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Drinking water in the hills

Drinking water in the hills


Postby denfinella » Tue Apr 02, 2013 7:59 pm

One thing I'm yet to do in the mountains is get drinking water from streams. I'm fairly unenlightened on what's safe to drink and what's not. So, please post below about:

- whether you always take water with you, fill up in the mountains, or both
- what sort of places likely have safe drinking water, and which don't
- good or bad experiences with mountain streams

Would be interested to hear your opinions / advice ;0
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Re: Drinking water in the hills

Postby Milesy » Tue Apr 02, 2013 8:06 pm

There is no guarantees but as high and as fast flowing as possible. It is very possible to drink some water which is high and fast running, then you could get higher and find it running from a Lochan with a deed sheep. You takes your chances.
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Re: Drinking water in the hills

Postby hailiamdigby » Tue Apr 02, 2013 8:09 pm

I always take water with me on my trips but the longer I'm out, the more likely it is I'll need to fill up in a stream at some point.
I've drunk out of many streams but there's some things I've come to learn:
I try and avoid drinking from streams if it's obvious that the stream is running through a field/hill overrun with cattle etc. Look out for cow pats and various animal droppings. The more there is, the less I'd be inclined to drink from that stream.
Drinking from higher up a stream is a better bet, I'd say. I've seen the odd dead-animal in a stream and the higher up you are, the less chance there is there'll be a dead animal further up. I'm not saying they'll never die at the top but you probably get it already.
Good tip for you is to check your map and see where the stream has come from. If it's passed any buildings, you don't know what has contributed to that building.
I once came back from a trip and had to visit my GP because I had a bad dose of the runs. I figured I knew why and chances are it was because I drunk from a river, down-stream from a farm that had lots of sheep and cows. Chances are various junk had polluted the water. The thing is, I never did find another source of water that day and I was getting thirsty. Should have just waited till the next day.
You can also buy droplets or tablets to stick in your bottle that are supposed to rid of the nasties in your water. I've got some of the drops but I've never used it.
Check the colour of the water, when you've filled your container. If it looks like water, great. If it looks a little darker than usual, it might be because it's passed through some peat. Nothing wrong with that, tastes great. You'll probably see that some time. I have once poured out the contents of a bottle after filling it because it didn't look like normal water and it didn't look peaty either. That's the only time I've poured it away though. I can't say I remember it smelling of anything, either.
Anyway, enjoy your drink. I love the stuff. Don't be afraid of it :thumbup:
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Re: Drinking water in the hills

Postby jmarkb » Tue Apr 02, 2013 8:19 pm

- whether you always take water with you, fill up in the mountains, or both

Both. Only tend to need a refill on warm summer days, though.

- what sort of places likely have safe drinking water, and which don't

High is good. Below human habitation: definitely avoid!

- good or bad experiences with mountain streams

I've never had any problems I could attribute to drinking stream water in Scotland.
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Re: Drinking water in the hills

Postby sloosh » Tue Apr 02, 2013 8:40 pm

denfinella wrote:- good or bad experiences with mountain streams

Worst experience I had was with a wild hangover when I staggered out the door still wasted from the night before and forgot my water bottle... and flask... and chocolate. I did manage to slap 2 slices of ham between 3 slices of bread mind you. Go me.

The water came into it about half a mile into the walk when I realised I'd forgotten everything but decided it was still do-able to hit a 12 mile round trip with no drink of any kind (I wasn't thinking clearly), so I followed a stream up the hillside dunking my head in every few minutes for a drink. Best water I'd ever tasted. Worst hangover. Just kind of followed streams all day. Wasn't very hungry.
Last edited by sloosh on Tue Apr 02, 2013 8:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Drinking water in the hills

Postby simon-b » Tue Apr 02, 2013 8:41 pm

Hi, denfinella.

I only used to carry a 1 litre water bottle, and regularly filled it from streams in the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales. That never gave me any problems, but I am wary of the risks mentioned in other replies on this thread. Nowadays, I usually use a hydration pack and take enough fluid for the whole day. Sometimes that will include bottles of energy drinks, or a flask of fruit tea, in addition to the water.

If you go somewhere like the Himalayas, you'll definitely need to sterilise any water you take from streams.
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Re: Drinking water in the hills

Postby IamAJMiller » Tue Apr 02, 2013 8:59 pm

I would agree with most of the posts on here, look well above what you're about to drink and judge wether you think it's going to be ok. I always take a full litre bottle with me and if it gets low I'll fill up from a stream. Never had an issue yet, in fact mountain water is the best I've tasted! Drink it in! :D
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Re: Drinking water in the hills

Postby Backpacker » Tue Apr 02, 2013 9:06 pm

Never had any issues, though I just pop in a couple of tablets just to be sure, water on the hills tastes far fresher than the stuff you buy or get out the taps
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Re: Drinking water in the hills

Postby denfinella » Wed Apr 03, 2013 6:48 pm

Thanks everyone! Looks like I shouldn't worry and just go for it really :)
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Re: Drinking water in the hills

Postby Essan » Wed Apr 03, 2013 7:11 pm

I've always drunk water, untreated, straight from the burn and where no alternative is available from a loch. Never had any problems. However individuals may differ according to constitution.

The main things to avoid is any water than has flowed through cattle pastures, stagnant pools (the faster water is flowing, generally speaking, the safer it is) and obviously check there's not a dead carcass in the burn anywhere nearby.

Always amused me that the first thing you saw in the cafe atop Snowdon was a huge display of bottled water :lol:
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Re: Drinking water in the hills

Postby Barcode » Thu Apr 04, 2013 3:42 pm

I always take a bladder and a spare bottle but often have to stop at a stream. Like many of said, as long as you are fairly high up, the colour is as you would expect and the water is fairly fast flowing, you are all good.
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Re: Drinking water in the hills

Postby Circles » Thu Apr 04, 2013 4:54 pm

I've found starting a walk with a full bladder doesn't help me much (probably not the water quality in the area either)
I'll keep observations of colour and flow to myself but woudl agree that if fast flowing and colour as expected...I'm all good :lol:
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Re: Drinking water in the hills

Postby Sgurr » Thu Apr 04, 2013 5:51 pm

As others have said, as long as its fast flowing and high it's good. I used to use an old "Comfort" fabric softener bottle as a water flask, until a friend told me that Comfort was "poisonous to one part in 7 million". Put me right off for the rest of the very dehydrating day as we passed no likely water sources. The he told me it was a joke. (I thought because he had read chemistry he knew what he was talking about) You're as likely to get poisoned through leaving your piece to fester in your rucksack on a long hot drive to a hill as through taking reasonable care and drinking stuff from high up. NOT SO in the USA I am told. Our US walking friend tells me that most natural sources are contaminated with giardia (I did check on the internet susopecting another wind-up, but think it is true http://www2.mcdaniel.edu/Biology/eh01/waterpollution/3.diseasecarrying.html
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Re: Drinking water in the hills

Postby LDPWalker » Fri Apr 05, 2013 10:02 am

I agree with all the sensible comments above, but would just like to add that boiling the water can also help. Often I stop for a brew and boiling the water will certainly kill any nasties. If I am camping, I boil water the night before and fill my bottle - by the morning it is nicely chilled!
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Re: Drinking water in the hills

Postby Circles » Fri Apr 05, 2013 2:03 pm

I used to use an old "Comfort" fabric softener bottle as a water flask, until a friend told me that Comfort was "poisonous to one part in 7 million".

...if we laugh at people walking in jeans, I can't imagine the looks you got when you pulled out and drank from a bottle of comfort...at least it was Daz I guess
I heard that using an old Windex bottle can also be useful if teh walk is part of a stag do as apparently it prevents streaking... :shock:
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