What is it?
Potable Aqua is a chemical method of water treatment that was developed by the US military in WWII and is still in use in the military today. They have a great shelf life and can last up to 4 years in a sealed bottle in normal conditions. An open bottle can be kept for up to a year if it is not exposed to excessive amounts of heat, humidity, or moisture. They are small and lightweight, which makes them perfect for camping, hiking and international travel. They are also a great addition to a survival kit in case of emergency. Since they kill viruses, they are great for travel to foreign countries where the water quality may be questionable. In fact, the CDC reports that up to 70% of travelers will have a bout with traveler’s diarrhea at some time.
Why do I need it?
When you are in the wilderness or other area where you are gathering water from a questionable source, it is important to treat the water so that you can avoid getting sick. There are a few different ways to treat drinking water, and you should always have at least one method in your bug out bag at all time.. The main categories are filtration and purification. Iodine tablets are a type of chemical water purification. The tablets do not remove bacteria from water, but neutralize them instead.
There are three types of impurities in water that need to be neutralized: bacteria, protozoa, and viruses. Most types of water treatment in the United States do not treat viruses because they are found more rarely in natural water sources and they are so small that most filters cannot catch them. Chemical treatment such as iodine kills all three kinds of impurities.
The company lists that these tablets are for short-term and emergency use only. The bottle comes with 50 iodine tablets. It takes 2 tablets to treat 1 quart of water, and about 30 minutes for the water to be safe to drink after application.
- Each bottle treats 25 quarts of water
- Shelf life of 4 years
- Kills most bacteria, protozoa, and viruses found in fresh water
- Effective against cysts such as Giardia Lamblia
- Effective against common bacteria that causes traveler’s diarrhea, such as E. coli, Cholera, and Salmonella
- Effective in low temperatures
The iodine can add an odd taste or color to the water. Sometimes, the tablets will stain containers an orange color. They are only for short-term use, and are not the best primary water purification for extended traveling or hiking. Iodine tablets are not effective against cryptosporidium, which can sometimes be found in freshwater sources in the United States. If you are planning a hiking or camping trip, usually park management will know if there are cryptosporidium cysts present in the area. You will have to wait 30 minutes after adding the tablets before drinking your water. If the water is excessively dirty or particulate filled, you may need to pre-filter the water before adding the iodine.
Should I get it?
Iodine tables are a reliable method for water treatment. They are best for short trips as either main water purification or as a backup because it is so light and small. I have used iodine tablets on many weekend backpacking trips. If I choose a different type of water purification such as a filter, I usually bring a bottle of iodine with me as a backup. During a normal hiking trip, you can expect to treat at least 6 quarts per person per day.