I have always been fascinated by the topic of water purification and filtration because learning how to treat my own water in the backcountry made it possible for me to extend my day hikes indefinitely, beyond the water I could carry in my backpack. That meant I could take bigger adventures, hike longer distances, and opened the door to multi-day backpacking trips.
My current water filtration/purification system consists of two components: a Sawyer Squeeze water filter that I use in conjunction with a 3L Platypus reservoir and chlorine dioxide chemical purification. I mainly use the Sawyer to resupply during the day when I want fresh water without having to wait for a chemical reaction, and chemicals at night when I want to purify a big batch for use the following morning. The two solutions also serve as fall backs for each other, if either breaks or fails, which has happened occasionally on my longer backpacking trips.
Chlorine Dioxide Tablets
For the past few years, I’ve been using Katadyn Micropur chlorine dioxode tablets which are individually wrapped in small foil packages – one for each liter of water. I’d never tried Aqua Mira Purification drops, probably because my REI doesn’t carry them, which in retrospect is a bad reason. But I was on a few trips this summer where the Katadyn Micropur tablets failed to dissolve overnight in my water bladder. This happened on multiple trips from different water sources. I was very surprised by this but luckily had my Sawyer filter along as a fall back, so it didn’t force me off the trail.
Chlorine Dioxide Solution
When the opportunity to try Aqua Mira’s liquid purification drops came along, I was skeptical that I’d like a liquid solution that required carrying two bottles of fluid, mixing them together, and waiting for 5 minutes for them to react before I could add them to purify my water.
That’s how Aqua Mira works. You combine 7 drops from Bottle A with 7 drops from Bottle B for each liter you want to purify, wait 5 minutes for the combined solution to turn yellow, and then pour it into your untreated water bottle or reservoir. After mixing, you need to wait another 15-30 minutes for Aqua Mira to kill Guardia, Cryptosporidum, bacteria and viruses, depending on the water temperature and turbidity before you can drink your water – but you can continue hiking while you wait.
When I tried Aqua Mira for the first time, I was co-leading a beginner backpacking group with about 10 people in it. None of the participants had brought along water filters or chemical purifiers of their own, so it was up to me to provide them with Aqua Mira drops when they needed to resupply their water.
They were all using 1 L Platypus soft bottles with the same plastic cap and this process turned out to be very efficient because they left their reservoir caps in the same place on the side of the stream, allowing me to fill each of them with drops from Bottle A and then Bottle B en masse. When they returned with untreated water, they poured the ready solution from one of the caps into their reservoir. We continued hiking, noting that we had to wait another 15 minutes before their water would be safe to drink, and calling a group water break when the time had passed. That experience was an eye opener for me because it showed me that drop-based solution was as quick to deploy as a tablet-based one, and far more time efficient for a large group of people.
It’s also far less expensive: one package of Aqua Mira drops costs $15 ($12.50 on Amazon) and can treat 120 liters of water or 30 gallons. Treating the same quantity of water with Katadyn Micropur tablets costs $60 when purchased for $9.95 per 20-pack or 4 times as much.
After that trip, I’ve continued using Aqua Mira for my own personal use on day hikes, backpacks, and bushwhacks with the following key benefits:
- No extra trash to sort out or carry
- Immediately clear that the Aqua Mira solution is good when it turns yellow
Needless to say, I am an Aqua Mira convert and carry those two little bottles on all of my trips now.
If you’re unfamiliar with Chlorine Dioxide for treating backcountry water, it’s a well established disinfectant that works by releasing nascent oxygen, a highly active form of oxygen, which is a strong oxidant and a powerful germicidal agent. Chlorine dioxide is widely used by municipal water treatment plants to kill a variety of waterborne pathogens since the late 1940s, but is iodine and chlorine free. chlorine dioxide is a significantly stronger oxidant than iodine, with greater pathogen killing power. Unlike iodine, chlorine dioxide does not discolor water, nor does it give water an unpleasant taste.
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