You can skimp on any number of things. Cheap rain gear in the summertime is survivable. An inexpensive pack is probably just going to be less comfortable, heavier, and not last as long. But I don’t like skimping on water. So I bought a new Katadyn Hiker filter.
When I was young and camping in the 80s, Katadyn was the gold standard of water filtration systems. They were too expensive for a teenager in the south, so I wound up just using iodine tablets and hating how the water tasted.
When I got older, I had camping partners who did not like filtration systems. Not due to the weight, they just liked camping high and in the winter. Water filters will freeze overnight in the cold and are unusable as a result. They preferred solutions that were basically diluted bleach. You can put it in water to introduce chlorine and kill the bugs in there just like a municipal water system. Of course, you get floaties: little bits of leaves and whatnot in your water. I decided I didn’t like this either, and bought a Katadyn.
You need to filter water before you drink it, even high mountain streams. The two bugs to watch out for here are Giardia and Cryptosporidium. Getting water contaminated by these leads to nothing good. Katadyn filters them out.
This is one of Katadyn’s Backcountry series, the Hiker filter. It’s for use by up to two people, and filters pretty fast. A liter of water can be done in around a minute, and can purify up to 200 gallons of water before needing a filter change. It’s also light, at 11 ounces. It comes with all the needed tubing and adapters in a nice bag that’s easy to chuck in to a backpack or pannier. It’s simple to operate, and dependable.
Some people who bicycle tour do not carry water filtration. They argue you can find water almost anywhere on the road or on trails, so they’re not needed. If you’re doing a back country trail on a mountain bike like the Divide, then you do need something to filter, but not always on other tours. I’ve picked up the western habit of keeping water in mind, though. It’s farther apart here and not as dependable. Campgrounds in California this year may not have water available because of the drought, and the ability to filter what you can find is going to be more important.
Dehydration flat-out sucks. Carrying a Katadyn is insurance against having to deal with it. For most tours, a Hiker should suffice. If you’re touring in South America or Africa you could upgrade to the Endurance series, something like the Katadyn Pocket or the Combi. It takes months to navigate those places, so they need the capacity. Our tour this year is short, so I’ll just chuck the Katadyn Hiker in a pannier and enjoy the peace of mind having it brings.
The Katadyn Hiker