Water in the Wilderness?
Depending on the climate and a backpacker’s physical conditions such as physical fitness, gender, and age, we are estimated to survive about 1 week without water. Unfortunately, that’s about 3 days or 30 miles from the next store that sells water when traversing the 100 Mile Wilderness! Don’t panic, there are options for water in the 100 Mile Wilderness.
Water sources throughout the 100 Mile Wilderness
Throughout the wilderness, life-breathing nourishment flows via natural springs, pipe springs, creeks, and ponds. However, there are also several factors to first consider before assuming water is plentiful.
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Prior to your journey, you should pay a visit to the United States Geological Survey website to evaluate drought conditions, as Maine is known for having many droughts. Determine whether water shortages will be a foreseeable problem.
Here’s a link to check drought conditions: (http://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/2004/3021/)
Even if so, finding water shouldn’t be impossible, but you may want to consider carrying extra empty bottles in case it’s scarcer than anticipated. Remember, a grown man typically needs 4 liters daily to survive.
Water Treatment Options for 100 Mile Wilderness to Kill Viruses, Bacteria, and Protozoans
Considering no droughts exists, you’ll need to guard yourself against Wilderness Acquired Diarrhea (WAD), a very serious condition that can be life threatening, especially in the 100 Mile Wilderness. Thus, you may only drink water that has been treated, and the job falls on you to properly treat the water. Here’s how to do it…
Boiling: Simple and easy, yet requiring time, energy and fuel – The Center for Disease Control (CDC) still says this is the best way to purify water – so put water in a clean pot, heat until large bubbles appear, wait 1 – 3 minutes depending on altitude, stop, cool, and drink.
Chemical Treatments: One type of treatment that comes in the form of a Chlorine dioxide tablet, claims to destroy viruses and bacteria in 15 minutes, Giardia protozoa in 30 minutes, and Cryptosporidium protozoa in 4 hours.
Another type, a two bottle process system, still chlorine dioxide in either the tablet or solution form, claims to do it in all in 30 minutes.
When I use chemical treatments, I use the Potable Aqua iodine tablets with the taste neutralizer because I detest the taste of iodine.
It is noteworthy to mention that the CDC says that the only way to get water 100% clean in the back county, aside from boiling, is to combine chemical and filter treatments.
Filters: These are in the form of handheld pumps that force water through filters that trap all the bad stuff. It claims to filter 99.999 of all bacteria, viruses, and protozoans in 30 seconds. One down side is that freezing weather can harm it. One upside over boiling and chemical treatments is that filters screen floaters such as bugs, leaves, and silt.
On my hike through the 100 Mile Wilderness (and the entire Appalachian Trail), I carried the MSR Sweetwater water filter.
Ultra Violent Pens: One of the more recent technological innovations in water purification, these high tech devices are swirled in water and emit UV light to cook bacteria, viruses, and protozoans. Commercial products claim to purify water within about a minute of swirling. If you choose this option, be sure to carry backup batteries to power the device.
While I’ve never personally used the UV pens, here’s the pen I see most often among hikers: SteriPEN Adventurer Opti
Another Tip: If you opt to boil water or use chemicals, often you will be dipping water out of a source like a stream or pond. If you happen to leave a screen at home, here are a couple of tips for keeping bugs, leaves and dirt out of your water.
In a flowing stream, use a handkerchief pulled tight over the lid of the bottle to screen the water as it enters the bottle. In deeper, still water like a pond, turn the bottle upside down so that the plane of the mouthpiece is parallel with the surface of the water. Submerge the bottle so that the air is trapped in the bottle, and then turn sideways under water. The air will escape, and water from the middle of the water column will fill the bottle, avoiding the floaters on the surface water.