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Despite its cool, clear refreshing look, most water available in the backwoods today is not safe to drink unless treated. Various chemicals, bacteria, viruses and plain old mud can turn a simple thirst quencher into gut wrenching time a few days later as the bugs make their way thru you. Boiling water kills bacteria and viruses, but doesn't get rid of sediments or chemicals, and is inconvenient when on the trail. Water filters that we rent remove most bacteria and sediments, but not all viruses. Another purchase option with further pros and cons is our Lifestraw filter option.
I've never gotten sick drinking water that was only filtered, and not further treated, but if you want to play it safer, you can chemically treat the water after you've filtered it for greater peace of mind. You can also use tablets alone as your primary treatment method, without filtering. There are some drawbacks to the latter - if your only source of water is sorta muddy, it will still be sorta muddy when your drink it, although the nasties should be neutralized. And, there is a bit of a time delay - typically at least 30 minutes before you should drink after treatment. In this application, longer is better - one good idea is to load up your water containers and treat overnight. I take a filter, and then just one or two tablets as an emergency backup, in case I lose or break the filter, or the only available water source nearby has a steer skull next to it.
The type of tablets we have may vary from time to time - for some reason shortages on these things occasionally pop up - but generally we have Aquamira or Potable Aqua tablets in stock at our store that we can send you along with your rental or other order. The package has 20 tablets, each of which will treat a quart of reasonably clear water per the manufacturer, but assume less volume than that for water needing higher treatment concentration. We rent water bladders and water bottles for carrying the filtered water.
For more information, see our tips on hydration and water treatment, or give us a call if you want more information on what water treatment options you should carry for your next backcountry trip.