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Tuesday, April 28, 2009



I promised you a gear report for today, but I already have a REALLY COOL item from my afternoon walk for tomorrow, so be sure to come back!

With the final demise of the water filter that we have been very happy with for years, the Sweetwater Guardian, Marie and I knew at the end of last summer that we would have to make a change. The Steripen had been recommended to me, and we visited an outfitter and got a lot of good information about the device. We decided this spring to buy one. It arrived this week, and I needed to check it out. Of course the real test will be how it performs over the long haul on the hike, but here's the preliminary report.

dipping creek waterThe first change we were going to need to make was to take a wide-mouth bottle. We've been using empty soda bottles for years (that's another gear story). I had one wide-mouth nalgene bottle, so I went to the creek and filled it with water. Of course, you want to be careful not to get sediment in the bottle. To make the test easier, I carried it back to the kitchen.

using the steripenThe Steripen works by treating the water with ultraviolet light. This is actually a very good way to kill germs, and more metropolitan water treatment plants would use it except it's difficult to treat those quantities of water in a reasonable amount of time. However, for camper quantities, it's great. You turn on the pen (it has two batteries in it- an odd size), being sure to choose either the quart or half-quart setting. This bottle is a quart. Then you insert the pen in the water. The contact with the water will complete a circuit and you will see the wand light up. You need to agitate the water to be sure it all gets treated. When the water is all treated a small light turns green. If the wand light goes out but the small light is red, you need to treat it again. I think that the small light is going to be difficult to see outdoors, and it's also in a somewhat awkward location. I was surprised that it took over 2 minutes to treat this quart. I think it took about that long to filter a quart so this won't necessarily be slower, but I don't think it's going to be a lot faster, either. That said, the creek where I got this water is not very pristine, so I think there were a lot of germs to kill.

water purification kit contentsThen I needed to decide how to pack it up. It has its hard case, and then a padded case too. It needs to be wiped dry after every use, so I decided that it should have a dedicated cloth that travels with it. Then I decided that I did not like the blue water bottle. I preferred to be able to more easily see how much sediment I had picked up, and also the blue bottle is heavy. I settled for a wide-mouth plastic Miracle Whip jar. This will be for water treatment, and then the water will be poured into our other bottles. Also in the water kit is a small pile of coffee filters. We've found that these are great for those times when you really have to pre-filter water to get a lot of sediment out.

water purification kitIt all packs in the mayo jar, for a nice compact water purification kit. The whole thing weighs 8.6 ounces. The old filter kit weighed 14.5 ounces. That's a significant savings.

Hike Planning Report
Added more details to our custom guide from another source.

Did errands all afternoon... getting new first aid stuff, cable and cord fix for the cache rope, a few groceries at a store I don't usually visit, and several other boring things.

Walked 3 miles with 42 pounds. Fell down hard on one knee, but it seems to be ok. (whew, PTL and all that!)

SSee Hanging the Cache for another gear story
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Joe Todd said...

Thanks for the post. You answered my question.. about "water"
Have some quality time during your quality day..

John | English Wilderness said...

I really ought to invest in something like this.

John | English Wilderness said...

I really ought to invest in something like this. Normally, I end up carrying a couple of litres of bottled water to drink, and using stream water to wash.

Sharkbytes said...

Hi Joe- When it's just Marie and me we generally make one major water filtering stop a day and fill all our bottles. Some people prefer to just fill one as they go, but sometimes this can get one in trouble if going through a dry area. This trip won't be dry by any means! I don't know quite how the 2 guys that will be also on this trip will want to do it.

John- Your method works fine for day hikes or one overnight, but wouldn't work on a 2-week trip! Ha!

Gregorio said...

I have visited your blog many times and really enjoy your tips and information.I used to be an avid hiker as I live close to the Adirondacks in New York.For certain reasons I stopped going so much over the years(friends all married w/kids).Anyway reading your posts have sparked a new light in me and I want to thank you for the inspiration.

rainfield61 said...

The steripen is a good idea for a hiker.Thanks for the information that must be useful in the future.

Glynis Peters said...

That sounds like a really valuable item!

Lin said...

With the news about our poisoned water, I am extra sensitive about the issue. Maybe I need one of these!

Rick (Ratty) said...

This is a good idea. I didn't know water could be purified like this. I love this kind of stuff. I haven't had the opportunity to use any of it, but I can dream. One of these times I'm going to try doing something where I can use something like this. I'm getting closer.

Sharkbytes said...

Gregorio- Welcome! I'm glad you are enjoying the vicarious hiking experience. Get yourself back in the woods!

Hi rainfield, Glynis, Lin- The Steripen has been taking the hiking community by storm. I'll tell you how well I like it when we get home. One set of batteries is supposed to clean about 15 gallons of water. I haven't priced the batteries yet (we will need at least one more set). I think a Brita filter makes more sense for home use, Lin.

Ratty- Be careful, buddy, or you will find yourself becoming hooked on backpacking.