I was very young, and I was enlisted and stationed at Ft Hood. The Army had taught us in basic training and Infantry school a simple technique one could use to ‘examine’ water prior to drinking. This was around the time I had to filter water from a dried river bed thru a sweat sock at Big Bend NP while on a backpacking trip, before I had ever heard of backpacking water purifiers.
The method was this; 1. Look at the water to make sure it was clear 2. Smell the water to detect any odors 3. Slightly taste the water to detect any odd or bad tastes. It’s not a bad common sense, last resort type of thing.
But then came my trip to Mexico. Drove to Laredo, took the overnight train to Mexico City, stayed for 2 weeks, and then took a bus, via Guadalajara, to Puerto Vallarta. Stayed in a cheap hotel for $3 a night. When it rained, the river turned brown, and so did the water in my room.
Long story short, Montezuma caught me and I had it bad, at both ends, for 3 full days, until I hopped a plane for San Antonio and some fresh water.
Hence my obsession with clean water and purifiers.
If you canoe or raft down the Shenandoah river up from Luray, you see cows standing in the water doing their ‘business’ – (yum! pass the canteen!)
When hiking with folks who don’t bother to purify their water, I think about mexico. I KNOW that there are springs and creeks from springs where the water is probably clean, and I will drink from those myself, but I for one will always recommend that hikers beware and be prepared to clean their water.
One of the disturbing trends is in the manufacturing world of purifiers. It is getting harder and harder to finds filters for older model purifiers which necessitates upgrading.
So over the years I’ve gone from a Sniff test, to a sweatsock, to boiling, to iodine tablets(YUK!!) to a Pur, to a First Need (lack of filters for both), to a Katahdin model (nice but heavy), to a Steripen, expensive but VERY light, and the wand is glass, so its fragile and needs batteries.
Let’s hope the Steripen stays around for a while..I’ll drink to that!