When backpacking, the weight of your pack is very important, every ounce counts. So carrying all of your water that you may need can be a serious back ache. You may get lucky and find a natural spring near your trail or campground but that is not always the case.
There are many solutions for obtaining your water without having to carry it all in with you. You can locate a stream or other moving water source and boil your water. This is labor intensive but will help keep you from getting sick. The idea is to avoid the many different kinds of waterborne diseases. Boiling will kill most of these harmful buggars such as Giardiasis, Cryptosporidiosis and Dysentery.
While boiling your water is a good way to kill the harmful things you will find in the water, I prefer a lightweight water filter. Depending on the type they will clean out most of the nasties that you will find. They don’t require you to start a fire or fire up your stove wasting your fuel. You simply pump away into your camelback or container. I even love pumping straight into my mouth.
You need to know the difference between water filters and water purifier. knowing the difference can mean the difference between getting sick or not.
Water Filters: Great for backpacking when you know your water source is free from human contamination, mainly feces. The further you are way from civilization the better. The problem is water filters do not filter out viruses. They will clean out bacteria and protozoan cysts from water. That should be enough to stay healthy and hydrated.
Water Purifiers: The more expensive option, are great if you don’t know where your water has been, or if you are pulling from a lake (that people may be swimming in) in a more populated area.
In general you are less likely to run into the nasty viruses in less developed places so if you are heading to a remote part of the world a water filter should work just fine.
One last option: Better to be safe than sorry: Use chlorine or iodine solution and let it sit at least 15 minutes before drinking it.
Hope this helps you take some weight off your back and stay strong and hydrated for your next trip!