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Tim Leffel

Professional Travel Expert

Water Purifiers

Why Purify Your Water?

While much eco-friendly travel advice focuses on buying carbon offsets and choosing “green hotels”, other less dramatic habits can actually have a greater effect over time. Take bottled water. On the one hand, travelers are told, “Don’t drink the water” in a lot of foreign countries. On the other hand, bottled water is an environmental disaster. It takes a tremendous amount of petroleum to process the water, make the plastic bottles, and ship it to where you buy it. Then even in the U.S., less than 25 percent of the disposable bottles get recycled. In some foreign countries that percentage is zero; every one you throw away goes into a landfill.

The solution? Carry your own personal water purifier to stay healthy and eco-friendly. There are a few different kinds of purifiers, generally breaking down into four categories. There are pumps, purifiers that use ultraviolet light, gravity filters, and purification tablets. Depending on whether you are hiking through the wilderness or spending a week in Mexico, different filtration methods will be appropriate.

What to buy? Consider your needs and the condition of the water you are likely to run across. For most travelers, ultraviolet purification or a simple charcoal filter will be fine for water coming from the tap. In areas where water may come from a stream, such as on a hiking trip through the Andes, something that treats a wider range of threats may be needed.

The following water purifiers are the best available and are both convenient and effective.

Best Travel Water Purifiers by Tim Leffel

The Best You Can Get

  • SteriPEN Traveler with Solar Charger Case

    Tim says: This item makes water purification as simple as pressing a button. You simply insert it into a glass or wide-mouth bottle of water, turn it on, and let it do its thing. The SteriPEN Traveler uses ultraviolet light to kill everything that could be lurking, with no mess and no change in taste. It does the job in less than a minute too, with no waiting around afterwards. I’ve used it to avoid getting sick in three countries now, so despite the ease of use, it works.

    The purifier only weighs 3.6 oz. and uses two CR123 batteries. By buying the package with the solar charger case, you can avoid ever throwing away a battery either. The case, combined with rechargeable batteries, allows you to use the sun’s rays for a recharge.

    • Uses ultraviolet light purification
    • Weighs 3.6 oz.
  • Katadyn Pocket Water Microfilter

    Tim says: For backcountry hiking trips where you take what you can get in terms of water, this Pocket Water Microfilter offers the best combination of portability and heavy-duty filtering action. It will conquer nearly any water you throw at it, even “very cloudy water.” It gets rid of protozoa, bacteria, and viruses, so your hiking or camping party can stay healthy along the whole trail.

    This filter uses a permanent ceramic filter, so while the initial purchase price is high, there is no need to keep buying filters later. With a twenty-year warranty and a projected life of up to 50,000 liters, it is built to last as well. The Pocket Water Microfilter weighs just over a pound and is 9.8 x 2.4 inches, so it won’t be a drag on your packing. If you’re looking for the “Rolls Royce of water filters,” this is the one to get.

    • Uses a permanent ceramic filter
    • Projected life of up to 50,000 liters
    • Great for hiking and camping
  • Katadyn Combi Water Microfilter and Plus Attachment

    Tim says: For those traveling in a camper or RV, this Combi Microfilter can be used as a standalone filter while on foot, then be connected to a faucet to purify tap water. It uses a two-stage process: a cleanable ceramic filter to get rid of the nasties, then a charcoal filter to improve the taste.

    The permanent ceramic filter never needs replacing, but a gauge indicates when the charcoal filter needs to be replaced - generally after approximately 400 liters. It weighs a little over a pound, is 10.6 x 2.4 inches, and comes with a carrying case. For anyone who will be combining indoor use in a camper or RV with outdoor use on a trail, this is the best option.

    • Uses a cleanable ceramic filter and a charcoal filter
    • Can be used as a standalone filter or connected to a faucet
    • Great for camper or RV use indoors or outdoors
  • Exstream XR Purifier Bottle

    Tim says: This is the most effective water bottle purifier on the market, for those who want a simple solution they can use while hiking or sightseeing. The Exstream XR Purifier looks like a regular water bottle, but inside it has a filter in the middle, with your sucking action providing the pumping. You fill it up with water, screw the top on with filter attached, and you have 28 ounces of purified water available whenever you want a drink. When it’s empty, you fill it up again from any tap and start all over.

    On the journey from bottle to mouth, the water goes through a carbon pre-filter, a cyst filter, then a ViruStat microbial water purification cartridge. So the water tastes good and is free of any possible contaminant. The combo filter is good for 26 gallons, which equates to 120 refills - plenty for most vacations and then some.

    • The most effective water bottle purifier on the market
    • Great for hiking or sightseeing
  • Micropur MP1 Tablets

    Tim says: If carrying any kind of filter device is impractical or you need to purify larger batches, these Micropur tablets are a good solution. Instead of iodine, which turns water orange and gives it a nasty aftertaste, these tablets release chlorine dioxide, the same chemical used in city water treatment plants. Each tablet purifies one liter, so use four for a gallon.

    The drawback of these tablets is they take some time to work, as in 30 minutes to be sure Crypto and Giardia have been knocked out. Still, they’re easy to carry anywhere, are often available at pharmacies in developing countries, and you can just pop them into any kind of container full of water, including your own reusable bottle. If you can’t find this brand, tablets using the same chemical compounds are marketed under the names AquaMira and KleerWater.

    • Purifies larger amounts of water
    • No need to carry filters or devices

You will be happy with any of these

  • MSR SweetWater Purifier System

    Tim says: If traveling with a group or family this MSR SweetWater system is a good solution. It has its own attached two-liter Platypus collapsible bag and treats close to 200 gallons before the filter needs replacing. The dual-action pump is easy for even the kids to use, but it only takes a minute to pump 42 ounces. It also comes with a chlorine-based purifier solution for additional protection when needed. The handle folds in for easy storage when traveling and the whole system weighs fourteen ounces, so it’s not a big burden for hiking trips.

    • Great for traveling with a group or family
    • The whole system weighs 14 ounces
  • Katadyn Base Camp Water Filter

    Tim says: As the name implies, this is a good water filter solution for groups that are staying in one place for a while. As you set up camp for the night, this filter uses gravity to treat water at the rate of half a liter per minute. You hang it from a tree or pole, then go about your business without any pumping required.

    • Great for groups that are staying in one place
    • Uses gravity to treat water
  • First Need Trav-L-Pure Water Purifier

    Tim says: Doing away with bags and hoses, this solid pump mechanism instead uses the approach of a solid-state fillable container. This is one of the few that claims to not throw out the baby with the bathwater, retaining the “beneficial minerals and electrolytes.” It pumps at the rate of 1.25 liters per minute and will work with a wide variety of containers. At one pound, six ounces, it’s heftier than most of the others profiled here, but it comes with its own protective carrying bag and strap.

    • Retains beneficial minerals and electrolytes
    • Works with a wide variety of containers
    • Weighs 1 pound, 6 ounces

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