Growing us as a kid in Northwest Florida, I was quite accustomed to just dipping my hat into the swamp and having a drink of whatever water happened to be handy. Although I heard of potential problems with doing this, it was a pretty common practice and I never got sick, or even heard of anybody that I knew of getting sick, so I pretty much figured that we must have built up a resistance pretty early in life, and therefore never really thought much about it. Well that record held true right up until the day in my High School years when my Dad caught Spinal Meningitis, (quite possibly from the doing that very thing). Even after that, though, I was still hardheaded enough to continue the practice on occasion when it suited me. It was only later, in my service with the Marine Corps, when I got the opportunity to witness wide scale illnesses due to untreated water that caused me to change my view on the issue.
With my newly acquired outlook on the situation, I adopted the practice of boiling my water whenever possible. While this normally works very well, I’ve occasionally found that when covering a lot of ground in a hurry, it is not really convenient to stop and build a fire every time you would like. Over the years, my long term backup plan consisted of purifying water with drops of bleach, but that just doesn’t taste as good, and so I wanted to start using it for emergencies only. Iodine can also be used, but you’ll end up with similar results.
Though it may seem hard to believe, I have only had the benefit of steady internet access for a few years now, and so all my trial and error testing ended up costing me considerable expense in both time and money. I started with straw type water filters, upgraded to water bottles with built in filters, and then from there, I gritted my teeth and purchased one of the big name brand water filters with the accessory virus attachment. As can be expected, the new purchase worked extremely well. It would reliably filter large amounts of water in a reasonably amount of time, without breaking too much of a sweat in the process. Woohoo, problem solved… well almost. This model suggested that the filter be removed and air dried for a day or so between long-term storages, and although this sounded good in theory, mine would stay damp to the point of growing mold for a week or more without really ever getting dry. It was suggested that this probably would not hurt anything, but I never really trusted it, so I often wound up buying extra filters. Also, I almost never used the virus attachment, so that didn’t really leave me feeling like I got my money’s worth out of it.
So a few years pass, and with the help of the internet, and after a fair amount of searching, I come up with another candidate worth considering. This model is the Katadyn Pocket Filter, and features a ceramic filter that is said to filter 13,000 gallons of water. Alright, now they were speaking my language- overkill! I started making some phone calls, and it turns out that this thing is actually thought highly enough to be the recommended choice of a lot of people that I personally know- as well as some that I had only occasional contact with, like a travel agency, the local Boy Scout troop and the Red Cross. Well, that was good enough for me, so I went down to Extreme Outfitters and picked one up.
The first thing that I noticed is how sturdy it felt. As filters go, its 1 pound weight is heavier than average, but after using it, I feel that it is a fair tradeoff. The next thing that becomes evident is that regardless of its name, I’m not exactly sure that I have a pocket large enough to accommodate the 10” device. I reckon that somebody at the factory must have had normal sized pockets as well, as they were kind enough to include a suitable storage case along with it. Mine is the newer style with the black housing and brushed metal endcaps and pump handle. The inlet hose has a pre-filter attached to one end, along with the common slide-adjustable float, and is attached near the bottom of the filter when it is stood upright. All things considered, it looks quite similar to an old style bicycle tire pump. The output spout is near the top of the body and is facing the other direction. Apparently standard procedure is not to include a hose to attach to this, but this was easily remedied with a trip to a local drug store, and the extra hose sure makes it easier to use the device since it can be kept upright for stable pumping.
This model is officially referred to as a “microfilter” and is therefore rated at .2 microns. This will reliably keep bacteria, and most other nasties out of your water including the often-feared Giardia and Cryptosporidium, but like most others, it will not filter out viruses. Fortunately, viruses are more often encountered in areas of human habitation than in wilderness areas, so they are not as big of a concern to me. It is rated to filter about one liter per minute and that is probably a close estimate, but I find that my tendency is to use a slower stroking technique which is harder to measure. I have heard of the ceramic filter being prone to breakage in extreme cold climates, but have never spent much time in such places. I would imagine that it would behave like any other ceramic object however, and would advise suitable precautions be taken to minimize any opportunities for problems.
In actual usage, I have found that the Katadyn Pocket Filter fulfills my needs quite nicely. It is very reliable, and allows me to pump enough water to sustain several people for long durations in a timely manner without feeling too tired to enjoy myself. It does this whenever I need it to do so–all without any more maintenance than occasionally cleaning the filter with the included cleaning tool and rinsing the filter. To date, I have no idea how much water has been filtered through my sample, but I cannot even notice any change in filter life using the measuring gauge, so I should see several years of service without need of a replacement. Also, it should be noted that although it is recommended that the filter be air dried prior to storage, I find it necessary to keep mine ready in my pack, and have not had this luxury. Although I do not recommend this practice, I am pleased to report that I have yet to encounter any problems with this filter, and do not hesitate to recommend it to anyone with similar needs.
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