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I've been happily using my AquaRain filter for a little short of a decade now.

My only complaint about the system is that the filter elements degrade slowly enough that I rarely notice the decreased flow. Cleaning and assessing the health of the elements (which is done by measuring their circumference with the provided tool) should happen periodically, but it isn’t the type of thing I’ll ever think to do myself. As with my water rotation, I let taskwarrior solve the problem for me.

$ task add project:waterstorage due:2017-07-01 recur:6months wait:due-7days clean and assess aquarain filter

This post was published on . It was tagged with micro, water.

Water Rotation

I use four WaterBricks for water storage at home, and for the occasional vehicle-borne excursions. They’re simple to store in small areas, stack securely, and are easy to pour from with the spigot assembly. I prefer them over the more common Scepter Water Canisters. The 3.5 gallon capacity of the WaterBricks is in the sweet spot of being able to hold a lot of water, but isn’t so heavy that life sucks when you need to haul them around.

I took one of the WaterBricks on this year’s ARRL Field Day last month. This was the first time this particular WaterBrick had been opened in three years. The water tasted fine, albeit with a plasticy flavor that wasn’t surprising, but storing water for this length of time seems at best excessive and at worse negligent. I took this as an opportunity to implement a rotation schedule.

Each of the WaterBricks is now labelled. They are grouped in to two 12-month rotation periods, each six months apart. This provides an opportunity to not only change the water, but also bleach and dry the inside of the containers to discourage any growth. By performing the rotation six months apart, I can be assured of always having two full WaterBricks on hand.

By scheduling the rotation in taskwarrior I never have to think about it.

$ task add project:waterstorage due:2017-06-01 recur:yearly wait:due-7days rotate waterbrick alpha
$ task add project:waterstorage due:2017-06-01 recur:yearly wait:due-7days rotate waterbrick bravo
$ task add project:waterstorage due:2017-12-01 recur:yearly wait:due-7days rotate waterbrick charlie
$ task add project:waterstorage due:2017-12-01 recur:yearly wait:due-7days rotate waterbrick delta

I use 28 drops of Aquamira chlorine dioxide per WaterBrick, although I’m not sure how necessary that is now with the rotation schedule.

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DIY Platypus Pre-Filter Cap

Although I have misgivings about their durability, Platypus2L+ bottles remains the primary water reservoirs in my pack. It’s been a bit over a year now since I started using them. At the same time I switched over to Platypus, I also started treating my water with chemicals rather than filtering it. Both methods of treatment have their advantages and disadvantages, but lately I have been using chemicals almost exclusively.

A water filter, of course, filters out not only the invisible nasties that upset the stomach, but also the visible things things that don’t cause much harm but aren’t altogether pleasant: dirt, dead bugs, small rocks, and the like. When I moved to using chemicals I was just dumping the water into my drinking vessel direct from the source. Without any sort of filter, the water could sometimes be a bit gritty. Too textured for my taste.

As a first attempt to solve this I started to place a bandanna over the opening of the Platypus, and then poured the source water over that. That worked great for getting out the sediment, but then I had the problem of having a wet rag. If the sun is out, it dries, but the other 307 days of the year, the bandanna – even a synthetic Buff – became a bit of a hassle to dry. I wanted some sort of pre-filter that I could get wet without worrying about it.

The solution (like more than a few before it) came while browsing the BackpackingLight forums.

DIY Platypus Pre-Filter Cap

A filter washer is a rubber washer with a mesh screen in the middle. Apparently they’re used in garden hoses and washing machines to remove sediment. I was able to find them easily in the plumbing section of a local hardware store.

I took an old Platypus cap and drilled out the center of it. Then, with a little Gorilla Glue, glued the filter washer onto the cap. That’s all there is to it! The new pre-filter cap weighs 2 grams (0.07 oz) and shouldn’t cost much more than $1 to make.

  • DIY Platypus Pre-Filter Cap
  • DIY Platypus Pre-Filter Cap

The downside to the pre-filter cap is that it does noticeably decrease the flow rate of the water. To fill the Platypus, I use a scoop made out of an older Platypus bottle with the top cut off. Without the pre-filter cap, it takes all of 30 seconds to fill the Platypus bottle. With the pre-filter cap, it takes something more like 2 minutes to fill up the bottle. I have to pour the water out of the scoop much more slowly. Because of this I’ll sometimes forgo using the pre-filter cap if the water looks very clean, but the majority of the time I do use the cap. It’s become a permanent addition to my pack.

DIY Platypus Pre-Filter Cap

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Irrigation Syringe

If I could only carry one first aid specific item in the wilderness, it would be an irrigation syringe.

Irrigation Syringe

There’s a lot that can be done with bandannas, duct tape, and paracord. A multitool, spare clothing, sleeping pad, tarp, poles – pretty much everything in a pack, including the pack itself, can be fashioned into some kind of medical implement with a little ingenuity. But cleaning a wound will always remain difficult. It also remains extremely important. Infection is both very common and very inconvenient in the wilderness, where you’re well away from definitive care.

Irrigation Syringe

Clean water should always available and irrigation is a simple and effective method of cleaning a wound. But water just poured over a wound won’t do much good. Pressure is needed. Occasionally you might hear people claim that you can fill up a ziploc bag with water, cut or poke a hole in one corner, and squeeze the bag to force out a stream of water. That’s certainly better than nothing, but in my experience the pressure from that is not comparable to the pressure from a syringe. With an irrigation syringe, you can take the cleanest water available (usually your drinking water) and shoot it into the wound. Pressure washing the wound like this allows you to easily clean out all the grit and dirt. There’s no need to go poking around in there with unsanitary tools, probably causing more harm than good. A 12cc syringe like the one I carry costs $1, weighs 8 grams (0.28 oz), and takes up very little room. I can’t think of a reason not to have one in your pack!

Remember: a clean wound is a happy wound. You can put all the effort you want into the perfect bandage, but if the wound isn’t clean, you’re going to have some problems down the line.

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DIY Water Measuring Doohickey

When I purchased my Trail Designs Ti-Tri Titanium Stove System, I bought it with a 900mL pot from Titanium Goat. I like the pot, but it has one shortcoming: there are no measuring marks on it. I’m not comfortable just pouring a little water into a pot and saying “Well, that looks like 2 cups.” I prefer a slightly higher level of accuracy.

Originally I addressed this by scoring the handle of my spork to mark 1, 2, and 3 cups measured in the pot – an idea which I think originally came to me from somewhere on the BackpackingLight Forums. This method works ok – though making the marks deep enough to be visible on the titanium was a bit tough with my knife – but I’ve never felt that it is very accurate. It will tell me if I have roughly 1 cup of water in the pot, but I could really be anywhere between 3/4 of a cup to 1 1/4 cups. That’s the difference between nice, fluffy couscous and overly soggy (or dry and undercooked) couscous, you know.

Pot and Spork

As a more accurate replacement, I came up with the idea for the Water Measuring Doohicky: a piece of paper with marks on it. Ingenious, isn’t it?

For the paper, I chose a cut a piece out of a page in one of my Rite in the Rain notebooks. Then I put 1/2 cup of water into the pot, set in the paper, noted the water line, took out the paper and marked the water line. This was repeated at 1/2 cup increments up to 3 cups. (The pot holds 4 cups when filled to the rim, so 3 cups is the most I would ever want to cook with.) After I had all the marks determined, I cut an identical piece of paper and put marks at the same levels. Then I tossed the soggy paper and was left with a fresh, dry piece of waterproof paper with the appropriate marks.

Water Measuring Doohickey

As a poor-man’s lamination, I wrapped it with clear packing tape. Even though the Rite in the Rain paper is waterproof, it gets a little soggy when submerged and takes a while to dry out. Water doesn’t cling to the tape at all. I can give it a shake or two after taking it out of the pot and it is immediately dry. The tape also adds a little stiffness, which helps achieve more accurate measurements.

Water Measuring Doohickey

I made two of these doohickeys at the same time, but have been using only one since last Fall. It works great. I am somewhat embarrassed it took me almost a year to come up with the idea. Even though I only made marks at 1/2 cup increments, the grid on the paper allows me to easily measure with 1/4 cup accuracy. As opposed to the marks on the spork, this paper is one extra thing to carry, but when placed on my scale it doesn’t register. I don’t think it weighs me down any.

I had done the lamination before I thought of this, but next time around I think I will write common cooking ratios on the back: water to couscous, water to dehydrated brown rice, etc. Usually I write those ratios on the ziploc freezer bags that hold my food, but the bags get replaced and rotated fairly frequently. The Water Measuring Doohickey has proved that it will last for a longer period of time.

Water Measuring Doohickey

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humangear capCAP

I bought one of the newer 27oz wide mouth Klean Kanteens back in March. My favorite bottle is still the old 40oz Klean Kanteen that I keep in my EDC bag, but I’ve been wanting something a bit skinnier that could fit in the bottle cage on my bike. I also was looking for an excuse to try out one of the newfangled wide mouth Klean Kanteens. I prefer a wide mouth opening on my bottles, but my 40oz Klean Kanteen (despite being beat on fairly heavily for the past few years) is in too good a shape to justify replacing it with a 40oz wide mouth. A new 27oz wide mouth bottle that would fit on my bike (not to mention in most car cup holders) and so supplement the 40oz bottle was easier to talk myself into!

humangear capCAP on a Klean Kanteen

To go along with the wide mouth bottle, I also purchased a humangear capCAP. This product of questionable capitalization addresses the same problem as Guyot Design’s Splashguard: how to drink from a wide mouth bottle while moving without ending up with half the bottle’s contents on your face and the other half up your nose. The capCAP allows the user to take advantage of the wide mouth for filling and cleaning (as well as water filter integration), but also provides a smaller opening for drinking.

The wider cap has indentations on it making it easy to grab and turn. The smaller cap, in addition to the indentations of the larger cap, is made of rubber, which makes for an easy grip while wearing gloves. The rubber has a tendency to pick up small amounts of dirt and sand, but so far I have not found this to be an annoyance.

humangear capCAP on a Klean Kanteen

  • humangear capCAP on a Klean Kanteen
  • humangear capCAP on a Klean Kanteen

My habit in unscrewing bottle lids is to hold the body of the bottle in my left hand and unscrew the lid with my right. The problem with doing this with the capCAP is that attempting to unscrew the small lid tends to start to loosen the larger lid as well. All that’s needed to rectify this is to hold the larger cap in my left hand rather than the body of the bottle itself. This forces a change of habit, which took me a couple weeks to get used to, but I now grab the larger cap with my left hand while unscrewing the smaller cap without thinking. I haven’t had a problem with it since.

When using the capCAP with my wide mouth Klean Kanteen, I find that it does leak slightly. If the bottle lays down on its side for a bit, a couple drops of water will escape from underneath the larger cap. The threads on the bottle’s lip must not match up perfectly with those on the capCAP. If the bottle was to be thrown loosely into the body of the pack where it could shift around and potentially get a drop or two on some form of paper, I would opt for the more secure closure of the standard Klean Kanteen lid. But when the bottle is in the cage on my bike or stored upright in a pouch on my pack’s waist belt, this small leak is no problem.

The capCAP can of course be used on other wide mouth bottles. I also use it on my 32oz HDPE Nalgene as well as my 32oz Guyot Designs Backpacker and have not noticed any leaking with those bottles. It’s a pretty neat product that I think makes a great addition to any wide mouth bottle.

Here are the weights of various lids, measured on my scale:

humangear capCAP
Klean Kanteen Stainless Steel Loop Cap
Guyot Designs lid
Standard Nalgene lid

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Hydration Musings

In the past, I used Camelbak bladders as my primary water reservoir. I’ve had three of their military hydration systems and never experienced a leak – except once when I neglected to fully close the bladder’s lid. In snowy, alpine conditions I would chuckle at others whose hydration hoses were frozen shut, while I confidently sucked on my insulated Camelbak hose. The Camelbak mouthpiece always insured a high flow-rate, unlike some other brands, and the hose could be shut off at either end, providing further protection against the accidental leaks that have been known to plague other bladders.

But the Camelbak’s durability comes at a price. My 100oz Omega Reservoir (including bite valve and insulated tube) weigh in at 10oz. Not exactly light. So last year, I decided to give Platypus bladders a shot. I had been critical of their toughness in the past, but their 2 liter bottle weighed in at only 1.4oz. With optional drink tube kit and bite valve cover, the full system weighed 3.6oz. It had been referred to as the “gold standard” in ultralight bottles. Too enticing not to pick up.

Of course, the low weight of the Platypus system also comes at a price. The small opening makes the bladder less convenient to fill. The tube is uninsulated, and so inappropriate for much cold weather use. The bite valve has a low flow rate and is prone to leaking. The bite valve cover is cumbersome and difficult to close. And the bladder itself is made of a much thinner and less durable plastic than the Camelbaks. Still, I have been very happy overall with the 2L Platypus bottle. I have not touched the Camelbak once since making the conversion.

Leaky Platypus

But now my Platypus has begun to leak. I’ve patched it with Gorilla Tape, which seems to be an effective fix, but it is only temporary. I need to replace the bottle. Nowadays, all the rage seems to be for the new bottles with their ugly colors. The largest of these is 1 liter, and so not an option for me.

Platypus also now offers two newer hydration systems. The first is the Hoser, which is similar to the old bottle, but with a grab loop at one end and an angled port at the other. The manufacturer’s weight for this system is 3.6oz, which is the same weight that I have measured for my old bottle, hose, and valve. The trouble with the Hoser is that the bottom does away with the traditional expanding bottom of the old bottles in favor of a grab loop. Because of the small opening of the bladders, the best way that I have found to fill it is to scoop up water with something else and pour it into the standing bladder (a method made popular by Jason Klass). For one person to achieve this, the bladder has to stand on its own. The Hoser bladder will not, so it isn’t an option for me.

The other new offering from Platypus is the Big Zip SL. The zipper closer on this addresses the difficulty of filling. The manufacturer’s listed weight is listed at 5.5oz (though I’ve heard reports that it is actually heavier): still a good deal lighter than the Camelbak, but significantly heavier than the old bottle system.

I could go back to the old Camelbak, but the weight deters me. It is also difficult to pour precise amounts of water out of the Camelbak bladder for cooking, which is a disadvantage now that I’m used to the Platypus bottles.

The other option is a bladder from Source. I first heard of these with MilitaryMoron’s review. They have many features that are attractive to me, but I haven’t seen anybody post an accurate weight. Source themselves list their 2L bladder at 0.53lbs (8.48 oz), but they have the same weight listed for the 1.5L and 3L bladders. It seems highly improbable to me that three different sized objects weigh exactly the same. More likely, the manufacturer’s listed weights are inaccurate. I am assuming that the Source bladders will be heavier than the comparable Platypus Big Zip SL and that they have the potential to be slightly lighter than a Camelbak, but that is only a guess. I would rather not purchase a Source bladder without knowing an accurate weight.

For now, I think I will buy another 2L Platypus bottle to replace my leaky one. Despite the durability issues, they seem to be the best mix of price, performance, and weight. They must be thought of as disposable, but that is true of all plastic water carriers. I’m not sure why they have lately become more difficult to acquire from large retailers.

Does anybody know of any other options that I have overlooked?

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MSR HyperFlow Filter Cartridge Replacement

Last year, Backpacking Light published a review of the MSR Hyperflow filter. It was one of their subscription-only articles, so I never read it. Apparently, the reviewer attempting to filter only slightly-less-than-clear water and experienced a very quick build-up of material in the filter element that could not be removed by back-flushing and vastly deteriorated the flow-rate of the filter. Since the review, MSR has acknowledged the problem and released a new filter cartridge to address the problem.

Yesterday, Backpacking Light published a second review of the Hyperflow, this one using the revised filter cartridge. The reviewer once again experienced the same problem, with only a slight improvement in the flow-rate of the filter once clogged.

I have had a MSR Hyperflow for a little under a year and have never experienced the clogging problem or the lack of effectiveness of back-flushing. I do tend to be judicial about selecting my water sources and filter the clearest water I can find, which may be why I have not experienced the reviewer’s problem. (In fact, I could probably get away without using any filtering on many of the water sources I choose, but I, like most, have been indoctrinated with the need to fear all wild water sources.)

What caught my eye in the second review was that MSR was offering free replacement filter cartridges to those who had filters manufactured prior to November, 2008. The cartridge is the most substantial component of the filter, and getting a new one is a bit like getting a whole new filter for free. This afternoon I called Cascade Designs (MSR’s parent company) at 1-800-531-9531, read them the serial number on my filter, and there is now a new filter cartridge in the mail for me! MSR customer service gets two thumbs up, even if there may be issues with the product.

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