Marilyn Englander: Save Water. Go Backpacking

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 (Marilyn Englander)

Marilyn Englander says backpacking teaches how to make every drop of water count.

The drought is real. We have to learn to pinch droplets. My solution: everyone should go backpacking.

I don’t mean just hide up in the hills. But on every backcountry adventure I’ve had, water became more precious than gold. I learned to treasure it. Forest regulations require camping at least 200 feet from any water source. But what with avoiding slopes, rocks or anthills, my tent usually gets pitched a good ways from the water.

Hiking all day creates a powerful thirst. Cooking takes water, plus washing before and cleaning up. A little personal hygiene before hitting the sack is considerate of your tentmate: more water.
All that water has to be purified, because giardia lurks in even the most pristine wilderness. Whether by straining every drop through a little hand pump while straddling mossy boulders creek side or using the spiffiest new devices, the process is laborious. Then you have to tote all those bottles and pots back to camp. I see myself hunkered down pumping away, clean elixir slowly filling each container, trying not to swear when I knock over a freshly filled one and have to begin again.

Backpackers are ingenious at stretching their precious hoard of water: using the pasta water to wash dishes, filling the coffeepot with leftover trail water, soaking the breakfast skillet with old coffee. You never discard H2O, even if it’s nasty-hot. Brush teeth and bathe using one slender pint bottle and the “lather, scoop and slap” method to wash the essentials.


I appreciate what backpacking taught me. Once you’ve had to haul and purify your own, clean water flowing from a tap is miraculous. I wince hearing someone take a long shower or run the kitchen tap carelessly. But my struggling garden is my ally: grateful for old coffee and used dishwater.

With a Perspective, this is Marilyn Englander.

Marilyn Englander is a North Bay educator.