How Hand-Pumped Water Filters and Purifiers Work


Water filters designed for backpackers are typically made out of a ceramic or synthetic cartridge. They're housed inside sturdy, plastic or metal casings. This is an example of a synthetic cartridge and next to it we have a ceramic cartridge. This is kind of like a piece of pottery. They're full of tiny micro-porous holes and some filters also use a carbon core to them which helps remove sediment and taste. Most water filters come with two separate hoses. One is going to be considered your clean hose and one is going to be designated as the dirty hose. Meaning this hose goes in dirty water and pulls dirty water into the filter and this hose takes clean water from the filter and puts it into the gallon jug or water bottle. You're going to see a little difference in the coloration here between the two hoses – on the one that has been used for dirty water and the one that's been used for clean. So you're going to take the dirty hose and attach it to the intake part of the filter which happens to be on the top of this model. And a lot of these dirty hoses also come with a pre-filter which you can see here. There's a little bit of foam in here as well as a foam flotation device, which basically when you put this into a creek or stream, allows this to hover around the top of the water. So this piece is not dangling in the bottom where all the silt and grit may be. These are also great for keeping leaves and mosquito larvae and other chunky stuff in the water that you don't want to drink out of the filter. So that end of your dirty hose is going to go into the dirty water source, creek or stream of some sort. So you're going to take the other hose, that clean hose, and attach it to that output point, which happens to be on the bottom of this model. Or, with some of these models, they are designed to screw directly onto a Nalgene or a hydration bladder. If you're using the hose, you're going to attach this to that little nozzle in there and then this end of the hose is going to go into your water bottle or hydration bladder or wherever you want that clean water to go so you can drink it. So one of the biggest reasons that filters can fail would be cross contamination. And that is where the clean hose and the dirty hose get mixed up and you don't know which one is which and you're not sure which one went in the creek and which one didn't. So a lot of companies will provide you with little storage bags that are labeled with “dirty” or “clean” or in this case the “outlet hose” so you can keep this hose clean and the other dirty hose elsewhere. I find that using a Ziploc bag works well for this and you can go ahead and use a Sharpie and write which one is which. I also would recommend keeping that clean hose in the Ziploc bag and then maybe leaving the dirty hose out on its own. There are different sorts of pumping mechanics for water filters. Two of the more common are going to be the plunger style, which is what this model has. You can see the top of this long plunger has a broad handle that fits in the palm nicely and allows you to plunge and this will force water through the filter. Another common style is going to be the lever and in this case we have this side handle that is pulled back and forced down like a lever. So to filter water, we're going to have this bottle which we're considering our dirty water. So this is the creek or the stream, with the dirty hose running into the filter. And we're going to do this lever motion to pump and we're forcing water through all those tiny pores in the filter cartridges that we looked at earlier and is going in this blue bottle which is going to be the drinking water. Regardless of the material that your water filter is made out of, and in this instance we are looking at a synthetic cartridge, the premise on how they work is that they are full of tons of tiny, micro-porous holes that most of your contaminates cannot fit through, however water molecules are smaller than those pores and slide through them easily, thus creating your clean drinking water.


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