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Wyoming has no shortage of adventures, from backpacking into the Wind River Range to kayaking the Upper North Platte River.

While each of the countless trips require its own gear, one thing is constant: water.

No matter where you go, you either need to bring enough water with you (which is often nearly impossible) or figure out how to clean what you find along the way.

Non-purified water can carry bacteria, viruses and protozoa that can turn a bucket-list outing into a miserable — and scary — trip to the emergency room. Viruses are rare in North America, but in Wyoming you do need to be cautious of bacteria and protozoa, such as giardia.

But before you decide how you’re going to treat your water, you need to answer a few questions, said Marco Johnson, senior faculty member at NOLS, the National Outdoor Leadership School.

“The first question I would ask is what type of trip are you taking? The other question is what is your budget?”

Are you backpacking for a week, which means weight is a concern, or are you car camping? Do you anticipate finding relatively clear water that only needs treated, or will you need to filter pond scum? Does the taste of iodine make your stomach curl?

Based on your answers, here are four main ways you can treat your water:

Heat: No matter what, heat will kill what’s in your water. You only have to bring it to a boil. Despite suggestions of boiling it for at least 10 minutes or 20 minutes, Johnson said science proves it doesn’t have to boil for a certain amount of time as long as it comes to a full boil. The perk is that it’s cheap. The downside is that you need extra fuel and something to hold the water. It may not be the best idea for a long backpacking trip, but perfect for car camping with the family or in emergencies.

Filter: Filtration gets all protozoa and most viruses and bacteria. The size of the filter matters. If a filter is too big, it will miss nasty things. If the filter cracks it won’t work. They’re easy to use; you can use a hand pump filter or filters that attach directly to your water bottle and filter as you drink. The downside is the ones that filter large amounts of water can be bulky and any of them may require cleaning in the field. A light filter such as a Lifestraw runs about $14. Larger filters that can cost up to $70.

Chemicals: Chemical treatment “does a pretty darn good job,” Johnson said. The chemical option is lightweight and ideal for backpacking when space and weight are limited. Aquamira is a chlorine dioxide water treatment, costs about $18 and will treat 100 liters of water. Potable Agua is an iodine treatment and can filter nearly a liter of water per tablet. Be aware that iodine has a bad taste, but can be countered with taste neutralizer.

Light: UV treatment kills everything. SteriPENs are fairly lightweight and radiation isn’t a concern. This comes with a big caveat though: it must be used in clear water. It won’t clean the water if it’s silty or dirty. They also run on electricity or battery so it has to be charged. While they are lightweight and convenient, they are also the most expensive option with the lowest cost SteriPEN rolling in at $70.


Copy Editor

Anna Shaffer works on the Star-Tribune production team as a copy editor. She joined the newspaper in early 2016 after graduating from Casper College. Along with her degree, she picked up a love of film and carting her guitar into the Wyoming backcountry.

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