When you're out camping, access to clean water is essential. While it's possible to bring along your Nalgenes, this becomes too heavy for longer adventures so a better option is to use a water filtration system. There are many different types of water filtration systems for camping. Some are designed for backpacking and are lightweight and compact. These are ideal for trekking and can easily be carried in a backpack. Other systems are designed for car camping, and are larger and more heavy-duty.
The most basic filters have a mesh or pad that traps larger debris such as twigs, leaves, pine needles etc that might have landed in your water source but do not protect against bacteria, viruses and parasites. Some filters use activated carbon to remove chemical contaminants and other impurities; this was very popular for a while.
Most recently, membrane technology has improved dramatically to the point where I wouldn’t use anything else. I have fully embraced newer filters and I often rely on a single filter and a squeezy water bottle for a 1 week trek and 2 people. This dramatically saves on weight and space and the convenience is unbeatable. I foresee some small improvements in bulk and efficiency in the future, but gone are the days of spending an hour awkwardly pumping water from a stream, or waiting forever for the gravity filter to finish a couple liters.
Another type of water filtration system is a water purifier. These devices use ultraviolet light or chemical treatments to kill bacteria and other microorganisms. The most basic and arguably lightest is the iodine chemical treatment. It has a notorious taste and newer chemicals are more palatable. If you can get past the taste, I know some kayakers that will add a couple tablets to a 3 gallon reservoir and away they go. UV wands promise to kill most viruses and bacteria but I have found them to be too expensive and heavy/bulky to warrant general use.
A quick note about winter. Boiling water uses a lot of energy. Melting snow uses even more. Much better to find a stream than to rely on snow to save on gas. It takes an impressive amount of snow to make a liter of water. And remember if you must use snow, try and put some water in the bottom, otherwise you will "burn" the snow which is just a weird taste it takes on. If the snow melts in warm water first it doesn't happen.
No matter what type of water filtration system you choose, it is important to make sure that it is properly maintained. Regularly cleaning the filter and replacing it when necessary will ensure that it works properly.Water filtration systems are an essential part of any camping trip. They provide safe, clean drinking water and allow you to enjoy the outdoors without worrying about water-borne illnesses. With the right system, you can have peace of mind knowing that your drinking water is safe and free from contaminants and avoid getting the runs!