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Drink: the best drink in Norway after beer that's free; ice-cold mountain water from a river

There are but two delightful beverages. Ice-cold water and ice-cold beer. No, wait. There are only three truly delightful beverages. Ice-cold water, ice-cold beer, and a fine Spätburgunder. No... there are more. Hmm, messy start of this article. Anyway, let us discuss the first one at least; drinking ice-cold water from a river. Water is abundant here and often of unparalleled quality above the tree line. I dare say it may be nearly superior to tap water. Now, that might be a slight exaggeration, but this is a blog, not a scientific paper. So allow me, will you.

The purpose of this piece is to enlighten you on drinking water that doesn't come from the tap. I shall tell you what to consider and what to do if you are a tad apprehensive.

To get straight to the point, I seldom adhere to the rules I am about to enumerate for you. Nevertheless, I shall list them in no particular order:

  • Cattle, lifestock, animals: Norway is inhabited by various creatures; ships, goats, cows, musk oxen, deer, reindeer, and moose. And all these animals defecate. Of course, they don't do it directly in a river, but the water that flows down from the slopes and eventually reaches the rivers does come into contact with feces. Generally, this poses little harm, but as with everything, in moderation. Because once the concentration of bacteria becomes too high, drinking such water can make you ill. As a counterargument, you probably have no idea about the amount of bacteria on your mobile phone, and they are far more harmful than the two bacteria you might scoop from a Norwegian mountain river. Nonetheless, if you spot large numbers of sheep, refrain from drawing water from the tiniest streams and wait until you encounter a somewhat larger river.

  • Tree line: Generally, you can follow the rule 'the higher, the better,' and by that, I mean the elevation at which you fetch water from the stream. I prefer to do this at or just above the tree line. You want to ensure as little organic matter as possible ends up in your water. But here, too, you can make considerations. When it's a larger, fast-flowing river, you're hardly at risk. But if it flows slowly and there's abundant plant growth along the banks, it might be wise not to drink directly from the stream.

  • Stagnant water: There are numerous lakes here in Norway, and here the rules become somewhat 'murky.' That is to say, there are hardly any rules. Here, it comes down to what you see, your intuition, and what I just wrote. A lake above the tree line with ample fresh water inflow is fine. If there's much vegetation, perhaps not. But it's not all-encompassing. I'm not particularly apprehensive myself and have indulged in water from various sources. When the water is clear and cold, you're hardly at risk. However, always make sure you have some visibility of what's happening around the lake. If there are holiday homes or many boats, refrain from drinking from it directly. Or at least boil it.

If you're on the road with your campervan or tent and want to err on the side of caution, you can always boil your water. If you want to ensure every bacterium meets its demise, boil your water for 5 minutes straight and you'll be ensured safe passage. In addition, here are a few handy tools to make access to drinking water even easier:

  • A water bag: Takes up little space in your luggage and is easy to fill. Nice to have by your tent because you consume more water than you think.

  • A gasburner and a kettle: Not only to make your water safe for drinking but also for morning coffee.

  • A thermos flask: It's part of my gear both in summer and winter. Because nothing is better than having a bottle of ice-cold water with you when you reach the summit (yes, a thermos flask can keep your water both hot and cold).

  • A water purification kit: Honestly, I must admit I've never used one. You won't find any Norwegians fiddling with such a thing either. But I know hikers who bring one on multi-day trips. With the apocalyps in mind, it might not be the worst of purchases.

Have a good trip!


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