Do I really need to filter my water?
I recently went on a 2 week trip hiking around Iceland and I took a travel tap with me. I found it such hard work to use that I gave up and just drank directly from the rivers. The water I had in Iceland was from places in the middle of nowhere so I was pretty confident that I would be fine.
Now I am back in the UK and wondering if I should be filtering water on Dartmoor. I have been drinking from streams here for the past 3 years without once getting ill.
Has anyone actually got ill from drinking water in the UK (just out of interest)?
What kind of illnesses can I get potentially?
What kind of flow rates do other get from their travel taps? I get a very fast drip/trickle, which makes drinking an annoying wait!
I do know someone has come down with cryptosporidium before; it is possible to get that from unfiltered water in the UK. It didn't seem like much fun. I don't recall exactly how he caught it, but it did involve contact with river water.
Generally if you're up in the hills above human habitation and farming, the water is likely to be pretty clean especially in small, fast moving steams. Your experiences seem to have borne that out just fine!
Me, I'm paranoid, and always boil or filter my water. But that's just me.
If you didn't like the travel tap, try the in-line filter, it's a lot less work. If you use a water bottle rather than a bladder, get something like the Source Convertube and then you can fit the in-line filter.
Paddy's recently come back from Iceland - see his thread in the Travel section. Ask him what he did in Iceland. But doesn't some of the water there come from glacier melt? Could have incy wincy bits of rock in it and your digestive system might not like?
I filter water in the UK when I'm walking where there are livestock about, I don't want to risk picking up giardia or cryptosporidium or even a more harmless bug, so I'll go to the extra effort of using the in-line filter.
But I may just be being over-cautious.
Low down I'm more cautious than up on the fells, but in reallity in 40-odd years of going into the hills I've not had a problem drinking straight out of streams. A quick visual check upstream is all I do and avoid anything below habitation.
In the alps minerals in the water can have a disasterous effect on ones digestive system, a mate gets caught every time although it doesn't bother me at all.
My attitude is that most water treatment consists of aeration, filtration and UV exposure, all of which take place in a fellside stream.
Metric Kate wrote (see)
Paddy's recently come back from Iceland...
So he has!
I didn't filter water in Iceland, and I don't filter water anywhere else I go either. I generally trust mountain water almost anywhere, and I'll trust other water sources just so long as I can satisfy myself that they aren't polluted in any way. The presence of livestock in an area bothers me no more than the presence of fish in the water... they're all peeing and crapping and copulating, and that's all part of the grand system of things! If you can't actually see anything in the water, then it's probably pointless filtering it, and a good boil should remove any lingering doubts about its quality.
But that's just me... still alive and kicking after all that naughty water-drinking!
Well thats decision made for me then. I will continue what I am doing for any trips where I am a short walk from civilisation should I get sick. I'll filter if I am away on longer hikes in non mountainous areas.
On another note it almost seems like a crime to filter water from a mountain stream and I like the taste of peaty water on Dartmoor!
I like the theory that as long as you don't drink more than a few sips at a time the acid in your stomach will kill off most things.
Don't know how true it is, but I have had no problems after drinking from the river that runs through Amsterdam (or anywhere else)
some people have been drinking "raw" water for years. they will have built up an immunity to most common things in it.
if you're happy about it then do it.
if you're in any doubt at all why potentially spoil an outing because you can't be bothered.
i don't disagree paddy but that usually involves a couple of days of the raging shits at various points. if you have the time to build up resistance then go for it. if you have limited time do you want to?
at the start of overseas travel virtually everyone who went away would have the local "trouble" and then no more as you became resistant to the particular strain that gave you spanish tummy. or delhi belly in more modern times. if you only have a weekend away say why take the risk when you don't need to as "sanitising" water is completly faff free these days. having the shits in a tent is not at all pleasant.
that said, i think by far the biggest cause of upset is due solely to poor personal hygeine or putting things in or near your mouth that have no place being there. i guess it may be nice it was entirely your fault if you become ill and not the water's.
I never had filters or anything in all the years of walking in the Lakes until a few years ago. I got a steripen and the first trip I used it I had 6 days of the shits despite using it properly in accordance with the instructions. I took it on the next trip and it didn't work so I drank from the streams like I used to. I later bought aqua mira and didn't like the taste so got a drink safe inline filter. I know that where i take water from I won't get ill due to experience of taking from those streams however I have it so if away for a few days I'll use it "just in case".
BTW Trail magazine did a test on a few popular Lakes wildcamp spots and if you read the list or nasties you'd be filtering, boiling and using chlorine all at once. It was the same issue doing a review on the popular filters around at the time so I suppose it made for good advertising revenues to do the review and scare readers nearly to death. Or that could be cynical side coming out again. Anyway IIRC it was sprinking tarn and other places in that area near Scafell Pike. I suspect the samples were taken from places you'd not take from such as the outflow of tarns. It is always recommended to take from the inlet to tarns not the outlet and the rule about free flowing for some distance. Always check for nasties higher up such as dead sheep or animals or toilet paper or sanitary towels or nappies. Seriously I have kipped at Angletarn near Patterdale a few times and all the streams around it had toilet paper close to the stream where campers have dipped into thee stream just off the path for a pee. It is popular with outward bounds and coast to coasters so no wonder the area is one big toilet.
I remember as a kid with the cubs filling our water bottles from a stream near the top of loughrigg that ran across the footpath. In fact we took it directly from where the footpath was and none of us got ill. I think magazines in particular can scare people with the water purification thing. The reality is the UK in higher level streams you are less likely to get ill than other water sources. I actually once got ill from nice safe drinking water that was in a new area I was in once. It is possible to get ill just from different water in a different area to what you are used to.
I don't know Dartmoor at all so have no idea how safe it is there but in the Lakes you are generally safe.
BTW I used a traavel tap of my mate a year before getting an inline filter from the same company. The inline is so much easier to use than the travel tap. The tap is all about squeezing the water out the inline is a simple suck or evenforce it through into another container. No comparison in the ease of use with the inline.
BTW I often use the filter with a bladder then the weekend after a atrip use the bladder without the filter and without disinfecting the bladder. If there was anything nasty in the water (some of it is left in the bladder in that week) yet with the growth time of the bugs I still haven't got ill. I doubt anything is in it in the first place.
When I walked on Dartmoor in the early 80s, I was told that 50m of granite river bed and the water would be fine to drink. Provided there wasn't a decaying sheep 51m upstream. I drank water from the streams happily.
But given that the inline filter is cheap, light and so easy to use, for me it's a no brainer. Especially given that I do a lot of my walking in the Brecon Beacons. And there's nowhere you can go in the Beacons that doesn't have sheep poo on the ground.
I agree with warhippo for all the above reasons, but agree with Paddy too, so it depends on your attitude if you are prepared to be blowing out of both ends in the middle of a backpacking trip and class it as charecter building then go for it. If you have that don't be soft attitude just quaff it but if you are cautious, use the filter as it is intended and accept it will take a certain amount of time.
After aquiring a gastro bug,spending five days in hospital on a drip and getting cramp in every muscle including the one between my arse and balls (sorry Kate) I have never wanted to repeat that on the hill, I would put myself in the 'cast iron stomach' category but after that experience I have always been a bit more careful about that which I consume.
I have never had the shits from drinking stream water, so it's not a case of being hard and building up resistance and I was a OB instructor at Ullswater so grisedale common was my workplace most of the time.
Never had a problem and neither did any of my groups, I suspect that if you took water samples from the worst possible place you would find problems anywhere, you have to use a bit of common sense. OB now use 'poo pots' to carry out waste so we'll have to stop blaming them.
IME most tummy bugs are caused by poor hygene and bad cooking practice. I've seen folk prepare fresh meat then the next day make their sandwiches or cut fruit with the same knife, having 'washed' it in cold or tepid water.
As for pesticides and heavy metals I think that things are better now than at anytime in the last 50 years, witness the return of many birds of prey that were ravaged by DDT etc.
There are issues with increased usage but they tend to be in limited areas (witness the monster turd I spotted on the mule track on the Ben at easter) but I doubt I would take water from below the M6 either.
the delios doesn't remove viruses or chemicals which the travel tap does.
nobody has told Helicobacter pylori about being killed by your stomach acid.
warhippo, cosuming something will give you resistance to it. not nasty, nasty stuff but will against common problems like simple mineral composition of the water to "local" germs - like spanish tummy, delhi belly.
Parky Again wrote (see)
Fun fact: giardia, cryptosporidium and the organism behind amoebic dysentry can all take forms that can survive stomach acid (oocysts).
I don't think you can really become immune to intestinal parasites either; they're not things that are conveniently handled by your immune system because they're effectively 'outside' its area of action. I could well be wrong, however.
I'm reasonably certain there's at least one family of parasites whose transformation from cyst to active organism is actually triggered by exposure to acid, too, but I don't recall what they are offhand. I'm in no hurry to remind myself either; reading about human parasites is one of the reasons I always filter or boil even when it probably isn't necessary
edit: I love the contextual adverts OM has. In a post about waterborne parasites, 'family' becomes a link to somewhere offering swimming lessons.
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