My Water System

The formula for successful backpacking for any hiker is by finding out what works for you. What works for one person will more-than-likely not work for the next, and this is true in every aspect when backpacking. Everyone will have a different combination of gear, and obviously more specifically in larger systems. Whether it be a shelter system, a sleeping system, a clothing system or a packing system, they will vary from person to person. So, over the last couple of years, I have been figuring out what works for me, and today I want to talk about the water system that I have found to work for me.

To begin with, there are 2 main concerns surrounding the entire water system; that is what to use to clean the water with as well as what to carry it in. So, starting with cleansing the water, there are 2 basic methods:

  1. Chemicals (Tabs or Drops), Iodine or even Bleach
  2. Filter/Purifier

As far as carrying your water, well there are a bunch of different ways to do this. Basically though, there are bottles and bladders, with a lot of options for both. (I did a write-up a while back that goes into a little more detail on some of the different bottles and bladders so I will not go into it again, however, that write-up can be read here.)

So, as the title of the post states, I am here to tell you what I use and why I like it; so to start if off, I will tell you what I use.

  • Aqua Mira Drops
  • 32 oz Gatorade Bottle
  • 2L Platypus SoftBottle

I have a Katadyn Hiker Pro filter, but I have found that I don’t like the weight as well as the packed size of the entire set up. As far as use,  I have found that (at times) maintaining my balance, while balancing the water bottle and managing the tubes to keep them from contaminating each other, all while trying to pump the water INTO the bottle, well, sometimes it could be a challenge. This led me to want to try another system, and I ended up on the other end of the water cleansing spectrum, Aqua Mira Drops.

In the beginning, my main concerns with the Aqua Mira was the wait time. Both at the beginning of the process as well as at the end of the process. Aqua Mira drops come in 2 bottles, Solution A and B. To begin the process (for 1 liter of water), 7 drops of each solution are to be added together in the mixing cap and allowed to react together for 5 minutes. Once this is done, the mixture can then be added to the untreated water. Once this is done, I must wait at least 15 minutes before I drink the water to allow it to work its magic. Of course though, this depends on both how clear the water is, as well as the water temperature. The dirtier the water, the longer the Aqua Mira needs to work. As for the temperature, the colder the water, the longer it will take for the Aqua Mira to be effective. So, obviously, the wait is the downfall to using drops. But the upside to this is that the 2 bottles weigh about 3 oz together (and can be repackaged to weigh less if wanted) and of course the bottles are tiny…so they fit anywhere; even in my pocket if I want!

After using the Aqua Mira drops for a while I realized that I liked this system better than my filter simply because it was less of a hassle for me (and of course the small size and weight were quite catching too!) But at this time I was still trying to figure out what kind of water carrying system I would use…

At that time I was using my 3 liter Camelbak bladder. I loved that the drinking tube was right there and ready for me to sip on whenever I felt the need, however, there were a few things that I wasn’t completely sold on quite yet. Obviously, the weight was a little much, coming in at around 8 oz just for the bladder system! Also, accessing the bladder to refill it could be a bit of a pain. I always stored the bladder inside the bladder sleeve which was inside my pack because I felt like it was the most appropriate place for that amount of weight (remember, it was 3 liters which is 6.6 pounds plus the weight of the bladder making it a total of 7 pounds). So, if I needed to refill the bladder in the middle of the day, I had to unpack most of my pack just to get to the water bladder. However, the Hiker Pro did have adapters so that I could hook the filter straight to the bladder, but then I didn’t know when was enough…plus those adapters only weighed more…

So, slightly unhappy with the Camelbak, I decided to try the infamous Gatorade bottles. And in the end, I found that I liked them better than the bladder in terms of access, but I had to carry more than one bottle to make sure I had enough capacity. The downside to the Gatorade bottles is that they are bulky and even if not filled with water, they still require the same amount of space in my pack. Plus I have always had a problem trying to reach back into that side pocket on any pack and getting the bottle out without spilling the rest of the contents of the pocket, and of course when I was done sipping on it, I then had to get it back in the pocket… However, the Gatorade bottles were about 1/5 the weight of the Camelbak, as well as provided easier access.

As an answer to the packed size of the Gatorade bottles, I bought a few different soft-bottles to try out. (I also have a review that I recently posted on these so again, I won’t go into detail, but by clicking the above link you can get to the review.)

Then I got my ULA Circuit, and this changed everything. It had bottle holders (small pieces of shock cord with a cord lock) on the shoulder straps which allowed a bottle to be secured to the shoulder strap. This meant I could cinch the Gatorade bottles to the front of myself which made it easy for me to remove or replace the bottle!This packs accessories has solidified my preference for my complete water system that I feel works for me. So, here is my system in a little more detail…

I carry one Gatorade bottle on my left shoulder strap (left works better because my right hand is my dominant side). My Aqua Mira drops are carried in my left hip belt pocket. And I carry my 2L Platy SoftBottle (empty) rolled up and inside the large front pouch on the Circuit.

I keep the Gatorade bottle on my shoulder strap filled with water and constantly drink out of it. (Typically the places I go there is plenty of places to refill my water bottle.) With the bottle on my left shoulder strap, it is super-easy to get to so that I can take a sip as often as I want, as well as to replace the bottle when I’m done drinking from it. Then when the water bottle starts to get low, I simply stop at the next water trickle and refill…Of course this is where the waiting for the Aqua Mira to activate comes into play. To counter this, I simply mix the drops (remember, they are in my hip belt pocket and very easy to get to) and then go to refill my water bottle. While I finish waiting on the drops to activate I can have a quick seat, take in some views, snap a few photos and eat a snack. Then, before I know it, it is time to pour the solution into my newly refilled water bottle, load back up and then begin again on my journey! Then of course, by the time I am ready for another drink, it is well after 15 minutes so I am good to drink up!

For those times that I will not be in an area where water is not so abundant, I still have options. The first obvious option is to fill the 2L Platy when I fill my Gatorade bottle which will allow me to carry up to 3 liters at a time. Another option is to carry a second Gatorade bottle, so that I have one on each shoulder strap. Either of these options are still lighter, as well as easier to use, than with my Camelbak bladder.

Once I arrive at camp, I will carry my cook pot, my Gatorade bottle(s) and my Platy SoftBottle to the water source and fill them all, then carry it all back to camp. I will treat the water in my Gatorade bottle, and then boil the water in the cook pot in which I will use to rehydrate my meals. The remaining water in the Platy should be enough to last me through the next mornings breakfast, so I shouldn’t have to keep running back and forth to the water source (which at times can be a-ways-away).

So, this is the system that works for me at the moment. I am not saying it won’t ever  change, but for now it is what I am happy with. It is light weight (up to 6 oz for bottles and Aqua Mira drops), tastes great and it is easy to use. This makes me happy!So, this is my current go-to system, what’s yours?

11 Responses to My Water System

  1. wgiles says:

    I have been using and refilling disposable water bottles for some time now and one problem that I have had is drying the bottles before I put them away, especially the Platypus types. I recently made a bottle drying rig from an aquarium air pump and some tubing. I put a tee in the tubing so that I can dry two bottles at once. I just stick the end of the tubing in the bottle and push it to the bottom of the bottle. Turn the air pump on and a few hours later, the bottles are dry. If you don’t dry the bottles, mold or mildew can start growing, especially at the bottom of the collapsible bottles. I sanitize my bottles with a bit of dishwasher detergent (which contains chlorine bleach), but they still need to be rinsed and dried.

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    • Stick says:

      I will admit, I don’t generally worry about letting them get 100% dry… I always use the soft, collapsible bottles as my dirty bottle anyway. When I get home though, I too clean them with hot soapy water, but then I blow them open, and set them upright in a window seal for a few days. This usually gets them pretty dang dry fairly quickly. (Don’t put them upside down though because the water rises, so it needs to be right side up so that it can escape through the mouth.)

      ~Stick~

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  2. Mark Smith says:

    Hi – How is the taste of the water using these drops? I’m using the Travel Tap bottle its good but kinda heavy (the bottle itself is too heavy I’ve been looking for an alternative for the filter but nothing yet…) Also what is the weight of the 2L Platy Soft bottle? Thanks – GREAT Blog!

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    • Stick says:

      Mark,

      I personally can’t taste the chemicals when using Aqua Mira. I have also used the Micropur 1 tabs, and I can taste it with those, especially if the water sits for quite a long time, like overnight. Saying that though, I have a tendency to use the tabs more than the liquid just because it is even easier… no mixing, just open the foil package and drop it in. However, the nice thing about the drops over the tabs is that I can increase/decrease the amount of mixture to the amount of water I have. They both have their pros & cons though…

      Saying all of that, I have moved back to water filters some time ago. Sawyer really nailed it with the Squeeze. I had used it for some time and couldn’t have been happier. But then, Sawyer came through with the Mini… the same 0.1 ABSOLUTE filter as in the Squeeze, but in a smaller & lighter package. My wet out Mini weighs in at 1.7 oz, and cleanses water on the go without any waiting. And the best thing is they sell for $25, and can sometimes be found for $20!

      If you like filters, I would suggest giving the Squeeze or the Mini a try. OTOH, the chemicals work great too… I don’t think you could go wrong with either method…

      As for the 2L Platy bottle, they weigh in at 1.3 oz, and the 2L Sawyer bags weigh in at 1.4 oz.

      Hope this helps!

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  3. chokapi says:

    Have you seen Arizona Tea bottles? Bulletproof, narrower, and they hold about 22 oz full. I also fill a 96 oz Nalgene collapsible canteen from my Sawyer Squeeze. How brilliant is that thing?

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  4. Pingback: Just another water system… | Stick's Blog

  5. Pingback: Big Hill Pond Day Hike & Gear List | Stick's Blog

  6. So…what is most water you like to carry at one time? I had a liter on each shoulder, plus a 48 oz Outdoor Products bottle hanging some where on my last trip….my wife and two boys had a 48 oz as well. The two boys had frozen Camelbaks….Plus we was beside a stream…

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    • Stick says:

      Patrick,

      When I first started backpacking, I filled everything I had with water, and usually before I even left the house. I would start off with a 3L Camelbak full, a 32 oz Gatorade bottle (with Gatorade in it) and sometimes even a 32 oz Gatorade bottle willed with water. Well, you do the math here…I started with about 11 pounds of water…and then on my hike I would be following streams or rivers…

      Now, I carry 32 oz of water on me at a time. In my Gatorade bottle which is attached to my left shoulder strap. If I am not expecting to hit water then I will fill my 2L Platy and carry it too, but that is only if I have to.

      ~Stick~

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  7. Kudzu says:

    What do you do about mud holes? I’ve hit “springs” on the AT that you can barely filter out of. How do you manage to get your bottle filled from that so you can treat? I’d like to make the switch to AM but can’t get past that mental block.

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    • Stick says:

      Kudzu,

      Depending on the size of the puddle…I could probably dig a little spot out deeper and then scoop it up with my Gatorade bottle or my drink cup and pour into the bigger containers. However, doing this, as I pour it into a bigger bottle I will filter it through a bandana to get as much of the silt/dirt out that I can.

      I have run up on puddles before while using my filter and what I have found out there is that a couple of puddles will really wear on the actual filter. Even with using a prefilter. One trick to helping that is to try to line the bottom with rocks so that the filter won’t rest in the dirt on the bottom.

      Either way, when it comes to puddles there will be work involved.

      Hope this helps,

      ~Stick~

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