I have to admit, I really don’t enjoy pumping water in the backcountry. You wouldn’t know it by the amount of different water filters I own; in fact you would probably think the opposite after seeing my inventory. I actually don’t know when I began to feel this way. It just seems anymore, the thought of sitting next to a water source and physically pumping water into all my containers is a chore I despise. So much so, I began to skimp on my water intake just so I didn’t have to pump more water. For those of you that backpack, not drinking enough filtered water is never a good thing in the wilderness and drinking untreated water was not an option. I tried purifying pills and drops but I could not get used to the after taste. Since I couldn’t find a volunteer to trek up the mountain with me and be my full time “water boy” while I was out hunting, I knew I needed to figure out an easier way to keep an ample supply water in my camp without having the fear of running out.
Gravity Feed Water Filter
I began to look at other options that would give me an ample supply of water with limited physical output. I started looking at gravity fed water filter systems. The problem with some of these types of filters is you must have an equal size water container so your filtered water is not wasted if you’re out hunting while filling the container. I discovered the Katadyn Base Camp Water Filter and gave it a try on a high country mule deer hunt a few years back. It’s a slick 2.5 gallon capacity gravity filter that hangs up and filters water into any container you have by means of a rubber hose that comes with an on/off clamp. It has your standard features of removing bacteria, Giardia, and Cryptosporidium to EPA standards. Additionally, it filters .5 liters per minute with a 200 gallon filter life. The entire filter (hose, reservoir, and filter) weighs 13 ounces, and can be rolled up for non-bulky packing. The Katadyn Base Camp Filter retails for around $80.00.
Lightweight – High Capacity Water Container
Once I found the filtering system I needed, I began to look at large water containers that I could use in camp to prepare dehydrated meals and drinks and also fill my portable water container I took hunting with me during the day. Since I’m usually away from camp all day, I needed a container that would hold at least 2.5 gallons of water since that’s what the gravity filter reservoir held and be lightweight. I ended up finding a 2.5 gallon collapsible water container made by Reliance. While a bit bulky opened up, I remove the cap and roll mine to reduce the size, making it easier for packing. The total weight (empty) is 7.3 ounces and rolled up it’s about the size of a half used paper towel roll. I was able to shave off a few more ounces by removing the handle, as I really didn’t need it. This container retails for a low price of $8.00.
The last item I needed was a water container that I could transport my untreated water directly from the water source and pour it into the Katadyn Base Camp Filter without contaminating the outside of the filter and fill-hose. I eventually found a backpacking nylon water bag made by Coghlan’s. It’s extremely lightweight (3.5 ounces) and folds up to the size and width of a handkerchief, making it exceptional for backpacking. It holds exactly 2.5 gallons of water which makes it compatible with the rest of the water filter items in this system. At first glance you may think it’s going to leak, however, the tightly woven nylon ensures a watertight seal. These bags are available on the internet and specialty backpacking stores with a price range under $8.00.
The total weight of the entire system (filter, water container, and water bag) is 23.5 ounces. While it may be a bit heavier than other systems (filter and container) out there, it is the only system that allows you to filter large amounts of water, without having to physically pump the water or be present while it’s working.
My daily routine usually consists of filling my gravity filter each night (or when needed) and running the feed hose into the 2.5 gallon water container just before I turn in for the evening. In the morning, I will have 2.5 gallons of treated water that I can cook with, fill my Platypus water container for my pack, and still have plenty left over when I return to camp after dark to cook with. If I run out of water while I’m away from camp, I use one of many lightweight filter straws available. But if you’re like me and have trouble finding a “water boy” to accompany you in the backcountry, this water filtering system just may be the next best thing.