Philmont Water: A Typical Day


Here is a typical day on the trail.......waterwise.

You wake up and somehow decide you need breakfast. That's not a hard decision after hiking some 35 miles on the trail so far. It's a hot cereal day and a good thing too because the temp is hovering just above freezing. Or so it seems. And something hot to drink would be good too.

Water gathered last night from the stream is in the pot just waiting to be put on the stove. The stove is lit and while gear is packed the water comes to a boil......or almost. And that is fine because all you need to do is get it to 180 degrees F to kill anything that grows in water anyway. Water boils at 212 F, so boiling it is overkill.

The water comes to a boil anyway.......just to make sure someone says, and each person takes their turn dunking bowl, cup and spoon in the hot water leaving behind any bacteria to be destroyed by the heat and a few bits of pine needles, dirt and rocks they did not see on the bottom of the cup. It all gets sterilized together.

Anyway, you take your plastic or lexan bowl and dump in Quaker Instant maple and brown sugar oatmeal from the food bag. You take your stainless steel cup and dump in some Swiss Miss with marshmallows in it. One of the crew ladles some hot water into your cup and bowl and you are in bidness.

You saunter over to a rock overlooking the stream and sit to eat with your back to the cooking fire ring just to relieve the view and reduce it to more simple things so you can relax during your meal.

It's good, warm and filling. You lick the bowl clean.........literally! Not a drop is left in the cup either. Human sumping they call it. You have been doing it for years whenever you mother did not catch you doing it.

You saunter over to "your tree" which has your pack propped up against it and your 3L Camelback Unbottle hanging from a branch stub and rotate the 90 degree block valve to the on position. You squirt an ounce or two into the bowl, swirl it around and drink it down. Some call this human sumping. Some don't even call it, but just do it. Same for the cup into which you swish around the spoon. Bottoms up the cup. You fill the cup with cool, clear iodinated water from the Unbottle bite valve and get out your "morning pills". Every adult on trek has their "morning pills" simply because they are getting older. Even if you don't do drugs, you pop three Advil just for good measure! Vitamin I Cooper Wright calls them.

Chase them down with the whole cup of water. Tastes so good, you draw another and drink that too.

You put away your cup, bowl and spoon in their proper place.

Finally your slow tent partner is out of the tent with his stuff, so while he packs (you already have) you take the tent down divide it up and pack away your share. You then take his part of the bargain to him to pack up. He thanks you.

While watching the crew get their act together, you draw and drink another couple of cups of water from the bite valve. Danged this mountain water tastes good! You don't even notice the iodine taste simply because you aren't trying to. Your thoughts are on what a beautiful place the campsite was and not about what iodine tastes like anyway.

You take your 1 L Nalgene bottle out of the side pocket and dump it into the Unbottle hydration bladder. You had filled the 1 L bottle last night and added the proper amount of Polar Pure. It sat all night so you aren't worried about how long since it was treated.

You go to the creek and find the spot that the crew member assigned as "water bearer" designated or improved to get water from and fill your bottle to 1/2 inch below the rim. Back at "your tree", you add the right amount of Polar Pure to the water bottle according to what your Ranger taught you and place both in the pack pocket after refilling the Polar Pure bottle and turning the water bottle upside down and "bleeding the threads".

All secured, you are ready to hit the trail.

You are carrying three liters of ready to drink water in the hydration bladder. It's cold from hanging in the cold night mountain air overnight and will stay that way all day because of the 1/8" neoprene insulation of the Unbottle and the fact it is packed INSIDE your pack out of the sun.

The 1 L Lexan bottle has to wait 30 minutes before it is ready to drink. You notice the time and make mental note. It resides in the side pocket of the pack. You more than likely won't even use it today because it is just a 10 mile hike to the next camp and you are high where it is cool and in a valley in the shade. And it is raining.

Along the way you sip water constantly from the bite valve, not worrying at all about running out of water in the hydration bladder because you are carrying that 3 liters plus another liter backup in the lexan bottle.

When the crew stops for lunch, you decide Gatorade would go good with the PBJ on crackers, so you dump a little powder into the stainless steel cup and squeeze the bite valve to fill the cup.

After lunch you wash down the sides of the cup with the fine stream produced by the bite valve and human sump your cup and put it away.

Each meal you want Gatorade you do the same thing and therefore you don't have any water containers besides your cup that have had drink mix in them so none need go up in the bear bag.

When you get to camp, the "water bearer" takes off to find "clean water" and returns with two buckets full for the evening meal.

It was a long trail today so you examine your 3L Unbottle and find that it only contains about a half cup of water. Your 1L bottle is still not been touched, so you still have a good reserve. You ask where the "water faucet" is and he tells you up around the bend in the creek and over off the edge of the big gray flat rock. With those directions, you take the 3L Unbottle and your 1L Nalgene and go to fill them up. Away from the stream you pour the 1L bottle into the 3L Unbottle because you know that to spill iodine treated water into the stream would harm some of the biota living in the stream and as a good land steward you don't want to do that.

After pouring the 1L into the 3L, you dip the 1L full and use it to fill the 3L and then fill the 1L also.

You return to "your tree" where you get out the PolarPure and add the requisite amount to the 3L Unbottle and the 1L Nalgene, you "bleed the threads" and refil the PolarPure bottle.

You repeat this daily for each day on the trail. You are never without 4L of water starting out each day. You never are drinking your last water from the bladder and not knowing how much water you have left.

You are budgeting your water but that does not mean skimping on it. You drink freely from the bite valve and when others holler "water stop" you simply stand there enjoying the view knowing full well that they are getting dehydrated and you are not because you continuously sip water as you walk.

And that is all there is to it.

The only addendum is on extra long trail days, I fill a 1L Platypus roll up bottle fore a total of 5 liters of available water.

If you have a dry camp.roper food and meal planning should not require anything but each person filling their extra 1L Platy roll bottle.

If a crew chooses to carry on of those "water buffalo bladders" then somebody had to be the mule. Better it be your crew than mine, but so be it if you got to do that. I just know that it isn't necessary.

If one chooses to use a filter pump, then they can do the same thing only pumping their water.

From observation and practical application, it takes about 30 minutes to get out the pump, set it up, pump the days supply of water and put the pump away again.

The decision to pump or not is yours and yours alone.

Personally I got more to do in those ten days on the trail at Philmont than spend 5 hours plus pumping water.

Sometimes I just want to sit there and listen to the grass grow.

John LeBlanc
Eagle Class of 1959
Phirst Philmont Ptrek 1959
My latest adventure was yesterday
Today is not over yet!


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The content of this Web page was provided by John LeBlanc. Please contact him for more information.

This Web page is maintained by Selden Ball at Wilson Lab.
Please send any comments or corrections to seb@lepp.cornell.edu