Loc: Torrance, CA
Yup. I've realized this for quite some time. I remember reading about a study done on people exiting the AT. They asked about if they got sick and what kind of water treatment they used and a bevy of other questions. They found no correlation between water treatment (including not treating) and if people got sick. They did find strong correlation between cleanliness techniques and if people got sick.
I still treat, because it is lightweight and I don't want giardia but I no longer worry about a backup water treatment technique. That is what I worry about in the hullabaloo people make about water treatment: it leaves people, particularly people without much experience feeling that backcountry water dangerous. If they find themselves lost or injured they may be hesitant to properly hydrate which can make a bad situation worse.
I love the articles concluding remark:
If the real danger comes from eating after a trip to the cathole, then that’s the point that should be emphasized—not an unsubstantiated view of all water in the mountains as suspect. In all likelihood, it’s not the water that’s gross. It’s you.
I think the article's probably right and that most contamination is self-inflicted. I solve that by hand-washing and hand sanitizer, which has worked so far.
The thing that keeps me using a filter for all water is the statement that "only 5% of water is sufficiently contaminated to pose a threat." My problem is that I can't tell WHICH 5% just by looking. Since the filters nowadays are so aftertaste-free, lightweight, and simple (for example, Sawyer), it's pretty easy to adopt a "better safe than sorry" attitude.
As for backup, I do carry some purification tablets. However, if faced with drinking untreated water or no water, I'd try to find the best source I could, drink, and hope for the best. Much of the "hullabaloo" seems to come from the no-risk/zero-tolerance crowd; thankfully, I grew up in a generation that learned to weigh risks and make decisions knowing there are probably consequences.
Loc: Portland, OR
I bring a Sawyer Mini with me and generally use it just to be on the safe side, but I am usually hiking where the water sources are clear, copious, and very unlikely to be contaminated, so I do drink "wild water" from time to time. Especially when I can see the water emerging from a spring within a few feet of where I am dipping I think filtering is pretty pointless.