Ok, so you’re traveling, right? Maybe you’re in Uganda or Mexico or Vietnam. It’s beautiful, but it’s hot and after hours of traipsing around in the sun, you’re ready for a comfortable chair and a cold drink. You walk into a restaurant with your Anti theft handbag, collapse into a seat, and the server hands you a glass of water. Ice cubes float daintily, clinking gently against the glass as beads of moisture drip down and form a ring on the table. It looks so good, but you hesitate because you’re not sure whether the water is okay to drink. You’ve got your water purifier in your bag next to you, but you’re at a dinner table and that would be–well, let’s face it—awkward. But you also don’t want to get sick so what you do?
Order a Coke
So you’re not sure about the water, but you don’t want to offend your host. Ask for a Coke or a local soft drink instead. Be sure to specify that you want it in the bottle rather than poured into a glass with ice.
Using ultraviolet rays to purify water within minutes, the Steripen is a great option for travelers. Simple, effective, and relatively discrete, the Traveler Mini model is small and easy to slip into the side pocket of a backpack. According to their website, the mini version will purify a half-liter of water in 48 seconds, which is lightning fast. It does require batteries though so bring to sure to pack extras.
Water Treatment Tablets
One option is to go with the more traditionally-favored chlorine tablets, which are inexpensive, easy to acquire, and kills most bacteria and viruses. The best option is to go with the Katadyn MicroPur MP1 Chlorine Dioxide tablets. Registered by the EPA, these tablets can take out Cryptosporidium, a waterborne cyst, and are safer than chlorine because they don’t leave chemical by-products (like trihalomethanes – TTHM’s) in your water. Downside? There’s no instant gratification with these little guys as they can–depending on the water quality and clarity– take anywhere from 15 minutes (bacteria and viruses) to 4 hours (cysts) to effectively treat water.
When all else fails, iodine tincture solution. It tastes horrible, takes a minimum of 30 minutes, and is not particularly good for you in large quantities, but it’s reliable and doesn’t require batteries.
Water Filter Bottle
Discrete, functional, and convenient, a water bottle with a built-in filter turns dubious water into drinkable water almost immediately. Keep in mind that you’ll probably want to go with a purifier system rather than a filter.
Wherever possible, always opt for bottled water while traveling in areas with questionable water. Drink it straight from the bottle, avoid ice cubes, and always buy one more bottle than you think you’ll need. It’s always good to have one for the road.
When in doubt, always go with something bottled or boiled. It’s hard to go wrong with hot tea…provided the water was, in fact, boiled. I know it’s not always the most attractive drink choice when it’s 100+ outside, but it’s better than getting sick.