Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Rubber Gloves, Safety Glasses, and Other Trail Necessities

I generally prefer not to treat most of water I acquire from mountain springs, but I've heard rumors that these desert water sources--when you can get them--are often less than desirable. I'm carrying my SteriPEN, the same one I used on the Florida Trail, and seems to work well enough. I never did get sick from drinking water treated with it, and some of that water looked pretty nasty. But it runs on batteries, and what if they run out? What if the device stops working?

So I also like to carry an extra backup system. This time, I decided to try these Katadyn Micropur Purification Tablets. Later, I read the customer comments, and found this interesting tidbid: "Just a heads up, no matter what your local REI employee says, these are NOT OK to pack in a carry-on or checked bag while travelling... even if still sealed in the original packaging. Says 'DANGER: Corrosive' pretty clearly on the package, as the TSA agent will be happy to point out. ;) YMMV, but official TSA rules say 'No Corrosives.'"

Really? Something you drop in water and meant to be consumed is corrosive?!

I pulled out my little tablets and looked myself. This is what it said:

DANGER: Keep out of reach of children
DANGER: Corrosive. Causes irreversible eye damage and skin burns. Harmful if absorbed through skin. Harmful if swallowed. Do not get in eyes, on skin or on clothing. Wear protective eyewear (safety glasses), protective clothing and rubber gloves. Wash thoroughly with soap and water after handling. Remove contaminated clothing and wash clothing before reuse.
(The emphasis in italics is my own, not on the packaging.) Needless to say, I was shocked to discover I'd be carrying such a major bio-hazard on my back all this time. The stuff sounds positively deadly. While I can't be certain what other hikers are carrying, I'll readily admit, I don't normally count safety glasses, "protective" clothing, or rubber gloves among my backpacking gear. And apparently, the stuff is so toxic, I can't even drink the water once it's been purified. I'm a little confused about how to remove the dissolved tablets from the water to make it safe to drink again. There's no explanation about that.

But when I think about some of the other crap I've consumed on my previous thru-hikes, this sounds positively harmless by comparison. So screw it. I'll drink it and take my chances. =) Wish me luck!

9 comments:

shiloh said...

It would be interesting to know what the Posion Control Center has to say about them.

Okie Dog said...

OMG! Good luck with that!

OhanaTribe said...

Hey, the bottled of natural spring water I bought at the grocery store last week had the same warning label! ;) jk

Is the main ingredient bleach? Due to an incident we had here several years ago, I have it on good authority of the Poison Control Center that drinking small quantities of bleach is pretty harmless. Although... maybe you can find some of those dessert frogs that the Aborigines squeeze water from... sounds more appealing actually!

Anonymous said...

once again, i find iodine crystals in a medicine bottle work the best, just drain out the iodine water every time you fill up and treat your water for 30 min before drinking, renew the iodine water with raw water it will be perfect

Green Guillemot said...

Very interesting! The tablets seem to contain both sodium dichloroisocyanurate (sometimes used to add "chlorine" to pools) and sodium chlorite. In water, the dichloroisocyanurate will react to form small amounts of elemental chlorine gas (Cl2), which was used as a chemical weapon by the Germans in WWI. The Cl2 reacts with the chlorite to form aqueous chlorine dioxide, ClO2. Chlorine dioxide is a powerful oxidizing agent (similar to bleach, NaOCl), and will oxidize (i.e. "burn up") any bacteria or other baddies in your water. This process reduces the ClO2 to harmless chloride ions and water. The box says to wait 4 hours after treating the water before drinking it - this might be to give the chlorine dioxide time to kill the bacteria. However, the 4 hr wait might ALSO be to allow the chlorine dioxide to decompose into harmless byproducts. My recommendation: don't skimp on the 4 hr wait!

Goofy girl said...

Just Be Careful Ryan WAIT THE 4 HRS!!! = )

Okie Dog said...

I just thought of something, off topic. We have you writing to us, and we have that nice map off the side, but you are not mentioning where you are when you write? Location, location, location. How far along are you on this hike now? Please.

Anonymous said...

Ryan...I have carried these tabs, the old Iodine tabs, a steripen (like you), a safety straw (like a Brita filter on steroids) and plain old bleach (sodium hypochlorite)...I believe bleach works the best besides boiling the H2O that is...but all are safe...happy trails and be safe...
BR1

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

When we lived in South Carolina and a hurricane was on it's way to hit us, we were told to store water in our bathtubs and treat it with a tablespoon or two of bleach. It was supposed to be safe to drink after at least 2-3 hours of sitting.

I don't know if it's true, though, because we ended up buying bottled water instead...

Hike On!
~Twinville Trekkers