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#117697 - 06/27/09 02:00 AM Water filter & man-made pollutants
Andy Offline
member

Registered: 06/27/09
Posts: 52
Loc: Ohio
Hello, first post from a 1-year lurker.

I am a 40-ish-year-old scout and camper with a six-year-old son. The past two years we have done a good bit of backyard camping, day-hiking, convenience-camping, and weekend camping at some local state parks and campgrounds in western Ohio. We've played around on a few short sections of the Buckeye trail. We would like to eventually hike the entire length.

As my son gets older, I find myself on the fence as far as backpacking vs. convenience-camping. My doubt is water supply. There have been times when we have had to cut out a day early because we've simply run out of packed-in potable water.

Ohio is either heavily industrialized or heavily agriculturalized, depending upon where you're at. There are no true wilderness areas and no native "clean" surface water supply (no glaciers and definitely no mountain streams). There have been some reports in the news the past few months about poor water quality in some Ohio lakes and feeder rivers (the few that are actually tested). The "clean" well at our home is 200+ feet deep.

I've thought about getting a backpacking water filter, but I cannot find any information about filtering out herbicides or pesticides. It could be that this is just not possible and I am just ignorant. There are some filters that claim to filter out the "taste".

Folks, that's just not good enough for me. I'm not a bottled water nut. I either drink treated city water at my workplace or water from my well at home. But the thought of filtering up creek water in the watershed where a well-intentioned farmer is dumping hundreds of pounds of herbicides simply makes my testes shrink up into my abdominal cavity.

If anyone is willing to tip me towards one side or the other, that would be greatly appreciated. I'd like to have a filter and decrease the amount of water I have to pack. But I especially don't want to endanger my son's long-term health.

And of course if this is not possible to filter out, please say so and we will continue "heavy" hiking. But it sucks having to carry 3 gallons of water!!

Regards,
Andy

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#117704 - 06/27/09 11:57 AM Re: Water filter & man-made pollutants [Re: Andy]
Rick_D Offline
member

Registered: 01/06/02
Posts: 2802
Loc: NorCal
Hi Andy, and welcome!

I simply don't know anything about your regional water supply but absolutely agree you have a reason for concern.

Organic chemicals can be filtered out with activated carbon (charcoal) and most (but not all) pesticides are organic, but metals are a whole different matter. You also likely have a lot of regional fertilizer contamination, especially nitrate.

Popular filters with carbon include the Katadyn Hiker, the MSR Sweetwater and the First Need (there are others). The quandary is knowing how much contamination is in the water to begin with (impossible) and how much the filter is removing. If you have some confidence that pollutant levels are low, you should be able to trust a carbon filter to remove the bulk of contamination. You'll of course be removing any bacteria and cysts at the same time.

The only technology that would completely remove everything would be reverse-osmosis, which you can buy in the form of saltwater filters intended for boating. Katadyn makes one or two of these, but they're really heavy and expensive.

I suppose your challenge is two-fold: find a hiking region with known decent water quality and use a filter proven to remove organics. Any of those listed above are good quality and affordable, and not too heavy. It sure beats lugging water!

Good luck,
_________________________
--Rick

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#117709 - 06/27/09 03:16 PM Re: Water filter & man-made pollutants [Re: Rick_D]
thecook Offline


Registered: 10/03/08
Posts: 541
Loc: Minnesota
I believe that the Hiker does not have a carbon filter. You need the Hiker Pro to have the added carbon. The EPA should have information both on what actived charcoal will actually remove and what contaminants are in a particular area. Of course and should and do are often different, but start there.
_________________________
If I wouldn't eat it at home, why would I want to eat it on the trail?

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#117712 - 06/27/09 05:24 PM Re: Water filter & man-made pollutants [Re: thecook]
Rick_D Offline
member

Registered: 01/06/02
Posts: 2802
Loc: NorCal
The Hiker does have granular carbon in the center. AFAIK the only difference with the Pro is the prefilter blanket wrapped around the pleated filter element.

Neither has a lot of carbon, so I wouldn't trust them for heavyduty chemical removal. I'd probably rig a two-stage filter with a second carbon chamber if I had to handle a big chemical load.

Cheers,
_________________________
--Rick

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#117744 - 06/28/09 05:45 PM Re: Water filter & man-made pollutants [Re: Rick_D]
Andy Offline
member

Registered: 06/27/09
Posts: 52
Loc: Ohio
I was able to download user manuals for both the Katadyn and the MSR filters. The Katadyn shows a fiberglass filter with a small activated carbon insert and a ceramic pre-filter. The MSR lists a ceramic filter with a carbon core.

However, the MSR manual gives this warning:
"Never use the MiniWorks EX to filter seawater or chemically contaminated water, such as water from mining tailing ponds or near large agricultural operations. The MiniWorks EX does not make drinkable water from these sources".

Since the two filters appear to be the same mechanically, with only minor differences in the filter cartridge design, I guess we'll err on the side of caution for now and keep packing water.

I appreciate the responses, and any other replies to this thread are welcomed.

Thanks and regards,
Andy

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#117754 - 06/28/09 11:01 PM Re: Water filter & man-made pollutants [Re: Andy]
thecook Offline


Registered: 10/03/08
Posts: 541
Loc: Minnesota
It might be worth checking out the Katadyn carbob cartridge. It is an activated charcoal cartridge that can be added to any water filter. I don't know what it will take out but the REI site says it takes chlorine out.
_________________________
If I wouldn't eat it at home, why would I want to eat it on the trail?

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#117891 - 07/01/09 10:52 AM Re: Water filter & man-made pollutants [Re: Andy]
lori Offline
member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2801
It sounds like you're hiking in an area where there's a lot of agriculture?

I go into the Sierras, where cattle frequently graze in the foothill areas but tend to spread out over a large area, or in national parks, where there is no ag or manufacturing. I have trusted my water filter so far as the water is coming down out of mountains and the only (minimal, some say) danger is from contaminants like bacteria or protozoa, which filters do remove. Some areas have mines or logging, but it's easy to be informed about this and steer clear. Ultimately there is no ironclad guarantee, but I feel pretty safe about filtering the water. No one's spraying the mountains with pesticide.

There is someone in my group who feels the same as you who dayhikes with us and gets very sore shoulders carrying a lot of water in a daypack. If we were hiking in the valley, where there's ag as far as the eye can see, I'd be doing the same - but we're not. Sources make a huge difference.

Maybe there are places you can hike where the water sources are less impacted?
_________________________
"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind there are few." Shunryu Suzuki

http://hikeandbackpack.com

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#117904 - 07/01/09 04:49 PM Re: Water filter & man-made pollutants [Re: lori]
phat Offline
Moderator

Registered: 06/24/07
Posts: 4107
Loc: Alberta, Canada

I would not trust a carbon (activated charcoal) thing for man made industrial contaminants. I'm pretty confident that with a decent filter to break out the chunkies, and chlorine dioxide treatment (pristine, aquamiria, etc.) I'll happily drink from the most cow pattie pooped in mudhole, but industrial contaminants can be vicious and nasty. if it's heavy metals and the like you can get it out by distillation, but organic chemicals may or may not be removable this way. Even so, distilling requires lots of heat and a decent apparatus for doing so..

So anyway, my take on it - bacteria, protozoa, poop, etc - a good filter and/or treatment.

Salt or industrial contaminants.. I'd be carrying water or going elsewhere.

_________________________
Any fool can be uncomfortable...
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#117923 - 07/01/09 10:50 PM Re: Water filter & man-made pollutants [Re: lori]
Andy Offline
member

Registered: 06/27/09
Posts: 52
Loc: Ohio
>It sounds like you're hiking in an area where there's a lot of agriculture?

Lori,

Ohio is (or was) the third-most industrialized state in the nation; and whatever is left over is farmland. Small farms, family farms, mega-farms. My family (grandparents, now uncle and cousins) run a small dairy farm with about 400 cattle (nothing to brag about out west, but it's a moderately-sized farm here).

I live at the highest point in the state - all of 1,500 feet. So walk 2 miles out my front door and everything is flat, and in the watershed, one direction or another.

That isn't to say there isn't some nice country here. Southeastern Ohio is nice and hilly; good hiking and camping. But also coal-mining and strip-mining territory. If you've ever heard stories about coal mines burning underground for 30+ years, that would be in Ohio also.

Gee, I sound like I'm trying to talk myself into moving. What's the place in Alaska that was offering free land to whoever would come and live there?
lame

If I come up with any good workaround, I'll be sure to post here.

-Andy

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#117943 - 07/02/09 03:48 PM Re: Water filter & man-made pollutants [Re: Andy]
lori Offline
member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2801
Originally Posted By Andy
>It sounds like you're hiking in an area where there's a lot of agriculture?

Lori,

Ohio is (or was) the third-most industrialized state in the nation; and whatever is left over is farmland. Small farms, family farms, mega-farms. My family (grandparents, now uncle and cousins) run a small dairy farm with about 400 cattle (nothing to brag about out west, but it's a moderately-sized farm here).

I live at the highest point in the state - all of 1,500 feet. So walk 2 miles out my front door and everything is flat, and in the watershed, one direction or another.


Wow, okay. Hadn't been there before, and really wasn't aware. Guess I'm spoiled living in California and being able to leave the cultivated stuff behind in a couple of hours of driving.

I'd like to hear about anything you turn up. I think I'd just get a string of pack goats to lug the water.
_________________________
"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind there are few." Shunryu Suzuki

http://hikeandbackpack.com

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#117946 - 07/02/09 04:16 PM Re: Water filter & man-made pollutants [Re: lori]
thecook Offline


Registered: 10/03/08
Posts: 541
Loc: Minnesota
How about a change of venue for camping? PA, Upper NY, VA, and Michigan all have interesting spots for backping that should not be terrible drives, depending on where in OH you live.
_________________________
If I wouldn't eat it at home, why would I want to eat it on the trail?

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#122948 - 10/26/09 09:02 PM Re: Water filter & man-made pollutants [Re: Andy]
oldranger Offline
member

Registered: 02/23/07
Posts: 1735
Loc: California (southern)
Originally Posted By Andy
>

Gee, I sound like I'm trying to talk myself into moving. What's the place in Alaska that was offering free land to whoever would home and live there


Worth considering. I spent my freshman year in Ohio. The next year I transferred to Arizona - one of my better decisions.

Seriously, though, you have some wonderful places nearby. Isle Royale NP is absolutely fabulous, for one, and there is a lot more that I have no knowledge of..

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