Timber Wolf, Lake Superior, Ontario

A lone timber wolf greets
paddlers along the north shore
of Lake Superior, Canada
(Photo by Michael Neiger)

The Rucksack Masthead
By Michael A. Neiger, Marquette, Michigan
Wilderness tripper: backpacking, winter camping, swift-water canoeing
Web site URL: http://therucksack.tripod.com • E-mail: mneiger@hotmail.com
Contents copyright © 1984-2007 by Michael A. Neiger • All rights reserved.


Bush skills

By Michael A. Neiger

Last updated on October 13, 2004

Contents of page

   Water purification
      How to use iodine tablets
      Articles in Backpacker Magazine
      Manufacturer links

Looking for
wilderness tripping
equipment and
For 100's of sources for wilderness tripping equipment and supplies, visit the sources for gear page on this Web site.

Need help
finding a book?
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a book, catalog,
or Web site.
If you know of a useful outdoor-related book, catalog, or Web site not listed on this Web site, e-mail the book's title, subtitle, author, publisher, date of publication, and short description; or the catalog's address and phone number; or the Web site's URL to Michael Neiger at mneiger@hotmail.com.

** Recommended



All surface water should be considered contaminated with giardia. In addition, always assume a wolf is relieving itself in the water just upstream as it feeds on a bloated, maggot-infested animal carcass floating in the water. To reduce the chances of problems, boil, filter, or treat all water with iodine tablets.

POTABLE AQUA IODINE TABLET TECHNIQUE--It is very important to read and follow the manufacturer's directions. Place two (2) tablets (not one) in a quart water bottle. Once you can see that the iodine tablets have dissolved, shake the bottle and reexamine it to see if both tablets have in fact dissolved. If they've dissolved, invert the bottle, loosen the cap slightly, and squeeze the sides of the bottle until some of the water is forced out through the threads, thereby exposing this hidden area of potential contamination to iodinated water.

Note: depending on the condition of your tablets, it may take anywhere from 2 minutes (new tablets) to over 30 minutes (older tablets) for the tablets to dissolve before you can rinse the bottle threads. Once the tablets have dissolved and the threads have been rinsed, wait at least thirty (30) minutes before ingesting the water.

To improve the taste and clarity of iodine treated water, simply use two of the neutralizing tablets that are prepackaged in another bottle with some Portable Aqua iodine products. However, don't add these tablets--or a drink mix for that matter--until the 30-minute contact time has passed as these will render the iodine ineffective. Adding vitamin C powder is another way of improving the clarity and taste of iodinated water (simply grind up vitamin C tablets in a coffee bean grinder).

According to the manufacturer, an unopened bottle of Portable Aqua iodine tablets stored at temperatures between 60 and 86 degrees F should have a shelf life of four years. An opened, but tightly closed, bottle of iodine tablets should be good for about one year, after which it should be discarded. To determine the expiration date of a particular bottle, examine the vertical lot number on the label. For example, the lot number "49127"" means that the product was manufactured in the 4th month of the year 1991 and was the 27th batch produced.

Since exposure to heat, humidity, moisture, and air will reduce the effectiveness of iodine tablets in short order, carry a "working bottle" containing about eight (8) tablets and a "stock bottle" containing the remaining supply. This technique is especially important in rainy, wet weather or when it is very humid.

For more info about iodine tablets, contact:
  Portable Aqua
  WPC Brands





December 2003, pp. 45-66
   "What's in the Water?" by Peter Jaret

December 2003, pp. 98-99
   "Clean Water Act," by Dennis Lewon

September 2001, p. 27
   "Drinking Risky Water," by Buck Tilton

December 2000, p. 29
   "Thwarting the Super Cootie," by Therses Iknoian

December 2000, p. 29
   "Conquering Crypto," by Therses Iknoian

September 2000, p. 141
   "McNett Aquamira," by Michael Lanza

March 2000, p. 174
   "A Long Life for Your Filter," by M. Lanza

December 1998, p. 138
   "Filter First-Aid," by Kristin Hostetter

October 1997, pp. 24-29
   "Gut Reactions," by Buck Tilton

December 1996, pp. 56-66
   "An Issue of Purity: What's in the Water," by Mark Jenkins

May 1994, pp. 48-53
   Unknown article on backcountry hygiene, by Buck Tilton

June 1992, pp. 51
   "Just Say No to Untreated Water," by Fred Bouwman, et al

April 1991, pp. 18-22
   "Safe Water," by Cindy Ross





General Ecology, Inc.



McNett Outdoor

MSR (Mountain Safety Research

Polar Equipment, Inc.

Safe Water Anywhere

Stearns, Inc.


Timberline Filters, Inc.

WPC Brands, Inc.
   (Wisconsin Pharmacal Company)

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In God's wilderness lies the hope of the world,
the great, fresh, unblighted, unredeemed wilderness.
— John Muir 1838-1914, Alaska Wilderness, 1890

Content Copyright © by Michael A. Neiger
All rights reserved.
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