“Are you sure you want to do that?” I asked my buddy, as he scooped water into his Nalgene from the ice-cold lake we had stopped at to “water up”. “Don’t worry about it, I’ve never gotten sick.” He said, as I dropped my filter hose into the lake water and started to prime the reservoir.  We’d met and had been hiking together for a few weeks along the John Muir Trail through the High Sierra. I was slightly jealous of his macho carelessness, but I don’t like bad bugs in my intestines. Even though the water source looked safe, as many High Sierra streams are, I wasn’t willing to chance it with my sensitive digestive tract.

After a moment, water started to pour into my bottle, and I began to grow bored, once again, of the repetitive motion of my water filter. I’ve never liked carrying this big hunk of plastic and hoses around with me on trails and cleaning it was a pain in the ass. I looked out across the lake and admired the cirque we had stopped for our afternoon break.

All of the sudden, I heard a slurping sound coming from the filter. It had stopped sucking water and now was just blowing air bubbles into my water bottle. “Crap, just what I need.” I said to myself, as I began to pull the filter apart and check for clogging and damage. Sure enough there was a widening hairline crack down the intake section of the filter. It was toast.

Luckily, I had brought a back up water purification option, Aquamira. I had learned of this chemical water treatment from Andrew Skurka, an expert long-distance backpacker. I was always leery of putting chemicals in my water to purify it. This was not because of the ingestion of them, but because I was worried they wouldn’t get the job done, and in turn, I would get sick.

I followed the instructions on the side of the bottles, mixing phosphoric acid and chlorine dioxide together in the provided cap. I waited for 5 minutes to let the chemicals combine and then dumped the mixture into my water bottle and shook it up. I loosened the cap while turning the bottle upside down to get the threads wet with the mixture, like I’d done with iodine back in the day, and then slid the bottle into my backpack straps.

This was the first time I’d ever used Aquamira. About a half hour later, I shakily brought the bottle to my lips for a sip of water. I think that I was just being a pansy. I said, “Hope this works.” And downed several large gulps. The water tasted fresh and amazingly untainted. Two weeks later I was still using the water treatment and had thrown my filter in the recycle bin at the last trail town. This is the only water treatment I use now, and I think that it is probably the best in world.

Chlorine Dioxide is the active ingredient in the Aquamira, and is iodine and chlorine free. The chemical process works by releasing nascent oxygen into the water, which is a strong oxidant and powerful germicidal agent. Chlorine dioxide has been used since WWII by most city municipalities, and the like, to kill waterborne pathogens and has proven extremely effective.

Here are my favorite things about Aquamira

  • There no harmful by-products in Chlorine Dioxide like there are in household bleach and iodine.
  • Chlorine dioxide is also a more powerful oxidant that iodine, with several times the killing power.
  • It will not discolor or give the water an unpleasant taste.
  • 1 kit will treat up to 30 Gallons of water or 120 liters. Which is quite a bit and will last a consistent month of daily use on the trail depending on usage.
  • It is very light and very compact, as the kit weighs 2 oz. (Two Bottles)
  • You can mix it before you get to a water spot, while you’re hiking the trail.
  • You can use as little, or as much as you want, depending on the quality of the water source.
  • I’m not worried about cryptosporidium, giardia, and other buggies, getting through a filter.

I love Aquamira and use it on every backpack trip and backcountry outing where I will not have access to clean drinking water. At around $11, you can’t get a more powerful water purification option. Grab yourself a kit off Amazon today!