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The Best Backpacking Tip - Pack a Water Filter

Updated on September 28, 2010


How safe is the water you are drinking?
How safe is the water you are drinking?

Learning the hard way

 I left home to see the world with absolutely no idea. I arrived in Viet Nam at 10pm with no accommodation, no language skills but plenty of excitement and enthusiasm.

Over the following 9 years I bounced around the world visiting over 50 countries on 5 continents. Along the way I made every mistake in the rookie manual, got robbed, mugged, broke bones, caught diseases and had the best time of my life.

Nothing broadens the mind like travel and you never meet people who regret the travel they have done. On the other hand, I know plenty of people jealous of my time abroad, with the feeling that they missed out.

So travel, and travel far and wide is my recommendation. Enjoy learning things the hard way - its half the fun. There is however one tip I wish I knew about before I left, so if you are about to head off on the adventure of a lifetime, listen up.

Make sure you avoid..........

being really sick in a foreign country.

The language barrier makes it difficult for you know what's going on and hard for doctors to diagnose you.

One of the most miserable experiences to suffer abroad is also very common. There are many names for it, but "Delhi Belly" is a blanket term that covers the range of ailments of the digestive tract. Always inconvenient and at worst potentially serious, one dose of this will make you do everything in your power to prevent it happening again.

It is commonly caused by bacteria and parasites, so finding clean and safe drinking water is the key to staying well. Unfortunately, in the middle of Asia or Africa, there is no easy way of determining the quality of water. You should assume all non-sealed water is not safe for drinking.

In the past the common solution was water purification tablets that tasted really bad and were a hassle to use all of the time. Thankfully now there is a traveler's tool no bigger than a toothbrush that can provide safe drinking water anywhere.

The easy way to stay well

Always assume tap water is unclean and closely check the seal on bottled water. In many of the poorer countries the temptation is too great and water bottles are re-filled with tap water and sold as clean drinking water. People aren't out to make you sick, they're out to feed their families - it's your job to keep you safe.

The big change now is that you can filter water anywhere, and with ease. Modern technology has developed simple microfilters that clean the water instantly as it passes through. Some are built into water bottles, others in a pump design. The unsafe water that goes in comes out clean and ready to go. Another application by Aquasafe has added the microfilter to a straw. This is particularly useful for children who love the straw and do not notice they are purifying the water.

All types of microfilter are small and lightweight that I cannot think of a reason why they should not be packed for every trip.

Most work by microfiltration and do not use chemicals to kill bacteria. They simply let the water molecules through while keeping out bacteria and other pathogens. Some also have multiple cleaning actions by combining the filtration with an iodine treatment.

With the ability to filter hundreds or even thousands of gallons of water each, one device is enough for some prettty big adventures.

Of course you can venture forth unprepared like I did, but I think after your first experience with "Delhi Belly", a water filtration device will seem like a great idea.


Examples of Water Filtration Devices

Katadyn Exstream XR Water Purifier Bottle
Katadyn Exstream XR Water Purifier Bottle

Water bottle type. The most effective in its class. EPA registered, removes all types of pathogens. Good for around 26 gallons per filter



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      Karen Gomez - Water Filters 7 years ago

      Thank you for this it was very informative. It was very beneficial that you positioned a list of products to choose from. I'm now looking for the best water filtration product that I can use at home.