Wonderful Water

Another quick, picture-laden post. I have received questions about how I am obtaining water. Here is a visual guide!

First: Finding water. In an earlier post, I described a crowd-sourced document called the “Water Report” that is updated on a nearly daily basis by hikers, for hikers. It lists water sources, ordered by PCT mile (out to the hundredths place!) and a description of the quality/quantity of water-- streams, backcountry water tanks, campground faucets, water caches-- it’s all on there. It also lists places where water-borne diseases have typically been a problem.

Clockwise from upper left: 1. Water tanks on private land. The homeowner allows hikers to take water from the tanks, and accepts donations. 2. A good old classic stream. 3. A "guzzler".Water falls on the gutter-like siding above this partially-buried tank and funnels into a pipe that leads to the tank. You crawl underneath and open the lid, dip a repurposed gallon jug on a string into it and try not to stir up sediment or get all of the dead mosquitoes in it. Then filter and treat like normal. 4. An algae-rich spring. It's still water! 5. Spring maintained by the BLM. 6. Water cache donated and maintained by trail angels. 7. Another spring.

Second: Treating and storing water. Once you arrive at a source, you need to decide if you need to treat it. With the exception of campground sources that state the water is potable, the answer is almost always, "treat it." What are we treating for? First, it is nice to have water that doesn't having floating bits of sand or silt in it. Second, and more crucially, we need to filter out dangerous bacteria and protozoa. E. coli, Giardia, Vibrio cholerae (causes cholera), Salmonella typhi (causes typhoid fever) are the most common critters that come to mind. There are various ways to go about doing this. Bandana or coffee filter to strain particulates and then boiling the water, iodine drops or tablets, Steripens, pump filters, gravity filters.

The standard for PCT thru-hikers is the Sawyer water filter. It does double-duty, taking care of particulates and living, swimming things. It operates via manual power (but for a thru-hiker, what else is new?); the squeezing of water through its membrane. No batteries, no cartridges to replace. When it gets clogged, you backflush it and you're ready to go. Here are some pictures of the system: 

Clockwise from upper left: 1. Fill the "dirty" bag. 2. Hook up the system. The "dirty" water goes on one end, filter goes in the middle, and an empty collection bottle or bladder screws on the other end. What's nice about this system is everything is interchangeable. A "dirty" water bottle can become a "clean" one and vice versa, as long as I am careful to clean out vessels that are going to have clean water put in them. 3. Squeeze the dirty water through the filter and it collects in the clean, empty container. 4. My maximum single water carry has been 7 liters. Have you ever seen 7 liters in one place?! This is what it looks like. It. is. heavy. 5. I also carry Aquamira purifying drops as a backup, should something happen to my Sawyer filter.

That's all I've got for water info. Some days, I might filter up to three times, depending on where water sources are, how much water my body has been demanding, and how much I want to carry at any given time. Have more questions? Comment below! I love them!

Natalie Raia2 Comments