But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life. -John 4:14
It’s a week and half away from my backpacking trip on Terrace Mountain Trial. The weather this week has been humid…summer is here. As I sit in the comfort of air conditioning this evening with Skippy enjoying his nightly chewie I find myself pondering the weather for my trip. Humid weather around here means the potential for what we call “pop-up” thunderstorms. They tend to appear out of nowhere and can hit pretty heavy. But with humidity and heat comes the need for water.
While food is essential, water is even more important. My list of meals will be simple, high in protein, nutrition and the calorie intake I need, but I am planning probably for water. You need to carry enough water, but at the same time not too much. Water adds weight quickly to your pack, so locating and planning water sources are important.
On a day hike, safe drinking water isn’t an issue. You can carry what you need. But when backpacking, you will most likely be using chemical water purification or filters to resupply yourself using natural sources of water. Both of these can fail at times. A filter can break or get clogged, and pills can be lost, damaged, or just not effective if the water you start with is too murky.
What you need then, if you want to be fully prepared when entering the wilderness, is a little knowledge.
Safe Drinking Water Tips
1. Use your map. See if there are farms or grazing lands or campgrounds upstream from where you are collecting your water. If so, be sure to boil it or use a heavier-than-normal dose of whatever chemical disinfectant you are using. Better yet, collect water somewhere else.
2. Look at the surface. If there is a rainbow-colored sheen to the water, it may be toxic. If the color is from natural bacteria which are generally harmless, it will usually break apart when you poke a stick into it. If it doesn’t, it may be petroleum-based, and should be avoided.
3. Look around. If you are near trail crossings or places where people camp, try to collect your water upstream of these areas. If it is a short walk, you may also want to get above any meadow where animals graze.
4. Treat clear water. If the water is murky, your filter may clog or your chemical treatment may not be effective. To solve this problem, let the water settle for a while in any container you have, and then pour off the clearer water after the dirt settles out. You can also strain water through a bandana or t-shirt to get the big stuff out.
In any case, look for the clearest water that is furthest from sources of contamination. Filter, treat with chemicals, boil, or take your chances. Safe drinking water is a necessity, so plan ahead.
Remember, life is one long hiking trip and we can’t get through it without the living water of Jesus.