Water Safety Tips for Backpackers


There are many different types of travelers, some people prefer to stay in a 5-star tropical resort, some people prefer to fly somewhere far and experience the culture, and others prefer to tough it out in the wilderness.

No matter your style of traveling, there are always safety measures to be taken in terms of drinking water. In this series, I am looking at the unique considerations to be taken with different traveling styles.

This time, let’s look at a backpacking adventure.

Technically you should be a little bit better off backpacking than you are when hiking and camping because at least with backpacking you’re immersed into a culture, so you can often take the lead from the locals in terms of where and how they are drinking their water.

However, it is often the case that if you’re traveling you may not understand the local language, and without that fluency you may not be able to collect the information you need regarding safe drinking water.

It is also likely that your body is not as used to some of the “bugs” that may be in the water, so something that doesn’t make a local feel sick, may still upset your stomach (to say the least).

Suffice to say, when you’re getting to a new location, it’s best to give the tap water a quick test to see what, if any, contaminants exist in the water there. This will immediately tell you whether it’s safe to drink the tap water, or if you need to figure out an alternative.

Generally, your typical backpacking locations through Europe should be fine for drinking tap water, but most parts of Asia, South America, and Africa are more questionable. If you find yourself in a location that you have tested to be unsafe, there are some simple steps to take to make sure you don’t get sick.

Your best bet is to only drink sealed bottled water. If that isn’t necessarily an option, make sure you either filter any water you may consume, or bring it to a boil for 3-5 minutes before drinking.

Also steer clear of ice cubes and other food/drinks that may be contaminated by the local tap water source, such as leafy vegetables washed with tap water.

Always remember to take the right steps while traveling, and don’t get sick from something that you could have prevented! It may seem a little tedious, but it certainly beats a gastrointestinal illness in a foreign land.


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