Monday, July 4, 2022

How the Water Filter Grew to become an Inexpensive, Ultralight Backcountry Instrument

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Backpackers and hikers are inclined to take water filtration as a right: for $18, you should purchase a straw-style filter that weighs lower than two ounces, is sufficiently small to stay in your pocket, and can present protected consuming water from any stream, lake, or questionable puddle within the nation.

It’s nothing wanting a miracle, nonetheless, contemplating what the common hiker is up in opposition to: natural and inorganic pollution, chemical compounds, minerals, metals, and pathogenic organisms from the water and soil (or human waste). The simplest filters are able to nanofiltration, defending people from viruses utilizing pores as small as .001 micrometers.

We got down to uncover the historical past of moveable water filters, combing via educational literature, on-line boards, and archived magazines and interviewing representatives from the most important producers. Our findings? Though moveable water filters had been invented greater than 90 years in the past, they weren’t broadly used till the Seventies. And whereas applied sciences have superior within the 50 years since, a few of the oldest designs are nonetheless in use in the present day.

Water filter tech took a few years to advance to the purpose of being possible for backcountry tenting. Portability, in fact, is relative. An early “moveable” water purification gadget, the Lyster bag, was used within the early 1900s by the U.S. navy and concerned suspending 36 gallons of chlorinated water from a tripod. Early Twentieth-century paperwork from the U.S. Division of Conflict make reference to moveable water filtration with these parameters: “Due to each dimension and weight, a filter not over 4 toes excessive and about 18 inches in diameter is the most important that’s practicable.” Not precisely ultralight tools.

The technological leap to portability in a backpack didn’t occur till the Nineteen Twenties. When it did, it got here within the type of a pump-style Maglite-sized silver and ceramic gadget from Katadyn, believed by many to be the primary true backcountry water filter. Based on Katadyn, the Pocket Filter was developed in 1929 by Swiss professor and model founder Georg Alexander Krause. “For us at Katadyn, that was actually the innovation that launched us alongside the way in which,” says John Wright, vp of gross sales for Katadyn North America and Katadyn Desalination. The Katadyn Pocket remains to be on the market practically 100 years later and continues to make use of a ceramic filter.

Nonetheless, moveable water filters weren’t broadly used till the Seventies, when outbreaks of giardia pressured recreationalists to rethink the protection of untreated water. By 1979, the nasty intestinal parasite was starting to realize consideration as a public well being concern, and a evaluation revealed within the American Journal of Public Well being documented 23 waterborne outbreaks in the USA from 1972 via 1977.

Henry Romer, a longtime member of the Olympia, Washington, department of the Seattle Mountaineers, remembers consuming straight from mountain streams with a Sierra cup. “Within the outdated days, no person anxious about filtering water,” he says. “You didn’t purify water, and nothing occurred.” A 1982 article within the New York Occasions equally notes the careless abandon with which adventurers may drink wilderness water within the days of yore, earlier than discussing varied strategies of defending in opposition to giardia—notably Calco Ltd.’s Pocket Air purifier.

The Calco Pocket Air purifier (no relation to Katadyn’s pump-style Pocket Filter) could have been the earliest straw filter bought to the general public. An commercial for it appeared in a March 1982 subject of Backpacker journal with the declare of “immediately protected consuming water.” It disappeared from the market within the late Eighties following a patent infringement lawsuit.

By that time, the moveable water filter market exploded. Dozens of manufacturers—a lot of which are actually extinct, like Timberline, which bought the Eagle filter—vied for backpackers’ consideration and cash. Amongst these new, competing manufacturers was MSR, which entered the market in 1991 with its basic WaterWorks Whole Filtration System. Among the most enduringly common water filters had been invented throughout this decade, just like the Hiker and Hiker Professional (invented by Pur, acquired by Katadyn) and the Guardian (invented by SweetWater, acquired by MSR).

By the mid-Nineties, new supplies had made their method into filters, together with ceramic with a carbon core (MSR MiniWorks), glass fiber strands with a ceramic core (Pur Hiker), and glass fiber matrix with a carbon layer (SweetWater Guardian). Army funding performed a job within the improvement of at the very least a couple of merchandise. Kevin Weitz, testing supervisor for the MSR Water Lab, notes that MSR’s hollow-fiber know-how was produced via a relationship with the U.S. navy. Within the 2000s, pump-style filters noticed competitors from new designs, just like the Platypus GravityWorks filter and the Katadyn Base Camp gravity filters. 

In 2005, historical past repeated itself: LifeStraw debuted its namesake product, repopularizing straw filters for the primary time because the early Eighties. And whereas we look forward to the subsequent superfast, über-compact, hyperefficient water filter tech to be developed, you possibly can relaxation assured that your trusty pump or straw design has been across the block at the very least a couple of occasions. 

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