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Thread: Confession: I Stopped Treating My Water

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Maryville, TN
    Posts
    740

    Default Confession: I Stopped Treating My Water

    I thought I would post something controversial. Duckypaddlers post about forgetting his filter made me think about this. I have a sawyer squeeze filter and mostly used to use that. I love it very convenient and easy. Before that I used aqua mira drops for years but didn't like the taste of those. Before that I had a first needs filter for many years. I never have filtered at piped springs or seeps my whole life and never got sick. Now if I had to get water from a small "pool" or puddle at a spring behind a shelter I absolutely filtered there because who knows what hiker has had their hands down in that pool after going to the bathroom but if there is a pipe I never filtered and never had a problem.

    Then I read a study conducted on the AT a couple of years ago where they followed a hundred thru hikers who treated their water and a hundred who didn't. It turned out roughly the same percentage got sick on their trip about 10% of each group. The researchers hypothosis was that the hikers were all getting sick from their own fecal matter or others not associated with the water sources at all. Here is a similar article:

    http://www.farnorthendurance.com/bus...about-giardia/

    http://distancehiking.com/tools/watertreatment/

    Here is another thing I believe in God and that he created the waters for us to drink and we have been doing that for a long time without filtration but by simply using common sense like don't drink from still pools with dead animals floating in them, smell and taste it first, etc. It didn't make sense to me that God would create waters to sustain us but only if we had a sawyer squeeze.

    So a little over a year ago I decided to do an experiment and I ditched the water filter and just started drinking from whatever stream I was in/around at the time. Knock on wood so far I haven't gotten sick at all. I would not recommend doing this but at this point I have drank from almost every major stream in the park (outside of the Cataloochee area) and countless minor ones with no problems. I have even drank downstream of backcountry campsites many many times. Here is where I have drank from over the last year:

    Eagle Creek (at every campsite) and many tribs, Hazel Creek (all the way up to cs 83) and tribs, Forney Creek and many of its tribs, East and West Prong Little River (multiple places), Fish Camp Prong, Deep Creek (multiple places), Cosby Creek and tribs (many times), Bradley Fork, Oconoluftee (above Smokemont), all Greenbrier area creeks, and many many smaller ones I won't list here while out hiking in various areas.

    I will say it is pretty convenient if I get thirsty while fishing I just cup my hand bend down and drink. I worried about drinking downstream from dead animals at first but did it so much I figured I must have drank downstream from dead animals at least a few times over the past year. My wife and I are trying to hike all the trails in the Smokies which gets us all over the park and she still filters (she says she is not dumb). I am thinking about ending the experiment soon and going back to filtering. Part of me thinks maybe I just got lucky but eventually will get sick. Part of me questions why not continue. I think there are probably others who don't filter but don't advertise it because it is "forbidden" to talk about especially on the internet ha. Someone usually pipes up that they got Giardia and how terrible it was. I may get attacked for this post especially for listing all those streams where I drank from may look like I am encouraging others but I am not. I am just reporting my experience with this. Someone else may go drink from Bradly Creek one time and get deathly sick. Giardia is nothing to play around with it eats your stomach lining from the inside out and will kill you if you don't get treatment. Not sure its worth the risk and personally I think I will probably end the experiment but I did find the results interesting and thought I would share.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Louisville, TN
    Posts
    608

    Default

    I have only drank river water once and I was a long ways from the truck and my filter quit working. I might have been able to hike out without water but I doubt it. I had a friend get giardia and she didn't drink any river water or even go camping or anything

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Posts
    105

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    I used to do it all the time. I have filtered the last 15 or so years. Never got sick before or after I got the filter. While I do believe filtering reduces risk, I think the risk is low if you are drinking from running water in the back country.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Posts
    283

    Default Not worth the risk....

    My understanding is that among the greatest concerns is the possibility of water being polluted from hogs and such in the upper tribs. This being by a dead carcass in the water or fecal matter from swine. This is in addition to the other bacteria, amoebas, etc... that can present a threat.

    Several years ago I contracted cholera while on a mission trip to Peru. I was careful to not drink water, but happened to brush my teeth with unfiltered water. The result was that I spent a couple of months never farther than a few seconds from a commode. I later heard of a young lady that had been to Peru about the time I had been and she contracted some parasites that she was still dealing with three years later. Her case was unusual, and my guess would be that it was a worst case, just not worth the risk with filters being so plentiful and compared to the pain and expense of medical treatment, they are a real bargain as well.

    Mike
    "Fly-fishing has many attributes, but none more pleasing than it's ability to liberate the young boy that still hides within me and to let that boy live again without embarrassment or regret, sorrow or anguish." Harry Middleton

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    Maryville
    Posts
    1,140

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    For as simple as water filtration is now days, it's simply not worth it in my opinion. Good luck with your experiment.
    My posts are worthless without pictures

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Location
    Knoxville, TN
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    944

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    Quote Originally Posted by buzzmcmanus View Post
    For as simple as water filtration is now days, it's simply not worth it in my opinion. Good luck with your experiment.
    100% Agree

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    Crossville, TN
    Posts
    2,431

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    Quote Originally Posted by Crockett View Post
    Eagle Creek (at every campsite) and many tribs, Hazel Creek (all the way up to cs 83) and tribs, Forney Creek and many of its tribs, East and West Prong Little River (multiple places), Fish Camp Prong, Deep Creek (multiple places), Cosby Creek and tribs (many times), Bradley Fork, Oconoluftee (above Smokemont), all Greenbrier area creeks, and many many smaller ones I won't list here while out hiking in various areas.

    I may get attacked for this post especially for listing all those streams where I drank from may look like I am encouraging others but I am not.
    I don't know about drinking straight from the stream, but I can't believe you mentioned my favorite stream, Little River, on a public forum. This is an outrage!

    In all seriousness, I've been wondering about this a lot lately but haven't become brave enough to do what you have been trying yet. Maybe someday.
    "Then He said to them, 'Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.'" Matthew 4:19

    Guided Fly Fishing with David Knapp
    The Trout Zone Blog
    contact: TroutZoneAnglers at gmail dot com

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Maryville, TN
    Posts
    740

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    Quote Originally Posted by David Knapp View Post
    I don't know about drinking straight from the stream, but I can't believe you mentioned my favorite stream, Little River, on a public forum. This is an outrage!

    In all seriousness, I've been wondering about this a lot lately but haven't become brave enough to do what you have been trying yet. Maybe someday.
    Hehe yeah sorry about that David. I try not to drink from the Little River below Elkmont because I'd be drinking all the waste matter from those big browns you guys catch.

    Thanks for the replies all. I will probably end the experiment but may make a trip up to Laurel Falls first on a Saturday when there are all those people standing there and fill my hands with water and drink from the falls just to see what would happen.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    Springboro, OH
    Posts
    324

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    I'm one of the people who got sick while using a filter, it was probably 15 years ago or so. I've always blamed cross contamination since I let my brother-in-law (who was 10 at the time) filter for me. At the time I had a MSR Miniworks. Since that I've since been really conscious about water droplets on bottle threads and caps. Also frequent use of Purell in case of fecal contamination.

    I'm now using a Sawyer Squeeze Mini which is much smaller, lighter, and cheaper than the original squeeze. To make filling the bag quick, I cut the bottom off of and just scoop the water in. I use a Gripstic to seal the bottom and a packtowel to dry off the bag before I attach the filter and start squeezing. It is longer than cupped hands, but I can fill the bag, seal, dry and be drinking in 30 seconds.

    If you do decide to drink below Laurel Falls have fun and put on some sort of "costume" to further draw attention to yourself. I'm sure you can find an appropriate Logo T-Shirt in Gburg. Take a few empty milk jugs to fill and let folks know your 90 year old Grandfather asked you to bring some back for him.
    Last edited by mattblick; 10-14-2015 at 01:28 PM.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
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    Knoxville, TN
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    Funny story (well sort of since it wasn't me)....
    I once met this guy thru work who asked me about some places to backpack in the area. He asked specifically about the headwaters of Citico creek and if you could catch fish up there. I showed him some loops up there and places to camp, and said that the fishing was ok at times, but not that great. He said him and a friend wanted to do a 3 night trip and were planning on eating "only what they could kill". I didn't really take him that seriously and since he was ex-military I figured he knew how to handle himself in the backcountry.

    So they ended up going way up onto the north fork and making camp. I saw him a few weeks later and he was like "dude why didn't you tell me we had to filter our water up there!?!?" He said they had eaten all their energy bars the first night after not catching any fish. But they were drinking unfiltered creek water the entire time. By the afternoon of the 2nd day, his friend was very ill already and didn't come out of his tent, except to use the bathroom. He couldn't catch any fish and just continued to drink the creek water and was doing ok. Sometime in the evening his friend started hallucinating and got out his pistol and started flailing around firing it everywhere. He was afraid to get shot so he ran off and left his friend. He apparently made it all the way to the BMT at the top of the ridge and decided to wait on someone to come by the next morning and help him. He slept leaning up against a tree in the rain. The next morning he was starting to get sick. Between squirts, he made it back down to their camp and his friend was still asleep. Both tents were full of holes. He woke his friend up, who had no idea what had happened the night before. They packed up and made it back to the car after meeting some hikers who filtered water for them and gave them some food.

    The really funny part was that I asked him what he was fishing with and he said, oh, I've got the rod out in the car....



    Literally was the "green hornet" from grumpy old men.
    Said he had powerbait on the end.

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