MiniWorks EX
MiniWorks EX (courtesy, MSR)

Should I pump or chemically purify in the Boundary Waters?

Do I need a pump or chemical purifier for a trip to the Boundary Waters next summer? On past trips I have used Polar Pure, but I know that you sing the praises of pump filters. Will I waste time pumping versus doing some fishing while waiting for chemicals to work? Help me decide, Oh Knowledgeable One! Brad Chapel Hill, North Carolina

MiniWorks EX

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It’s not so much that I lo-o-ve pumping water, it’s just that typically I’d rather have something to drink right away, rather than waiting for several minutes (or more) while chemicals do their thing. Plus, while chemical solutions don’t have the aftertaste of years past, filtered water still tastes better.

MiniWorks EX MiniWorks EX

For the Boundary Waters area, though, I’d go both the pump and chemical route. Not that there’s anything unusually dangerous about the water there, but giardia is certainly an issue, and in still waters I’d also be mildly concerned about viruses.

So my first choice would be a pump such as an MSR MiniWorks EX ($79; or a Katadyn Hiker Microfilter ($60; Both will remove bacteria and parasites such as giardia, while also neutralizing any off tastes from the water (the Katadyn does the latter with an activated charcoal core; the EX uses a ceramic/carbon core).

Then I’d go an extra step and use MSR’s SweetWater Purifier Solution ($9). Add a few drops to your filtered water, wait five minutes, and drink. It uses a chlorine solution that kills just about any virus found on the planet—netting those nasties that filters can’t catch.

For the final word on water purification, read “Die, Bugs, Die!” from Outside‘s 2004 Buyer’s Guide.

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