You've just reached the peak of your favorite hiking trail. Your breath is short, and your legs feel the burn, but the view is worth every step. Glancing down, you see a sea of discarded plastic water bottles tarnishing that perfect panorama. It's not quite the 'one with nature' experience you hoped for.
Unfortunately, this is not uncommon. Our national parks, those idyllic escapes we cherish, are inundated with single-use plastic water bottles from the 312 million annual visitors. These seemingly innocuous objects are often left behind by well-meaning visitors looking for adventure and hydration.
But there's a simple, effective solution: reusable water bottles. We can quench our thirst and protect the environment by making this easy switch. It's a win-win!
But how do you prepare for your time in nature? Where do you refill your bottle? If you're camping, how can you prepare your refillable PATH bottles to be refilled, leaving no waste behind? Use this guide to plan for your next nature outing, whether you're there for one hour, one week, or ongoing.
Planning your hydration needs
Before you set off on your adventure, it's crucial to plan out your hydration needs. After all, water is the fuel that will keep your engine running as you explore the great outdoors. The amount of water you'll need depends on several factors, including the length of your trip, your level of physical activity, the weather conditions, and your personal hydration needs. You can use this water calculator to estimate your hydration needs.
Generally, an active person should aim to drink at least half a gallon (around 2 liters) of water per day. This amount increases with strenuous activity, such as hiking or in hot weather conditions. So, if you're planning a vigorous day hike in the sun, you might need to drink three or more liters of water.
With your PATH reusable water bottles at hand, you'll want to calculate how many bottles you'll need for your trip. PATH bottles come in different sizes, so choose the one that best fits your needs. For instance, if you're using a 500ml PATH bottle and aiming for 3 liters of water intake, you'll need to refill your bottle at least six times throughout the day.
Remember, it's always better to overestimate your water needs. Having too much water is far better (and safer) than not having enough. Before you set off, prefill your bottles with clean water. If you're starting your trip without reusable bottles, you can pick up PATH bottles, which come prefilled with purified water; store locator here.
However, don't rely solely on prefilled bottles. It's essential to have a backup plan for refilling your bottles in nature, which is where the various water filtration methods come into play. By planning your hydration strategy in advance, you can ensure you'll always have access to safe, clean water on your adventure.
Navigating nature's tap: your guide to water filtration methods in the wild
If you're headed to a national or state park, you can look for trailheads, interpretation centers, or gift shops for hydration stations to refill your bottles.
When it comes to drinking from nature's tap, safety is paramount. Let's explore various water filtration methods that can help you quench your thirst while protecting your health during your outdoor adventures.
Boiling water is a time-tested method of purification. By bringing water to a boil, you can effectively kill a majority of biological pathogens, including bacteria, viruses, and parasites, since most microorganisms cannot survive in water above 160 degrees Fahrenheit for more than a half hour. However, this method is less practical for those on the move since it requires a heat source and significant time. It may also not remove contaminants other than biological pathogens. You can see the CDC's recommended steps for boiling water here.
Portable Water Filters
Portable water filters, like those used in popular brands such as LifeStraw or Sawyer, are compact, lightweight devices that can filter out bacteria and parasites. These filters work by allowing water to pass through small pores that trap harmful organisms. Though they are incredibly convenient and easy to use, they may not remove all viruses, especially in areas where water contamination is high. The CDC recommends if you use a portable water filter, use one with small enough pores (about 1 micron or smaller) to remove parasites. Note that these portable filters are not effective at removing viruses and bacteria.
Purification tablets are an excellent lightweight and easy-to-carry option for hikers and campers. When dropped into a water source, these tablets release chemicals that kill bacteria, viruses, and protozoans. Despite their simplicity, they do require a wait time of about 30 minutes, may leave a residual taste in the water, and are not recommended if you're pregnant or have thyroid issues, per the CDC.
UV Light Purifiers
Ultraviolet light purifiers work by emitting UV light that destroys the DNA of harmful microorganisms, rendering them unable to reproduce and cause illness. These purifiers are highly effective and work quickly, but they require batteries or charging, so it's essential to plan accordingly. Cloudy water may block germs from the light, so the CDC recommends removing any cloudiness before exposing it to UV light.
These filtration systems operate by allowing gravity to pull water through a filter, effectively removing harmful bacteria, protozoa, and, in some cases, viruses. While not as portable as other options, gravity filters are excellent for filtering large volumes of water at base camps or for groups, making them a favorite among families and camping parties.
Straw filters are lightweight and compact, allowing you to drink directly from a water source. The water is filtered as you suck it up through the straw, trapping harmful bacteria and protozoa. While very convenient for solo hikers and quick trips, straw filters are less practical for filtering large quantities of water or for use with cooking.
A step-by-step guide to using reusable water bottles and filtration systems in nature
Choosing the right gear for your adventure is key to a successful and enjoyable trip. When it comes to hydration, consider the duration and intensity of your trip and the availability of water sources to determine the size and type of your reusable water bottle and the best filtration system for your needs.
Once you've chosen your gear, follow this simple process:
- Locate a water source: Look for a refill station at the trailhead, gift shop, or bathroom area. If camping or hiking, look for moving water when possible, as it's usually cleaner than stagnant pools.
- Filter the water: Use your chosen filtration method to clean the water. Remember, different filtration systems have different instructions, so be sure to follow the guidelines provided by the manufacturer.
- Fill your bottle: Once the water is filtered, carefully pour it into your reusable bottle. Avoid touching the inside of the bottle or the drinking spout to prevent contamination.
- Secure the cap: Make sure to securely close the bottle to prevent leakage and contamination.
Maintaining your reusable bottle and filtration system is also critical. Clean your PATH bottle regularly with warm, soapy water and let it air dry completely. Following the manufacturer's cleaning instructions for the filtration system to ensure its effectiveness and longevity.
As we explore the great outdoors, it's our responsibility to minimize our impact on these precious environments. One simple yet powerful way we can do this is by ditching single-use plastic water bottles in favor of reusable options.
We can significantly reduce plastic waste by making the switch and encouraging others to do the same. So, on your next adventure, remember to pack your PATH bottle and your favorite water filtration system. It's a small step that can make a big difference.