Water is vital to all known forms of life, and certainly to humans. No water, no life. Even more important than food, you should always bring extra water and/or the means to treat water found naturally in streams, creeks, rivers, and lakes. Treatment methods for water include pump filters, gravity/squeeze filters, UV “pens,” and iodine tablets. Another means of treating water is boiling, but water should boil at least five minutes if not longer (which means a lot of fuel in some form or another.) I personally use a gravity/squeeze filter, which I find to be the most effective, convenient, and economic way to treat water. There are, of course, many ways to carry your water. Nalgene bottles, metal bottles, “soft” bottles, plastic “disposable” bottles, and water bladders are the primary means. Below I’ll discuss some of my favorite vessels and treatment methods. (PLEASE NOTE: I have no affiliation with any manufacturers or retailers listed below. I am simply offering my opinion regarding goods I’ve purchased as a consumer.)
- Metal bottles are durable, you don’t have to worry about chemicals leaching from plastic, you could boil water in them if you had to, and I think they kind of look cool the more beat up they get. I have a 40 oz. Klean Kanteen stainless steel bottle with a Sport Top (apprx. $20-$30 at Amazon) that finds its way into many day hikes. The weight and bulk, however, means it stays home for backpacking trips.
- Hard Plastic/Nalgene bottles are a time-tested classic. They last forever and appear to be safe for your health (if BPA free). Like metal, though, these are a tad heavy and definitely bulky.
- Soft bottles are lightweight and pack up very small when empty. These are great for backpacking. Durability is the main concern with soft bottles. A busted seam or puncture might be tough or impossible to repair in the backcountry. I recently purchased a 34 oz. Platypus ($9 at REI) but have not used it on the trail yet. I’ll edit this post after I have some more experience using it.
- “Disposable” bottles are used by many hardcore hikers, including many thru hikers. 32 oz. Gatorade bottles and 1-liter Smartwater bottles seem to be popular choices. The advantages of disposable bottles are that they are very cheap (or free if salvaged), easily accessible, very lightweight, and pretty durable considering they are practically free. Another advantage is the Sawyer Mini filter (discussed below) can simply screw right to the top of many brands making for an inexpensive, highly effective, and very convenient water filter system.
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