I plan to backpack in the Scottish highlands in June. My question concerns the treatment of river/ loch water to make it safe for cooking & drinking. What would you recommend without breaking the bank?!
Answer: Hi there,
The name is Gear, Richard 'Clean Water' Gear. In many Scottish highland
areas, particularly high up, the chances are that you'll be fine
drinking water direct from fast-flowing streams, however it's
completely understandable to want to be as safe as possible,
particularly with parasites like giardia becoming more common in the
The most straightforward means of sterilising water is simply to bring
it to a rolling boil using your stove, which you'll be carrying anyway.
This will kill anything organic, like micro-organisms and giardia cysts
and leave the water safe to drink. It won't remove chemical
contaminants, but this shouldn't really be an issue on higher ground.
That should sort out for evening and morning use. During the day, the
most economical and easiest solution is to use one of the
self-contained filter bottles like the drinkSAFE
Travel Tap or the Katadyn equivalent.
Externally they look like a normal water bottle, but the cap
incorporates a filter system - above - which will remove both
micro-organisms and most chemical contaminants. At around £35
they're relatively inexpensive and very easy to use - simply fill with
water and drink. They do have a limited filter life, but it's up to
1600 liters which should happily cope with your Scottish trip.
The next step up would be a small, pump-based filter, but this will
cost you signicantly more and, to be honest, is more of a faff than a
filter bottle. Your other option might be to use silver-based
purification tabs, but these take several hours to purify water and are
relatively expensive. Iodine is a further option, but it leaves a nasty
after taste and is unsuitable for long term use.
On balance, the boiling / filter bottle combination is workable and
affordable and in your boots, that's what I'd go for. The bottles are
also excellent for trekking use for the same reason.