7 options for water purification on the go

Mechanical or chemical, each offers advantages

By Marielle Gallagher / The Bulletin

When heading out into the backcountry, having drinking water is necessary, but schlepping it over hills and valleys can be cumbersome. And drinking straight from a stream or lake can be dangerous if it contains bacteria or other contaminants. There are lots of filtration and purification options that can render water clean and safe for drinking in a flash.

Choosing the right system comes down to the needs of the user. There are two main types of systems: filtration and purification. The biggest difference is that water filters cannot remove viruses, but a purification system can. Water filters can be made of ceramic, paper, charcoal or tightly packed microfibers and are great for filtering out debris, minerals, bacteria and protozoa. Water purification options include iodine drops or tablets, sodium dichloroisocyanurate tablets and UV technology.

Jake Wiley, sales manager at REI in Bend, presented us with seven options to fit a variety of needs. From a base camp family-style scenario to a lone hiker or international adventurer, there’s an option for every need. Consider what’s most important in your system: weight, speed or field maintainability. If you’re going out on an extended trip, Wiley recommends having a backup method in case the device fails. Boiling water may not be an option unless sufficient fuel was planned and packed. “I’ve got iodine drops in my first aid kit so even if my filter fails • … I still have some sort of purification system. (You should) either have two systems or intimate knowledge of how to repair or replace (your system) in the field,” said Wiley.

Camelbak All Clear bottle uses UV technology to purify water in 60-seconds.

Rob Kerr / The Bulletin

Camelbak All Clear

UV purification life: Engineered to last 10,000 cycles, or three bottles a day for nine years. Will automatically cease operation after that.

Speed: 60 seconds for 0.75 liters

Weight: 17 ounces

Price: $99

Details: This system holds 750 milliliters and uses a UV light housed in the lid to neutralize microbiological contaminants. To purify water, press a button to turn on the UV light that’s housed in the lid of the bottle. The bottle needs to be shaken while the light illuminates the water for 60 seconds. The purification process is confirmed with a message on the LCD screen located on the lid. The bottle doesn’t filter debris from the water source, but a pre-filter is available for $15. This system is good for international travel. Rechargeable lithium ion batteries (included) power deliver 80-plus cycles on a single one charge. A USB charger can be used in the field with a solar charger to keep the UV light fully powered. “,” according to the company website.

First Need XLE water purification and filtration system.

Rob Kerr / The Bulletin

First Need XLE Elite

Filter life: 680 liters

Speed: Nearly 2 liters per minute

Weight: 16 ounces

Price: $118; replacement filter $60

Details: Good option for international travel, where both filtration and purification is desired. “This is the only pump that we can be safe overseas. If you don’t want to go chemical or UV this is a mechanical purification,” said Wiley. added and removed the word “kill” since it’s a filtration that’s small enough to remove viruses, not kill them->“The filter is small enough and strong enough and has the right combination of carbons and minerals to actually kill viruses.” Purification is achieved with a “structured matrix 3-stage purification technology (that) provides natural and ecological removal of contaminants down to 0.1 micron nominal,” according to the company description. The purifier is effective against bacteria, cysts and viruses and removes giardia and cryptosporidia.

Life Straw personal water filtration system.

Rob Kerr / The Bulletin

Life Straw Filtration

Filter life: 1,000 liters

Weight: 2 ounces

Price: $21.95

Details: Super lightweight design makes this filtration system easy to pack on hikes or a long bike ride. “You can go right up to a mud puddle and suck clean water right through it,” said Wiley.

Katadyn Base Camp gravity fed water filtration system.

Rob Kerr / The Bulletin

Katadyn Base Camp

Filter life: About 750 liters

Speed: .5 liters per minute

Weight: 11 ounces

Price: $79.95

Details: Holds nearly 10 liters of water when full. To use, just fill the nylon water bag with water, fold the top down and hang to let gravity do the rest. The filter is pleated glass fiber with a carbon core that “reduces unpleasant tastes and odors,” according to the company website. This bag is g Great for large groups because the water bag can be hung from a convenient location at a campsite and water flows without any manual pumping.

A MSR Miniworks Ex Microfilter water filter screwed on the top of a Nalgene bottle.

Rob Kerr / The Bulletin

MSR Miniworks Ex Microfilter

Filter life: 2,000 liters

Speed: 1 liter per minute

Weight: 16 ounces

Price: $89.95; replacement filter $40

Details: Uses a ceramic filter. Although it’s not the lightest option, Wiley gives it high marks for versatility, reliability and long filter life. The pump is dual action so it filters and processes water on both the up- and down-stroke. Comes with a scouring pad that is used to buff a layer of particulates and dust off the ceramic filter. When the life of the filter is exhausted, a small gauge that comes with the filter will be able to slide over the width of the cylinder. “Being able to fix this in the field is a pretty big selling point,” said Wiley. “This particular system is one of our favorites. It’s not the lightest and not the fastest, but it’s incredibly field maintainable and reliable.” The b Base of filter is threaded and sized to can screw to the top of onto a Nalgene bottle. MSR also sells accessories that fit the filter, including a water bag. “By (screwing it on to a water bag) it turns it into a hydration pack, a shower, or whatever you want,” said Wiley.--for mechanical filters i like filters with double action pumping systems so water is being forced through that cartridge on the upstroke and the downstroke. and there are some that don’t have that.-- was he talking about the MSRMiniworks

Potable Aqua iodine tablets used for water purification.

Rob Kerr / The Bulletin

Potable Aqua iodine tablets, with neutralizing tablets

Speed: 30 minutes for iodine purification and 3 minutes to treat taste and color with neutralizing tablet

Price: $11 for 50 tablets of each

Details: Good option for emergency use or on extended trips when extra weight is an issue. The downsides are the taste of water treated with iodine and the effects on the gastrointestinal system if used for long periods of time. “It leaves a pretty terrible taste in your mouth.” They do have neutralizing tablets, which theoretically eliminate the taste and the color because it gets this yellowish iodine color. But it’s very cost effective and it does work,” said Wiley. “I used it for about a month or so when I was on trail and eventually all the good bacteria in your gut is killed so you lose the ability to process foods and pull important nutrients out.” One tablet treats about 24 23.6 liters 25-quarts.

this is probably the oldest know purification around. this is iodine tablets. it definitely does the job, it kills everything in the water. if it’s straight iodine it leaves a pretty terrible taste in your mouth. they do have neutralizing tablets which theoretically eliminate the taste and the color cause it gets this yellowish iodine color. but it’s very cost effective and it does work. lightweight, great emergency thing. if you’re using it for a long period of time, i used it for about a month or so when i was on trail and eventually all the good bacteria in your gut is killed. so you lose the ability to processing food and pulling important nutrients out of the food. so a week, two weeks, great. long extended month, two months, this stuff can wear on you.

MSR Aquatabs chlorindioxide tablets for water purification.

Rob Kerr / The Bulletin

MSR Aquatabs

Speed: 30 minutes

Price: $12.95 for 30 tablets

Details: Unlike iodine, sodium dichloroisocyanurate tablets produce a clean taste and don’t discolor the water. Wiley recommends using these for treating large quantities of water for group trips because they work quickly and treat up to 60 liters, making them very cost effective. If the water is going to be combined with anything else, like Gatorade or juice, always treat the water before adding other substances. “Effective against viruses, bacteria and Giardia cysts,” according to the company website.

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Pulse Magazine Fall/Winter 2014

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