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My friend and I intend to do part of the Tour de Mont Blanc this summer. While we are aware of the refuges and huts, we would prefer to stay in bivouacs for the night (at least one night, but probably two).

Our plan is to hike for 3 days. Evidently, we are not considering carrying 6kg of water for these three days. Our main idea was to bring purifying pills (efervescent) and drink water from creeks, streams and ponds. We are considering hiking both below and above the tree line.

I have been reading online and spoke with a friend who successfully hiked for two days only with the pills. But, since I am inexperienced on long (more than 2 days) hikes, I do not know if this is the standard approach or if we are making a serious mistake.

The part of the trail in question is between Les Contamines and Courmayeur passing through Les Chapieux, but I would like to keep the question as general as possible, as I intend to do more long hikes in the future.

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  • In summer you could easily find yourself needing 6l of water per day, so you need sources as well as plenty of carrying capacity. Drinkable (without treatment) water in the French alps is reasonably common; good maps of your route should show springs, but be very sure you know the difference on the map between year-round and seasonal springs
    – Chris H
    Jul 23 at 10:29
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    We've had a few very similar questions before, probably close enough to call this a duplicate, hence why I've just commented on a couple of specifics
    – Chris H
    Jul 23 at 10:30
  • Does this answer your question? What is the safest way to purify water?
    – user2169
    Jul 23 at 13:20
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    If there is no human habitation or livestock grazing above the area where you collect your water, then there is no need to do any water treatment. The need to treat water from high-elevation, pristine backcountry wilderness areas is a myth.
    – user2169
    Jul 23 at 13:23
  • @BenCrowell It doesn't answer my question because I am not looking up ways of purifying water (debate whether I should boil, throw pills, or whatever). I am asking whether going for the trip with only the pills is a reasonable idea and not something crazy (supposing for example we cannot find any springs,creeks, or whatever). I added the location because perhaps (and indeed it was pointed in Manziel's answer water from the region can possibly be drank. Jul 23 at 13:24
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I hike in that very area some years ago. We would typically get water from the refuges.

Specifically:

  • Le refuge de la Balme
  • Le refuge de la croix du Bonhomme
  • Le refuge des Mottets
  • Il refugio Elisabetta

You'll find clean water there, and they are not that far apart (about half a day between each, I'd say).

The rest of the time, if you don't have enough water, pills are fine, although you'll lack minerals as most streams are straight from a glacier. But a few days on purified water this way shouldn't be a concern at all.

Also make sure you are aware of the bivouac rules both in France and Italy. I don't know what the rules are now, but some years ago, in Italy it was forbidden to Bivouac below 2500m, unless at the campsite of a refuge, while it was allowed in France.

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  • You could always carry electrolyte tablets. As well as Na they usually contain K, plus Mg and Ca which are what you're missing from the water
    – Chris H
    Jul 29 at 11:04
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Probably your best solution is to take a small camping stove and boil water you get from a creek. The huts are basically doing the same when they sell you tea water.

In my experience, most bivoucs require you to bring your own stove anyways, so this method hardly adds any weight (maybe some extra gas). It is way cheaper than buying a water filter and it does not require you to put chemicals into water that is likely drinkable anyways. And as a bonus you get a warm tea when the sun sets in the evening ;)

For many bivouacs you should be able to find out whether there is a creek nearby.

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  • Boiling is only one way of purifying water. Can you elaborate on why boiling would be better than purification tablets or a water filter, in this specific situation?
    – csk
    Jul 23 at 11:00
  • There's an question here (outdoors.stackexchange.com/questions/1117/…) about boiling water to kill bacteria, viruses, etc. Of course boiling doesn't remove sediments or dirt and glacier run-off usually contains fine sediments which can cause digestive problems.
    – Paul Lydon
    Jul 23 at 13:16

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