Aquamira Water Treatment is a liquid chlorine dioxide solution that many backpackers use to purify and disinfect backcountry water sources like streams, ponds, lakes, and rivers. If you’re unfamiliar with chlorine dioxide, it’s a well-established disinfectant that works by releasing a highly active form of oxygen, which is a strong oxidant and a powerful germicidal agent.
Chlorine dioxide has been 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. It also doesn’t leave behind any by-products in treated water, unlike other purification agents like bleach or iodine.
Aquamira is best used with clear water that doesn’t have sediment or suspended solids in it. It comes packed in two bottles, labeled Part A & Part B. To administer it to your water, you mix 7 drops from Bottle A with 7 drops from Bottle B for each liter of water you want to purify. The two bottles come with an extra bottle cap for you to mix the solution together. One mixed, you wait 5 minutes for the combined solution to turn yellow before pouring it into the water you want to purify. The two bottles contain enough solution will treat up to 30 gallons of water. Aquamira will also purify any container that your treated water comes in contact with, including bottle caps, water reservoirs, hydration system hoses, or bite valves.
After mixing, you need to wait another 15 minutes for Aquamira to kill bacteria and viruses, including Giardia and Norovirus, or 30 minutes if your water is very cold because it takes the chemical reaction longer to occur. If Cryptosporidium is present or a concern, the treatment time is 4 hours. However, you can reduce the treatment time to 1 hour, if you double the number of Aquamira drops you add to the water you wish to treat. How do you know if Cryptosporidium is present in your area? Ask the agency that manages the area, like the local Park Service or Forest Service. Other knowledgeable local backpackers should also know, but it pays to ask around.
Backup Water Purification
My current water filtration/purification system consists of two components: a Sawyer Squeeze water filter that I use in conjunction with a 2L Platypus reservoir, plastic soda/water bottles, and Aquamira water treatment drops. Most of the water I encounter during trips is crystal clear stream water with very little sediment, suspended solids, or viruses so I can filter it with a simple water filter like the Squeeze.
I carry Aquamira as a backup to the Squeeze in case it fails or gets impossibly clogged in the field. I also use Aquamira drops to batch purify several liters at a time, especially overnight in preparation for the next morning, or when I don’t feel like squeezing multiple liters through my filter. Aquamira also gives me a complete purification solution if I discover that I’ve entered a territory where Cryptosporidium is a concern, without the need to carry a much heavier water purifier like an MSR Guardian all the time. Aquamira drops also have a shelf life of 4 years, so you can carry the same batch season all season and into the next if you have any left over at year’s end.
Chlorine Dioxide Drops Vs Tablets
I like carrying Aquamira drops instead of chlorine dioxide tablets because they work about twice as fast since the chlorine dioxide is already in liquid form when it’s added to the water and doesn’t have to dissolve first. I carried tablets for many years previously but found that:
- The packets create a lot of small trash that I’d rather not deal with on a trip.
- The packet requires scissors to open. Not difficult, but an extra step, and something to keep track of.
- That the tablets would occasionally not dissolve.
- Chlorine dioxide tablets are about 4 times more costly than water treatment drops
Comparable Chemical Water Purification Products
|Potable Aqua Iodine Tablets||Iodine||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|Potable Aqua Iodine and PA+ Plus Tablets||Iodine||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|Polar Pure Iodine Crystals||Iodine||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|Potable Aqua CIO2 Tablets||Chlorine Dioxide||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Katdyn Micropur Tablets||Chlorine Dioxide||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Aquamira CIO2 Liquid||Chlorine Dioxide||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
I turned into a backpacker the day I learned how to filter and purify water during a day hike. I can still remember that day when I realized that I could take hikes that exceeded the capacity of my hydration reservoir without having to worry about running out of water. Since then, I’ve experimented with many different filters, UV light, and chemical water purifiers looking for the perfect system that works the best for me and the water I usually encounter on my hikes. Anyone who tells you there is one best water treatment system is just plain wrong. Each technique or device has its own strengths and weakness depending a wide range of factors ranging from water turbidity, the amount you want to process each time, your group size, known organisms in the water, water temperature, level of effort, wait time, and cost.
Aquamira water treatment drops are a good water purification option when you don’t want to carry a bulky water filter or purifier, when the water you want to treat is not turbid or filled with suspended sediment, or you’re concerned about viruses that your water filter is unable to remove (since you can use the filter and then the Aquamira is a two-stage process). Personally, I like to carry Aquamira as a batch and backup water treatment option, but I know people who carry it as their only option since it’s so lightweight. The stuff works well and I depend on it to stay healthy.
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