Water Treatment 101: Viruses

Viruses take the cake as tiniest of the waterborne microorganisms that cause illness in humans—smaller than both protozoa and bacteria. These nasty little bugs are also the least understood by scientists, and cause the greatest range of symptoms across infected individuals. The good new is, in North American backcountries, viruses are typically considered much less of a concern than the other pathogenic threats.

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Water Treatment 101: Bacteria

Bacteria are everywhere—on you, in you, in the soil, and yes, even in the wilderness’ cool, refreshing water sources. In fact harmless species of these single-cell organisms exist naturally in the backcountry’s rivers and pools. But humans and animals can carry harmful bacteria as well, and spread these pathogens to the water, making it risky if you happen to drink from the wrong place at the wrong time. Some of these bacteria are the same notorious headline grabbers associated with foodborne outbreaks or epidemics after natural disasters. We’ll discuss those and others, but first a few general facts.

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Water Treatment 101: Cryptosporidium

Research backcountry water treatment and you’re sure to be warned about cryptosporidium or “crypto.” And for good reason. This microscopic protozoan parasite is one of the most common causes of waterborne disease in humans in the United States. Like the parasite giardia, crypto is found in water sources worldwide, and affects individuals differently. Fortunately, the disease it causes is rarely life-threatening in healthy adults. In fact, some 80% of the U.S. population has had cryptosporidiosis at some time, according to the FDA. Still, its symptoms are nasty enough that you’ll want to take strides to avoid it on your next backpacking trip.

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Water Treatment 101: Understanding Giardia

If you find the published information about Giardia confusing and inconsistent, it’s because the information is a reflection of the parasite itself. Giardia is a multifaceted protozoan that affects individuals differently. It can be prevalent in one small corner of a lake, and practically absent in other parts of the same body of water. In the context of backcountry water, cases of Giardia are rarely diagnosed or reported and there haven’t been enough scientific studies to understand the risks to backcountry travelers. To further complicate the matter, the symptoms of Giardia are difficult to distinguish from those of cryptosporidium, another parasite.

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Backcountry Basics: Recognizing Avalanche Terrain

By Dale Atkins “We didn’t think we were in an avalanche path.” These were the sorrow-filled words told to me by a couple whose friend was buried and killed in very small Colorado avalanche back in 2000. The problem of not recognizing avalanche terrain is not new. Avalanche survivors have likely uttered similar words for centuries, and even today the message is still heard after some accidents. Avalanche terrain can be a broad and complicated topic. But here, I’ll introduce some ideas and key points about avalanche terrain that you may not have heard before. I hope this will encourage you to seek out information. Recognizing avalanche terrain is key to staying alive and having fun in the backcountry. You can’t control the weather or the snow conditions but you…

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Backcountry Basics: How To Use Your Avalanche Probe, Shovel, and Snow Saw

Written by Jeff Hambelton Working in the backcountry during the winter for the Northwest Avalanche Center, I investigate the current snowpack, track the avalanche hazard, and perform all manner of experiments in the name of snow science. If you ask me what’s in my pack, you may get varied answers, depending on the mission. You might find overnight gear, maybe a science toolkit, sometimes a picnic lunch. But you will always find my shovel, probe and snow saw—the basic tools for snow science and companion rescue.

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Gear Archives: Making Traction—MSR Snowshoe Innovations

Snowshoe technology reaches back thousands of years and across the globe, but in recent years it’s made history right here in the Pacific Northwest—and MSR has a lot to do with it. Take a look and see how our MSR Denali™ and Lightning™ snowshoe models helped usher in a new era of snowshoe design. The design revolution The modern snowshoe looks very different from the traditional hardwood and rawhide designs of old. The shift to new materials—aluminum and plastic—in the 1970s allowed for smaller, lighter and more durable frames. Other innovations soon followed: suspension binding systems increased the snowshoe’s efficiency, making it possible to traverse long distances in rough and mountainous terrain, while integrated cleats helped cut through ice and crusty snow. Just as revolutionary, however, were innovations introduced by…

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MSR Snowshoes: Bred in the Mountains, Made in Seattle

With the right snowshoes—MSR snowshoes—you can venture out into most anything winter has to offer, from snow-covered hills and forested trails, to glacier fields and steep, icy slopes. MSR designs have led the industry in innovation for twenty years, and one of the ways we continue that forward progress is by manufacturing our snowshoes right here in Seattle, Washington. Take a look and see how we create the unrivaled traction, modular flotation and ergonomic efficiency that go into MSR Snowshoes.  Manufactured in Seattle All MSR snowshoes have been made on site in Seattle since the 1995 launch of the Denali Classic snowshoe. Working from a concept by renowned inventor and big wall climber Bill Forrest, and developed using MSR technology and engineering, the Denali featured traction bars and crampons made…

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MSR Backcountry Cafe: Apple & Sage Stuffing

Recipe and photos by Tara Alan If you’re anything like me, you never grow tired of the dressing (or stuffing!) your family makes at every winter holiday meal. Whether it’s concocted with cornbread or mushrooms, oysters or dried cranberries; whether it’s stuffed inside a bird or baked in a pan, it’s your favorite side dish, and you secretly wish you could have it more often. So why not tuck into a whole bowl of stuffing, and eschew the cranberry sauce and green beans? Well, now’s your chance!

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