to connect this one very important detail.
Boondocking is far more similar to backpacking then we had anticipated – it’s your camp for the night or perhaps even longer and caution in preparing appropriately for changes in weather becomes a very important detail.
There were times it was windy and exposed, bitterly cold and far below freezing temps. While we didn’t mind the adventure of it all, we weren’t mentally prepared going in. Had we had a weather front arrive or any change in pattern, we wouldn’t have made it down as easily. So, yeah, elevation matters! Know before you go – as it will effect your route, experience and preparedness.
GPS COORDINATES AREN’T EVERYTHING + BACK ROAD MAPPING IS A MUST
GPS coordinates to a boondocking site is based off of one person’s experience alone. The marked area is where they stayed in particular, but the areas are often expansive with many available sites to choose from. The farther into the area you go, often the sites begin offering you better views and a more remote experience. So don’t just take the first turn in – EXPLORE the area, you’ll find better opportunity! Understanding where you are nestled in on a broader perspective helps you understand your perimeters for further exploration. A back roads forest map has been invaluable to us and I highly suggest you collecting them along your travels. This is something we learned from backpacking in remote destinations, and translates exceptionally well to a boondocking lifestyle.
Not only doe it save battery usage on your electronic devices – teaching you valuable skills that I feel everyone should develop, particularly with navigation on back roads.
Reading the topography of the land lends quickly to finding killer views, valuable water sources, and more exclusive remote areas for set up. Allowing you to connect to the land in which you are residing in a deeper level, a more personal way.
If you are staying for a longer duration, it allows a more useful broadening and understanding of your surroundings, lending to endless exploration potential. You never really know what’s around the corner – but with a back roads forest map you’ll will know EXACTLY what’s over the next bend in that road!
LESS TRULY IS MORE
As a culture we are so accustom to our routinely spacious lives; opportunity to choose from a variety of options at any given point in the day. What to eat, what to wear, watching the news versus a movie, couch or bed, bath versus a shower. We don’t think about it as being an option in making choices, only existing in our everyday. It is habit – a routine primary to our existence.
Having your spacial surroundings limited to a smaller square footage doesn’t limit the options you still have to make – technically speaking they are still exactly the same choices, the exact same routines. However, the more options you have available to you the more cluttered and smaller your space becomes. This fact alone becomes became blatantly more apparent in our van, housing four bodies. Less truly becomes more. More space, more freedom, MORE of the reason you’re out there to begin with!
The idea of needing OPTIONS is based from the comfort we surround ourselves in daily. A routine we’ve grown accustom to without thought in it being anything more than normal. We’ve spent the last two years drastically pairing down our lives. While it has been a process of letting go, we’ve finally settled on feeling close to minimal. But this test run put into perspective just how little we actually do need, how little is actually used.
We ate what we had, never craving or wanting anything different. We wore the same clothes for a week – not at all interested in changing into that fresh pair of pants. We slept four warm bodies night after night, cramped in the bed despite having the option to set up what we thought was a brilliant idea of having the option to hammock. We didn’t shower for days, finding no use for it in our daily activities. We had what we had and we were plenty content with our ‘limitations’. Finding instead that most of what we brought with us was just clutter – too much stuff. Unnecessary. Over half of what we brought with us was not chosen – to use, to wear, to set up or to need. These options took up valuable space that I would have preferred having instead.
PLAN YOUR NEED FOR INTERNET
Becoming better prepared at planning your needs for an internet connection is imperative to prioritize. Particularly if remaining connected is the core of your ability to remain mobile. When we backpack, we disconnect from it all. It becomes part of the benefits and joy in going off-grid. Though this was our test to see how connecting off-grid would work. Our Nomadic Idea requires a strong connection.
Well, we thought we had figured it out…though just as the wind can be fickle, so was our connection! Internet is spotty and your carrier may not be as strong as another in that particular area. The apps we used were based on the exact location of one person’s experience and not necessarily spanning the entire scope of the area in which your exploring.
Even worse yet, we discovered our van was acting as a barrier in receiving signal. Locking us down even more. If we walked 12 feet NW of our van, we received enough signal to be able to pull up a post or respond to a comment very quickly before the winds changed course and lost all ability for awhile yet again. It drained our battery usage far more quickly in trying to connect and became entirely ineffective!
It was a guessing game out there and our WiFi extender wasn’t as powerful as we had thought. Leading us to learn WeBoost Antenna is a MUST. At least for a starting point powerful enough to combat the woes of our societies connection addiction!
We are sure there are more lessons that will help us boondocking. But that’s half the fun. Learning as you go with the laughs and memories we’ll have for a lifetime.
At first, cooking with recycled water sounds like a terrible idea. But not really once you understand HOW it will be cooked. Cooking nomadic meals with recycled water is pretty easy and very sanitary. Why? The water never touches the food and it’s the science found in a product called Omeals.
What are Omeals? Omeals are a pre-cooked packaged food that can be heated in a cooking bag with ANY liquid. AND, they are really good. We have used Omeals out in the backcountry while camping in remote places where water can be hard to find. That’s what makes Omeals so great. They can be cooked with creek water, dish water, salt water, any liquid.
How it works: There is a packet of food on the inside of the main bag the water makes contact with the heating element and heats the bag of food. The heating element is like a hand warmer but gets much hotter to boil the water. Water does not make contact with the actual food. Thus the genius concept with the product. Each pouch is an 8 ounce serving.
If you are on the road or traveling in your Van, Camper or RV, this is a great way to eat with little effort. No propane, no getting a fire going. For most consumers each pouch is for 1 person. It’s a great way to store for those days that water is going to be limited or saving water is important. The amount of water is cook an Omeal is about 4-6 ounces, or about a half of cup. 16 cups in a gallon, you could save a half of gallon of water to cook a months supply of Omeals. That’s a lot of food for very little water, and if you recycled your gray water (let’s say for dishes or saving a few cups of water in the shower) you could cook a months supply of Omeals without EVER using your fresh water for cooking.
Omeals has a wide variety of choices, which is good when you are on the road. Omeals can be found on Amazon and they can shipped right to you while traveling. Happy eating!
It’s not easy coming to realize that your perhaps your brand plan isn’t really…branding well. But to be honest, we had to take a hard look at who we were and what we wanted to be about. We’ve had this idea about being nomadic for quite some time, but didn’t know how to express that with you, our followers. TheBackpackerTV started way back in 2008, the plan was just to curate content off YouTube videos about backpacking. In other words, other peoples content. Over the years it had a pretty good following on Twitter and Facebook, and we changed the content from time to time to try and make it about our content, but after 2013, it wasn’t who we were anymore. So what to do, what to do?
It was time to be honest and admit that people just were NOT connecting to the name. If they were, it was largely a backpacking audience, (not that we don’t love that audience) but we wanted something bigger that represented our dream, goals, hopes, and experiences all wrapped into one. We couldn’t be a backpacking brand and talk about our life in a RV or traveling in a RV type of lifestyle.
We went back and forth for weeks. One of the idea’s was to convert our Trust The Trail Podcast into the brand itself since it’s doing so well. But that was still all backpacking, and guided trips. We did’t think that would fit with traveling across country in a RV. Which we wanted to expand into the RV world also. Again, what to do, what to do?
Because it was all rather confusing to us, it was surely confusing to people that were following us on our Podcast, Instagram, and Facebook. We had 3 different brands going at the same time. It was that realization that we decided our Podcast needed it’s own identity, and our idea to be nomadic needed it’s own identity.
We also started making YouTube Video’s about our Airstream Argosy renovation which was CLEAR nobody from the backpacking community wanted to watch. AND that’s pretty much how YouTube works.
So in July of 2018, we made the decision to separate our Podcast, from our idea to be nomadic and travel in our 76 Airstream Argosy and expand into the “adventure travel” category by changing our name to “This Nomadic Idea”. After all, it’s a very simple statement of fact. We want to travel and be nomadic. We had this idea to buy a vintage airstream, renovate it, and travel in it. The point was to go backpacking in all 50 states and experience what life through at us. That was the idea a year ago, and that is the idea now.
Our Trust the Trail Podcast has it’s own website, Instagram, Facebook Page/Group and Twitter.
This Nomadic Idea is who Scott and Ariane are today. YouTube, Facebook and Instagram. No Twitter
Pretty simple and clean. Our lives, hopes, journeys, struggles and dreams are here on this site to share with our outdoor community, friends, and family.
The next step is to share our nomadic idea with you. Every week, we shoot out our we are getting closer and closer to hitting the road. How we are downsizing, how we are renovating the Airstream Argosy, where will we be going? All of it. After all, this is our nomadic idea.
Downsizing doesn’t mean you are able to get rid of a lifetime worth of stuff all at once. It’s a process just like everything else that one wants to learn. We had several garage sales and each one we had was all together different from the other. For example, I held on to my parents 70’s food tray and ashtray FOREVER. Why? I don’t know. I do have a genuine idea however that it was based on a falsehood of what I thought it meant to me. AND there in lies the issue of downsizing. It’s NOT the stuff, but the emotional attachment the stuff has.
Each time we have put stuff out to sell, we asked ourselves “is this important to us”? Thus the first few times Ariane asked me if the mutli colored quite ugly ashtray was important, of course I responded “YES”. It was my parents and I remember it growing up. That ashtray made it through seven (7) garage sales until it dawned on me that I had no emotional attachment to it and in fact was ugly…and I no one in my family ever smoked.
Downsizing for us was not about getting rid of stuff, but asking ourselves this:
Is our past defined from what stuff we keep, or is it defined by the experienced we have had?
After we defined what was the more important goal of downsizing, it was relatively easy to start getting rid of stuff we just didn’t need anymore. A lot of it were from our parents who has passed away. It was more their memories than ours. We continued to realize that our stuff was their stuff and we were just carrying it around for the sake of carrying it around.
Here are some tips that we have learned:
Since then, we have drastically cut down what we want and only have what we need. Getting ready to live in a 190 sq ft Travel Trailer will do that. Even so, it’s so free to be able to pack all the stuff you own in a day and move. We have gone from a 3,000 sq ft house, to a small one room apartment. In just a few months, we’ll do it all again to move into our Airstream Argosy named Lucy.
Downsizing to be nomadic is one of the best choices we have ever made.
Most hikers and backpackers who adventure out into the Wilderness are pretty familiar with “Treat the Water” before you drink. But how many of us let our dogs drink out of any kind of water source? Humans filter water so we don’t get water born parasites like Giardia. But did you know your dog can get Giardia also?
In fact, dogs are more likely to get Giardia than humans since they expose themselves unknowingly more than Humans. Giardia must be ingested by your dog in order for him to get the parasite. Your dog can get Giardia by drinking water that has been contaminated by feces or by eating something that has been contaminated by feces, like grass. Since dogs love to put things in their mouths, this means that there are plenty of ways your dog can pick up the parasite in his environment, whether it is by chewing on a stick, eating poop, or drinking from a puddle.
For backpackers that hike popular trails like the Appalachian Trail, this means they could be much more exposed to Giardia because of the number of privies and the lack of Leave No Trace principal, Pack it In, Pack it Out.
It even get’s worse. Once the parasite is in your dog’s intestines, your dog can spread the parasite, even if he or she doesn’t show any signs of infection. This is concerning, especially if you have more than one pet in your house. While transmission from dogs to cats and cats to dogs is unlikely, the transmission from dog to dog is certainly a cause for concern. If one of your pets is diagnosed with Giardia, you should talk to your vet immediately about the protections you should take to protect your other pups.
Giardia in dogs act’s much like Giardia in Humans. Much of the symptoms can be the same.
These symptoms include:
Failure to gain weight
Poor coat appearance
According to the AKC (American Kenel Club) the way to prevent your dog from getting Giarida is making sure your dog has access to fresh, clean water at all times. Also not to bring your dog to places where there are large amounts of dog feces, as this will limit the possibility of exposure. Of course, when you are hiking on the trail, and crossing a bunch of creeks and streams.
A Giardia vaccine has been developed for dogs and cats and is available in the US. Unfortunately, our Vet say’s this vaccine has not been particularly helpful in preventing or treating Giardia-related disease. It may help to reduce the shedding of Giardia, but it has apparently been largely ineffective in preventing or treating actual infection by the parasites in the first place.
This is another reason that sometimes it’s better to keep your dog on a leash. This way you have a little more control where your dog goes. We can’t tell you how many times Dino has rolled in feces’s. It’s a mess. So keep aware of your dog in the backcountry and don’t assume they can drink any kind of water.
For most, hitting the trail is not only great exercise but good for the soul. For others, it’s an endurance backpacking trip that can take you miles before your next big juicy burger. I’m sure you could probably hike more than 100 miles without food, if you had to. But hiking is supposed to be a fun adventure, not a race. Keeping your body fueled up with tasty, nutritious snacks while out on the trail for the day makes it much more enjoyable and easy.
The key thing to remember is to take something you like to eat. If you don’t eat a ton of GORP at home, you may not be thrilled to eat it on the trail. But there are certain foods that are better trail foods than others. Some actually will give you some extra energy. Here are a few choices for simple, convenient trail food that does a body good.
If you have some favorite hiking snacks, please share. We love getting ideas from our outdoor community.
In a world of Instagram and other Social Media platforms, we often see the best of the best when it comes to “Adventure”. No matter if it’s a epic backpacking trip, or a road trip across the U.S. or even living in a camper van and doing what you love. We all get fixed on the fact that “they are living the life”. But is it what you think?
It wasn’t until I was half way done with my 2003 Appalachian Trail thru-hike did I realize that the adventure started long before I set one foot on the trail itself. I remembered how hard it was to actually get ON the trail. All the research and gear testing (in the rain by the way). All the doubt about actually being out there and living in the woods for five in a half months. Quitting my job, packing, finding storage, selling my car, finances. I mean, if it were all really easy to plan for a extended backpacking trip, there would be multitudes of multitudes living on the Appalachian Trail and hiking 2000 miles. The fact is: It was freaking hard.
My Adventure started the day I made the decision to hike it. Plain and simple. I so much appreciate the “hard” in planning and getting on the trail. Back in 2003, there was no Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, there was barely Cell Service, yet we all hiked anyway. No fame, no endorsements, no video production team. We did it, because it was hard.
We feel the same now as we enter into a new journey. The complete renovation of our 1976 Airstream Argosy. In the same way as a long distance hike, we still feel trepidation in our planning because of what we don’t know. AND just like learning how to live on the trail for months, this journey also has a huge learning curve.
Along with the journey however is the adventure. When we look back now on our renovation process and see how far we have come, we also take time to think back about how much we have learned and laugh about our mistakes.
One time on my Thru-Hike, I thought I hiking with a rain poncho would be easy. I was wrong.
One time while renovating our Argosy, I thought removing 40 year subfloor would be easy. I was wrong.
Would I trade those learning experiences for something easier? NO WAY. This is our adventure. It’s the hard in everything that takes to chase your dream and live it, that’s you have to remember. It’s easy to quit.
Next time you see a beautiful Instagram pic, or a Facebook Post, or a great YouTube vid showing living a minimal life. Just remember, it was the hard that got them there. The adventure isn’t what you are seeing, the adventure is in what happened before the pic, the post, or the vid.
With National Hot Toddy Day coming around the corner, we thought this would be the perfect time to share our favorite hot drinks (with a little somethin somethin) to keep you feeling good around the campfire on a cold night.
Of course we always consider weight, and how easy it is to carry with us while on the trail. They are great for a celebration or a birthday or even a toast.
This is really easy to make and it’s always a favorite. We usually bring a small plastic bottle of Bourbon which you can typically buy at the counter of most liquor stores. You can also order the online. They cost only a few bucks and easily packable.
Start by heating water just below boiling. Add 16 ounces of hot water, or 2 cups in your pot. A 50ML Nip of Jim Beam Bourbon should be enough to share. Spike your drinking cup with the bourbon, a little honey, and a squeeze of lemon. Add the cinnamon– which doubles as a stirring stick– and stir until honey is dissolved. Enjoy!
This is probably our favorite drink on a cold night. In fact, we bring this weather we put a little libation in or not. You can find these packets of Cider at any local grocery store. Put a little spiced rum in it, and it’s really good.
Start by bringing 2 cups of water to a near boil. Pour one bag of Alpine Original Spiced Apple Cider Instant Drink Mix, 10 Ct/7.4 Oz. in each of your cups. Pack along a 50ML tiny plastic bottle of Captain Morgan Spiced Rum and share evenly. You should have enough to make 4 cups. Or 2 cups each.
3. MORNING MIMOSA
Instead of brewing a cup of coffee, maybe celebrate the New Year or a beautiful Sunrise by making a Morning Mimosa. This is pretty easy to make, but takes some planning and well worth it. It’s surprisingly tasty also.
Fill your pat with 2 cups of water, add the Airborne or Emergen-C next and let it rest for a few seconds, then add the beer packet and the vodka, carbonate it all and enjoy. Now, sit back and enjoy that sunrise.
Do you have a drink that you absolutely love to bring on the trail or around the campfire? We would love for you to share. Please post your recipe and we will add it to our upcoming Podcast on Trust the Trail
So you want to get outdoors and have fun. So many places to go and visit. Planning that amazing vacation or trekking out into the Wilderness for some long over due quiet time. But sometimes in planning the fun stuff, we forget to have a PLAN for real stuff. What do we mean by “real stuff”? The stuff that you don’t think of until that moment of “what do I do now” happens.
Real Stuff like being prepared for some circumstances that happens ALL the time. We call it a “safety plan” Let’s take a look at some of the common issues people have while enjoying the outdoors.
FALLS – Falls while hiking in mountainous terrain typically account for more fatalities than any other direct cause. A fall can result in a few scrapes minutes from the trailhead or life-threatening injuries miles – and hours – from help. This is why it’s especially important to never hike alone.
HEAT: Overexertion on hot summer days can lead to heat-related injuries.
COLD & HYPOTHERMIA: The lowering of your body’s core temperature below normal can lead to poor judgement and confusion, loss of consciousness and death – even in summer! We have seen this first hand when temps are in the 90’s and people get wet from a cold rain. Wind starts howling, clouds block the sun, and the next thing you know, you start shivering.
No matter if you are day hiking, backpacking, kayaking, having the right safety plan is the best thing you can do for you and your family.
According to the Journal of Travel Medicine, From 2003 to 2006, there were 12,337 SAR operations involving 15,537 visitors. The total operational costs were US$16,552,053. The operations ended with 522 fatalities, 4,860 ill or injured visitors, and 2,855 saves. Almost half (40%) of the operations occurred on Saturday and Sunday, and visitors aged 20 to 29 years were involved in 23% of the incidents. Males accounted for 66.3% of the visitors requiring SAR assistance. Day hiking, motorized boating, swimming, overnight hiking, and nonmotorized boating were the participant activities resulting in the most SAR operations. But here is the most important point:
An error in judgment, fatigue and physical conditions, and insufficient equipment, clothing, and experience were the most common contributing factors.
So what do you do? ALWAYS HAVE A PLAN. What’s a PLAN?
Finally. Understand the acronym STOP-A This is the biggest asset to you if your plan has to do with being lost. The number one question we get when taking new people out backpacking is “what if I get lost”.
If there is no immediate threat, like a wildfire or a bear breathing down your neck, then stop and sit down. The goal is to prevent any irrational thinking due to fear or an adrenaline dump.
let’s break out the best survival tool we have, our brain.
Countless books and stories attest to the fact that a positive mental attitude can pull people through even the most dire of circumstances.
Understand the difference between real threats and fears.
Take a look at your surroundings and identify threats. Are there widow makers? How much time until it gets dark? Do you hear vehicles in the distance? Can you smell a campfire?
After thinking about your priorities and observing your surroundings and gear, it is time to make some choices. Like prioritizing, planning is dependent on your situation. Generally, staying put and waiting for rescue is a good plan, but what if you didn’t tell anyone you were headed out and no one will know you are missing for days?
The best plan in the world will not do you any good until it is put in to action. Once you have a plan, start using your skills and execute the plan.
For those who want to leave trusted friends or family your itinerary. Go to hikeralert.com this is an excellent web based platform that alerts through text message when you do not return
In operation since 2012, HikerAlert is a Web-based service that will automatically send an alert text message and email to your emergency contacts (your friends and family) if you don’t check in from an outdoor trip or other event by your scheduled return time.
Remember, your outdoor experience is your responsibility. Make sure you’re stay safe out there. Mother Nature doesn’t care about your weekend plans.
To Filter or Purify? That is indeed the question! A conundrum many that are new to backpacking face. So how exactly do you decided which safety measure to take when there are countless options available to you? It is actually very simple if you break it down in answering these three questions: Where are you going? What sources of water will be available to you along your route, at camp? What do you see yourself realistically using?
First it’s important to know where you are going, as that automatically reduces half of your options upfront! In most cases, hiking within the Unites States it is generally safe to use Filtration only. If your adventure finds you oversees, that’s when you typically want to Purify your water. Each have pros and cons just as everything does in choosing gear so let’s break it down even further, so you understand the differences and the why’s behind the answers!
Filtration: A filter either gravity fed or mechanically pushes water through an internal filter, straining out bacteria, protozoa and debris. Typically filtration alone will NOT filter viruses, as the pores sizing within the filter are not small enough to deter it slipping through. Filtration options range from lightweight to moderate weight though they are easy to use with guarantee of a quick return on clean water.
Purification: A purifier is generally an approved method that treats both bacteria and protozoa as well as eliminating viruses. It typically includes chemicals in the form of tablets or through the use of a UV light source. Most purification methods also treat Cryptosporidium, though this is only effective after an extended waiting period. Chemical treatments however do not strain out any preexisting particulate, and typically can negatively affect the taste of the water. Tablets are your lightest weight option while UV light sources require batteries (extra weight and costs) adding more functioning pieces equaling possible failure on guarantee to work properly.
Here’s a different look at the breakdown of each system since the types of harmful pathogens you’re likely to encounter wherever you go should be your biggest concerns in choosing your method.
Bacteria – eliminated by all the above systems – filters, chemical treatments, and UV purifiers.
Viruses – eliminated through iodine, chlorine dioxide and UV purifiers. Very few filters on the market eliminate viruses and are typically much heavier and more expensive.
Cryptosporidium – eliminated by filters, chlorine dioxide tablets (4hrs wait time), drops (1hr wait time) and UV purifiers (technically speaking they only paralyze or break down the toxic DNA of organisms, halting its reproduction only short term if exposed in great length to sunlight). Iodine tablets are useless in this case.
Particulate aka floating particles of the great outdoors – technically not necessarily harmful to you, but not necessarily something most people find to be appetizing. Eliminated by filers only. Back flushing your filtration system regularly is important to keep filtration effective.
You may ask the question, well why not just BOIL it?! You can, absolutely…and we DO! Often, we both filter and BOIL. Boiling water is certainly the safest method of purification. Whether you’re out camping, or in a country with inadequate or un-sanitized drinking water, boiling water will kill all germs bacteria and parasites. Giving a general rule of thumb by rapidly boiling your water for one to three minutes you’ll have water safe enough for drinking. Though in actuality the correlation of time to temperature truly does matter if you want to get technical (30mins at 160°F/ 3mins at 185°F/ instantaneously at 212°F)…but in actuality who’s bringing a thermometer with!?! Boiling water uses a significant amount more in fuel and therefore if the amount of fuel you bring is a concern to you or you don’t have a reliable source of heat, this may not be your safest method to rely on. It is generally a good idea to use boiling as a back up method, not your main source of purification. One last mention is boiling water will NOT remove chemical toxins nor will it remove any seen sediments or particulates.
Basically, we have a Four Levels of Water Identification in accessing a need for BOIL:
Level 1. WALK AWAY! This is never safe to drink! An exception might possibly be in a dire emergency situation having knowledge there is still risk in getting sick, boiled three times a charm or not! You’ll know it when you see it – these are typically stagnant agricultural ponds with animal excretion nearby or in and sediment film on top.
Level 2. SAFE TO FILTER! And maybe also BOIL! This is not a creek or river, instead is a stagnant pool but you know it’s filled fully or partial with fresh rain water. You have no way to know what or who has contaminated the water, other than the debris and particulate on top but it’s a fresh pool. This is when we opt to boil in addition to filter if this is our only water source.
Level 3. GREAT FOR COOKING! Typically a questionable creek. This is a viable water source, due to its movement of flow, but not entirely trustworthy for reasons identified nearby. If you’re already planning on cooking a hot meal for dinner, save time filtering your water and just boil instead! You’ll be just fine, unless you really just feel more comfortable doing both.
Level 4. GO FOR IT! This is your best possible scenario! Typically a fresh water lake, rivers or creeks actively flowing at a good rate per second. Mountain springs are not exactly abundant all over, but when you do find one (bubbling upward from the ground) that is already filtered fresh spring water. In many cases this is okay to drink from without filtration…if you dare! However, if downstream from the initiating source of the spring, use caution and filter – you just never know what is cascading down from above…
Now, with the decision made – filtration vs purification – you can now focus on what type of system you prefer using within the retrospective grouping. It helps to pay attention to your habits at home, simply because you want to stay as true to what you will be most comfortable with when you’re out there. Close your eyes…visualize yourself using each system from beginning to end – is this system realistic for you, will it be a good option for YOU? In regards to Filtration, you’ve got the Life Straw – Sawyer Mini/ Squeeze – Katadyn Hiker/Hiker Pro/Gravity Camp – Platypus Gravity Works – MSR MiniWorks EX – just to name a few…
So how exactly do you choose from all these options!!? That’s where knowing what sources of water will be available to you along your route is key! Will you be crossing along several small creeks or rivers along the way or are you in higher elevations where your source of water is further below you? Knowing this can answer definitively what system will be best for you!
Reviewing now only our own personal favorite Filtration Systems, rather than continuing on with talk of Purification. First and foremost, the Sawyer Mini – our personal favorite when hiking in the Southeast or even lower elevations because we are sure to cross several accessible streams along our path! It’s a quick and easy way to grab a safe and refreshing water refill. With the Sawyer Mini weighing only 1.4oz it’s an extremely lightweight and convenient option to carry. Often we combine that in a gravity fed filtration system inserted in between a dirty and clean platy bag. This saves us significant cost in comparison to buying pre-packaged gravity systems and allows for multi-use of our gear = the accessibility of the Sawyer Mini on the trail, turning no-hands required gravity fed system in camp!
The Katadyn Base Camp gravity fed filtration system is our choice system when we have large groups with us, as it is large enough to supply a large amount of filtered water without resupply. It’s best feature is its wide mouth entry to easily and quickly access enough water to fill the 10Litter capacity it holds. This system uses a carbon filter, the same as in the Katadyn Hiker/Hiker Pro pump filter. The only downside to this is weight, especially when packed out after use.
Slightly heavier in weight but a necessity when in higher elevations when our water source is slightly more inaccessible below us, the Katadyn Hiker pump is a fool proof way to ensure safe drinking water. Being a bit bulkier as it has slightly more components involved, this carbon based filter total weight is only up to 11ounces. This requires you to do all the work in filtering your water – but perhaps that means you’ll appreciate it more!