Desert hiking comes with its own particular challenges. One of the main ones is drinking water. Let’s face it, our Southwest deserts can be hot places. That means you need plenty of drinking water. Water is heavy. One gallon weighs 8.34 pounds. You will need up to two gallons during a moderately strenuous day hike in hot weather. The hotter the weather and the more you exert yourself, the more water you need. Believe me, you will be doing plenty of exerting just carrying two gallons of water. I can manage packing 16 pounds of water but I’d rather not. Try packing two or three days supply. Ooffff!
Now if you can find a water source out there in the desert to replenish your supply then you don’t have to carry as much with you. There are a few reliable water sources out there. Some are even reliable year round. When you find it you probably don’t want to drink it though because all the desert critters will have found it too. They drink it and slobber and backflush in it. They wade in it, lay in it and even poop in it. Bugs and moss live in it. It might even have a dead carcass in it. If you drink it you will catch all kinds of nasty things.
However there are plenty of ways to make this water suitable for human consumption.
Boil it. Boiling kills bacteria and those nasty organisms that make you sick. How long? This may surprise you. You don’t even need to boil it. Just getting it hot (above 185 degrees F) for a few minutes will do the trick. Most of us don’t carry a thermometer so if you just get it to a roiling boil it will be 212 degrees so you’re good. Now all you need is a fire and a pot to boil water in.
New technology: MSR MIOX Purifer Pen ,SteriPen
Filter it. Katadyn hiker water filter
Treat it. Chlor-Floc purification tablets
Bleach or iodine:
I guess it all comes down to your budget and how much gear you want to carry. I have personally used iodine tablets but these have a short shelf life and they turn your water a funky color. Some people might object to the iodine taste also but I didn’t mind it. It was actually awful but I was really thirsty. If you can tolerate iodine then tincture of iodine or Betadine solution might be the way to go. You can carry these in your first aid kit to treat scrapes and minor wounds too.
Bleach in my opinion is better. Just carry a little bottle of Clorox bleach and add a few drops to your water bottle-about five drops per quart should kill all the nasty stuff. Then shake it up good and wait for a few minutes for the bleach to do its job. Tastes better than the iodine treated water.
Remember that you need to find this water first. If you are hiking in an unfamiliar area and are unsure of the water sources you better carry it with you.