Getting Drinking Water on your Trek
As you'll most likely be aware by now, consuming 4-5 litres of fluid a day is key to staying on form whilst trekking, as well as helping to keep altitude sickness at bay.
But how do you get safe drinking water whilst on the trek?
This is widely available on the treks however we try and avoid this as much as possible. Firstly, it is very expensive for you to buy, and when you need to drink 5 litres a day you could spend as much as £20 a day on bottled water. Secondly, the bottles are not recycled. They will be burned, or in some cases tipped down a slope. In order to limit our impact we try and reduce the amount of bottles purchased on the trek.
In the latter stages of the trek to EBC (From Lobuche, to Gorak Shep, to EBC and back to Lobuche) we do however highly recommend the purchase of bottled waters. The glacier on which the villages are is highly contaminated by the villages themselves and so you could get very ill very quickly. Unfortunately these bottles of water are not cheap (500 rupees a litre) but it is worth the spend to avoid illness. Make sure you budget for this when taking some cash with you on the trek.
In most teahouses you can pay for a litre of boiled water. The higher you go the more expensive this is. This is particularly nice in the evening if you wish to have a hot water bottle in your sleeping bag. By the time you wake up in the morning it will have cooled and can be drunk.
Water Filters / SteriPen
I believe a SteriPen would be the most effective against viruses in the water. Whatever purification system you take remember it adds to your pack weight and may need charging. The water provided is generally very clear, therefore making it ideal for a SteriPen type system.
Purification Drops / Tablets
The only one worth considering is Chlorine Dioxide drops or Tablets. Avoid Chlorine or Iodine. With regards to the Lifesystems ones, the drops are better value for how much water you can treat for the cost, but the tablets work quicker and are less faff. Both are effected in how quickly / effectively they purify by how cold the water is.
You will want to have enough tablets or drops to purify at least 60 litres of fluids.
Whatever method for purification you go with you'll soon get into a routine. To make life simpler we recommend bringing a hardy 1 litre bottle, such as a Nalgene (Can be filled with hot or cold water)
-Night time - Purify 3 litres of water and fill the bladder. Purify an additional 1 Litre in the Nalgene and try and drink the bulk of this before leaving for the day.
- Lunch - We usually stop for about an hour for lunch. Get your Nalgene out and purify one litre straight away. Top up your bladder once purified. You may wish to repeat this.
When you get to the teahouse in the evening you will have hopefully drunk the bulk of what is in your bladder, plus the additional bottles you've purified.
All fluid counts
Drinking all that water can become a bit of a chore but all fluid counts. There are opportunities in the day for teas or hot mango juice. Having a soup before your dinner is also a great way to get in a big chunk of fluid. Bringing along those little bottles of double concentrated cordial is a fab way to make your fluid consumption that bit more exciting. If you want to add some flavour, and get additional benefit from your water then consider getting some electrolyte tablets. Alcohol is not recommended whilst ascending, however you can drink (in moderation) on the descent.
Drinking untreated Water
You'll read on some forums there are people who are proud to say they drink untreated water whilst on the treks. Good for them is what I say, as I personally wouldn't take the risk of ruining my trip with getting an illness. Getting into the habit of cleaning your teeth with your purified water is also wise. Drinking untreated water in places like Kathmandu is a definite no-no!
I have typically always used Chlorine Dioxide Tablets or drops. At the time of writing I am looking into a SteriPen as my main way of treating the water, and carrying some Chlorine Dioxide Tablets as a back up. I have a 3 litre bladder and a 1 litre Nalgene bottle. It is very unlikely you'll need to insulate the bladder hose on all our treks apart from the ones that include the 6000m peaks.
Using a Source Water Bladder (with an insulated hose) with a dirt cap over the end on our way to Mera Peak