Ask The Savage: Water Purification

by ahanagata

Lacking a relevant photo, I present you with this Scottish Spring.

Lacking a relevant photo, I present you with this Scottish Spring.


Hey Savages, I interrupt your normal programming to present you with this question from Jeremy from California, USA.

My friend Dominic, told me that you are the people to ask about water purification systems. I am going to be traveling Asia so I am looking at a few bottle based systems and need some advice. I was looking at the Camelbak All Clear, life straw go water bottle, or GRAYL quest travel”

Oh, the murky murky world of water filtration and purification… Glad you ask Jeremy, choosing a filter and such can be a real task. Particularly since all the information you’ll get in a store is a sales pitch. In the United States, I’m pretty relaxed on water treatment, as we’re pretty lucky to have abundant clean water (when it’s not frakked to poison), even in the backcountry. A recent studies showed that most instances of illness in the backcountry is not due to contaminated water, but hikers and backpackers not properly washing their hands after number 2.

However, abroad is another story and Asia is certainly abroad. Let’s take a look at the types of purification out there.

*Full disclosure, I am NOT sponsored or paid by any of the brands mentioned.*There’s UV, like Camelbak All Clear:

Pros: Very Convenient, Compact, Ease of use

Cons: Batteries can run out, Susceptible to Mechanical failure, Effectiveness reliant on the clarity of water. Does nothing for particulates, metals, chemicals, turbidity.

Overview: I like the concept of the UV products, I just feel like there are too many points of failure for my liking to rely soley on it. I however know a few folks who use and like the product.

We then have bottle/filter combo, such as the Life Straw and GRAYL.

Pros: Also, very compact. ease of use. Convenient. Can be effective against some chemicals, particulates, metals.

Cons: Straw style/inline filters can be harder to draw water, filters can clog, if there is a structural compromise (repeated dropping etc) unfiltered water can leak into straw/fresh reservoir.

Overview: I like filters. I feel there are less moving parts, so they’re less likely to fail. Simplicity in the field is a wondrous thing sometimes. Cleaning a filter is easier than fixing dead batteries or fixing electronics sometimes. If I had to pick out of those choices I’d probably go with the GRAYL. I personally hate hydrating through straw filters, and all I’ve tried are in a forgotten pile.

Ideally, though I would rather have a two stage system. Especially if you’re dealing with particularly dodgy water. If I could, I’d like to get you rethink the bottle combo. I think it’s worth thinking about, particularly since I’m sure you’d rather be enjoying your trip rather than shitting out your guts in a jungle in Vietnam. Here’s what I would take if I were you.

Firstly for a container, I would take a stainless container like a Klean Kanteen. Reason being, all else fails, I can take the cap off and boil water in it. Boiling is extremely effective. I would then take a compact filter like the Sawyer Squeeze or Mini, or the First Need Trav-L-Pure. While not quite as convenient, it does separate your filter from your bottle which eliminates a point of failure. I would then couple this with some Chlorine Dioxide Tablets or Drops. Not Iodine which not only has a bad taste (Chlorine Dioxide is pretty tasteless), but also doesn’t cover cryptosporidium. You don’t always have to use the tablets on your trip, but if the water is particularly dodgy, or if your filter breaks you’ve got plan B. They don’t take up much space and they’re light.

There you have it man. Those are my humble thoughts and insight, I hope it helps. To quote the Hodge Twins, “All of this is just advice. Do whatever the FUCK YOU WANNA DO”

Safe Travels, and Let us know what you choose and how it works out!

Your Friendly Neighborhood Savage.

Live Wild, Eat Well.

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