You’ve probably got a jug of bleach next to the washer. Next time you’re packing for a trip, don’t forget to toss it in.
Okay, well, maybe not the whole thing.
Turns out, ~5 drops of non-fragrant all purpose bleach can purify a liter of water.
I heard rumors floating around on several internet forums of bleach being used as a cheap chemical water purifier. My first impression, as might be yours, was less than optimistic.
After some research (look for yourself) I found several reputable sources indicating that bleach is indeed a safe chemical purifier. Used in the proper ratios it’s absolutely acceptable.
I use an old saline eye dropper bottle (about an ounce) from which I have removed the label and written “Bleach” in large block letters. I keep it in a homemade shoulder strap pouch for super quick access.
Let’s talk about when bleach won’t work.
Bleach won’t work effectively if there is sedimentation in your water. Microbes can hide in the microscopic cracks in the debris suspended in the water, making it less likely that bleach will effectively neutralize the harmful little bugs. Filter visibly dirty water first, then use your bleach (I’d use an extra drop or two per liter to increase the likelihood of thorough purification).
Bleach will not filter out chemical contaminants. If you’re filling up from the cooling pond of a nuclear reactor, bleach won’t help you. If you’re filling up down stream of an industrial plant that is leeching chemicals into the ground water, bleach won’t help you.
Bleach is an awesome option if you’re currently using AquaMira. I have always been a huge proponent of AquaMira, and they make an excellent product. In lieu of this most recent discovery, however, I must say that my current recommendation for any backpacker purifying non-stagnant and non-sedimented water sources is bleach.
I used bleach for a month of Appalachian Trail hiking this summer and never had a single issue with it. Personally, I don’t even hardly notice the taste.
Be safe out there!