When people get out of the city to go camping and enjoy nature, they don’t expect to run into pollution problems. After all it’s nature, right? Everything is supposed to be pristine. Well, don’t let mother nature fool you. The crystal clear water you see from lakes and rivers might not be as pure as you might think.

Untreated water from the great outdoors might contain bacteria, parasites and viruses that can become harmful once ingested. Symptoms can include nausea, diarrhea and vomiting. That’s why it’s important to be educated on the water purification process when going camping.

There are three basic methods of purifying water when camping. They are the filter process, the chemical process and the boil method.

The boil method is the best bet to kill all bacteria, micro-organisms and viruses dead. However, it is also a time consuming process to bring large quantities of water to a boil. After that, you need to let the water cool down unless you wish to drink hot water on a hot day. Boiling water also requires a fire or some other source of heat source. In any case, while boiling water is effective, it isn’t the most convenient option.

An alternative option to the boil method is to use a water filter. Filters are a mechanical method to separate parasites and other undesirables from the water. Look to buy a water filter of 1 micron or less to strain out protozoa like giardia and cryptosporidium. A more refined filter of less than 0.4 micron will remove most bacteria. Or, a water filter system with a built-in iodine component will kill the bacteria and viruses. This leads to the third method of water purification: the chemical method.

Iodine is often used in chemical water purification tablets to kill bacteria and viruses. Tablets are cheap and easy to use but they have some drawbacks as well. The shelf life of tablets is about six months in an open bottle and the iodine also leaves a taste in the water. To combat this problem, carbon filters are used to remove the iodine.

As you can see, the most effective method for fast drinking water is through a combination of mechanical water filters with a chemical component of iodine. With this in mind, make sure you are equipped with a good water purification system the next time you go camping so you can really enjoy the outdoors.