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How to make river water drinkable while hiking

The long multi-day hike requires plenty of water to stay away from dehydration. Normally we should consume about 2.7 liters of water for women and 3.7 liters for men daily.

During hiking, one should consume 1 liter of water on every 2 hours, so carrying that much of water load for a multi-day hike will be a difficult one.

You can choose natural water sources like river water to stay hydrated but only after purifying it. Here we discuss how to make a river water drinkable.

If you don’t have any purifiers then try to drink from a river with clear and flowing water rather than still and cloudy water.

cloudy river watercloudy river watercloudy river water


How to make river water drinkable

You can disinfect river water to kill most of the harmful diseases causing microorganisms such as protozoa-cryptosporidium, protozoa-giardia intestinalis, bacteria, viruses. Here are some of the methods to make river water safe to drink.


Boiling water kills most of the disease-causing bacteria’s, viruses and microorganism. Water should be brought to a rolling Boiling  for at least 1 min 

If you are above 2000 m altitude, boil water for  3 min this is because the boiling point of water is lower at higher altitude so it needs more time to boil.

For boiling water, you need a container and a backpacking stove or something to lit the fire. If the weather is not favorable then starting a fire will be a  difficult task.

While hiking if you are having some kind of filter for filtering water then use them to filter water to remove unwanted gunk and other visible impurities before boiling.


Water filtration method

LifeStraw Personal Water Filter for Hiking, Camping, Travel, and Emergency Preparedness

Filtration is also a method to make river water safe to drink. There are many brands available on the market.Filters should be less than or equal to 1 micron absolute. Some filters may allow 20 to 30% of micron particles like cryptosporidium to pass through due to manufacturing flaws.

Select and buy certified filters. Check the package label for test certificates such as NSF/ANSI standard 53 or NSF/ANSI standard 58 for cyst removal or reduction. Replace the filter cartridge on time. Failure to change the cartridge as recommended by the manufacturer can cause the filter to fail.


Purification of river water by a chemical method

The common chemical water treatments are chlorination and iodine. Chlorine and iodine are available in tablet form in the market.

purification of river water


Potable Aqua Water Purification Tablets

Buy an iodine tincture solution with 2% iodine and 47% alcohol. The recommended dose of iodine is 5-10 drops depending upon the source of water.

If the water is cloudy and from a still source then add 10 drops of iodine. If the water is from a clear and flowing source then add only fewer iodine drops. Wait for at least 30 min before consuming water after iodine treatment.

Iodine treatment is not recommended for pregnant women, people with thyroid problems, those with known hypersensitivity to iodine and continuous use for more than a few weeks at a time.



Potable Aqua Chlorine Dioxide Tablets

Chlorination disinfect water and it remains in water to prevent further contamination.

Chlorination is 3 times more effective than bromine and 6 times more effective than iodine.Chlorine can be toxic when the concentration is much greater than those used for disinfecting drinking water.

Some of the cons are its strange taste and smell of the water. Chlorine is toxic to fish and other aquatic organisms and should be kept away from rivers and other natural water systems.

After chlorinating, the water keeps it for 30 min before consuming it. Silver ion/chlorine dioxide based tablet can also be used.


UV – purification

SteriPen Ultra UV Water Purifier

Ultraviolet purification is one of the most effective methods for destroying 99.9% of harmful microorganism.

Some of the advantages of UV-systems are chemical free, taste and odor free, low maintenance cost and extremely effective than chlorine.

Some of the cons of this system are it can’t remove contaminants such as heavy metals, salts, chlorine or other man-made substances like petroleum and pharmaceutical etc.This system can be used only for clear water and needs an external energy source for working. Check for battery charge before going to hike.


Water filter using Grass, Charcoal, and Gravel 

This type of water filter works on a basic principle. Some of the things you need to make this water filter are – one extra pair of clothes, 3 branches, grass, gravel and some charcoal.

Water filter using Grass, Charcoal and Gravel 

First, make a teepee-like structure with the 3 branches. There are three stages of filtration so you need three pieces of cloth with different sizes.

Tie a Smaller piece of cloth on top of the teepee structure and next size cloth piece on the middle portion and bigger one at the bottom.

Fill top cloth piece with grass, the second piece with gravel and bottom cloth piece with charcoal. Slowly pour water on the top cloth piece.

 Keep a container underneath the bottom cloth piece to collect the filtered water.  This is not the best way to disinfect water containing harmful pathogens. 

 Use this method when no other option is there to filter water.

5 Ways to Make River Water Drinkable While Hiking


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