Those of you traveling in Western and developed destinations don’t have to worry about finding readily available drinking water.
However, if you’re visiting developing nations, third world countries, or even places where the tap water might be unsafe then you’re going to want to consider bringing along the best water purifier for travel that you can find.
I recently discussed some of my recommendations for travel water bottles, which you’ll want to pack along so that you don’t have to constantly buy plastic bottles to carry with you throughout the day, but what happens if you need to purify the water you’re drinking?
Even in destinations where the water isn’t safe to drink you still can’t be sure about the quality of bottled water, and that’s before even worrying about the global impact on the environment that all that plastic is going to have.
Using a water purifier you’re able to enjoy safe and clean drinking water without having a detrimental impact on the environment around you (and you can save money by not buying bottles every day so that’s a huge bonus as well).
There are quite a few different options to choose from when it comes to the different purifiers available so in this post I wanted to share some of top recommendations as well as the different features you’ll want to keep an eye out for.
You want to keep your eyes out for something that’s able to:
- Kill bacteria, viruses, and cysts
- Makes the water taste better than it already does
- Filter out heavy metals, chlorine, and particulates
Also, since you’ll be traveling, you ideally want something that’s lightweight, durable, and reasonable priced as well.
Once you start to narrow it down you realize that the options are quite limited but thankfully there are still a few water purifiers that are still worth buying if you want to drink clean water when you’re travelling abroad.
The Best Travel Water Purifier
The Grayl Ultralight is a lightweight, portable, and surprisingly durable purifier that’s able to effectively filter up to 16 ounces of water in just 15 seconds.
The way it works is quite simple, instead of relying on a traditional pumping mechanism or a straw filter it actually takes advantage of gravity and works similar to a French press when it comes to purifying the water.
You fill the bottom of the bottle up with water and after attaching the top part of the bottle you just pressed down so that all of the liquid inside is forced through the purification filter leaving you with water that’s ready to drink.
This is a very simple setup, reliable when you don’t have access to clean drinking water, and the filter is effective at getting rid of most contaminants.
One of the main drawbacks with the Grayl Ultralight is that it’s only able to filter up to 16 ounces, or a little bit less than half a litre, at a time.
This can be problematic if you’re sharing it between more than one person or if you’re travelling somewhere very warm and you need to drink a lot to stay hydrated.
You should also keep in mind that there is a filter purifier cartridge that you need to use inside the bottle and it can only treat up to 150 litres of water before you’re going to want to replace it.
This reason it’s a good idea to carry a spare with you if you’re going to be traveling for an extended period of time but for shorter trips you don’t have to worry about that.
I definitely find the Grayl Ultralight to be a great choice if you’re looking for a way to purify your water when you’re travelling abroad and might not have access to clean drinking sources at all times.
The LifeStraw Go is another one of my top recommendations and I think it’s a good choice if you’re looking for something lightweight, portable, and durable enough to use on a regular basis for filtering any drinking water.
The bottle itself offers a capacity of 23 ounces and on the inside is a replaceable LifeStraw filter that can be used to filter up to 264 gallons, or about 1000 litres, of water before needing to be replaced.
The bottle is made from a BPA free Tritan material and it’s possible to use it indefinitely where you just have to replace the filter after it has reached its capacity.
It’s able to effectively purify water of the majority of its bacteria, chemicals, protozoa, and other contaminants without you having to rely on using any batteries or other mechanisms to get clean drinking water.
The filter works by taking advantage of a hollow fibre membrane technology that’s designed to prevent pathogens from entering the water and cleaning the filter is as easy as backflushing it so that it’s ready to be used again the next time you need something to drink.
Depending on how much you need to filter at a time, there is a flow rate of 57 ounces per minute or about 1.7 litres of drinking water that’s available after just one minute of filtering.
Overall, the bottle is very portable so it can be slid into the pocket of your backpack or daypack and there’s even a carabiner clip that you can use for clipping it on for quick access.
Having the straw also makes it easier to drink from and this is bound to keep you more hydrated when you’re in hot or humid conditions.
I would definitely recommend taking a look at the LifeStraw Go if you’re looking to enjoy clean drinking water if you don’t have direct access to it when you’re travelling and you also want something portable and durable to bring with you in a variety of outdoor conditions and environments.
STERIPEN Ultra UV
The STERIPEN Ultra UV is one of the most popular portable water purifiers used by a range of different people when they’re going camping, hiking, backpacking, or just visiting places with unsafe drinking water.
The way it works is by exposing the water to a UV lamp that uses the UV rays to kill bacteria and any harmful bugs in the water itself.
It’s actually quite simple to use and you just place the STERIPEN Ultra UV into a water bottle or cup, stir it for a short while, and then you can drink the purified water.
The UV light is able to destroy the ability that germs have to reproduce and it’s effective against more than 99.9% of protozoa, viruses, and other bacteria that you might experience.
It uses a battery, which can actually be recharged through a USB port so this really helps to make it accessible, and you can take advantage of up to 50 treatments from a single charge before you have to recharge it again.
As for filtering, it’s possible to use the STERIPEN Ultra UV with up to 15,000 liters of water before having to replace it.
Despite being easy to use, portable, and affordable, there are some limitations with this device.
There isn’t actually any filter, the water that you have is only going to be purified, so you’re not able to use it with visibly dirty or cloudy water and it’s not really going to make it taste any better, it’s just going to get rid of any of the germs and bacteria floating around.
Another drawback you’re going to want to consider is that uses a battery that’s charged with the USB port so if you’re not travelling with a computer or if you don’t have access to any charging capabilities then you might be out of luck if it happens to die on you.
Otherwise, I would definitely recommend taking a look at the STERIPEN Ultra UV if you are going to be traveling in areas where the water is clear or mostly free from minerals and visible dirt and you still want to be able to purify it before drinking.
For those of you visiting places where the water is going to be dirty and cloudy I would recommend going with one of bottle options with the filter built-in already.
LIFESAVER Systems 4000
The LIFESAVER Systems 4000 is a purification system that boasts a very practical design and was originally made for people that are currently living in developing countries that needed quick access to clean drinking water without having to rely on delivery.
It’s very simple to use, durable, and doesn’t really require any maintenance once you get it going.
It’s a little bit heavy, coming in at around 22 ounces, so you might want to consider a different option if you’re travelling lightly but it’s very effective at filtering water and a single purification cartridge can be used for up to 4000L of filtration before needing to be replaced.
On the inside are also carbon filters that also aid in purification and these will need to be replaced about every 250L or so depending on how dirty the water that you’re filtering is.
The system works very quickly, with the capability of filtering 750ml of water in less than a minute and it can be used between a few different people rather than only being suitable for just one traveller or person.
One thing I really like is that the cartridge and filter feature a failsafe so that once they’re used up you won’t actually be able to pump any more water before replacing either part and this prevents you from drinking and contaminated water by accident.
I would really recommend taking a look at the LIFESAVER Systems 4000 if you’re looking for a purification system that has a high capacity and is also able to effectively filter the water quickly and for more than just one person.
Purifiers Versus Filters
Getting sick from drinking untreated water is actually a common problem for people travelling outside of the United States of Canada.
These illnesses are usually caused by pathogens in the water that are a result of contamination from either humans or animals and almost every open body of water is susceptible to these pathogens and other illness causing bacteria.
Some of the most common include:
- Viruses (caused by human fecal matter and animal waste)
- Bacteria (caused by natural environments and including things such as E.coli and salmonella)
- Protozoa and cysts (single cell, microscopic parasites)
The majority of water purifiers are able to rid water of all three of these health threats compared to pump or gravity based filters that aren’t nearly as effective against viruses but are still suitable for the other two illness causing elements.
Apart from using a physical device, it’s also possible to purify water using chemicals although this can definitely have an impact on the overall taste and isn’t as practical method for most people.
For travel in North America but very unlikely that you will need a heavy-duty filter because most of the water is quite clean, especially in the wilderness and backcountry areas.
However, in international locations with less emphasis on infrastructure and development you’re going to want to use a purifier to treat your water even if you’re told it safe to drink.
The reason for this is because in these locations most surface water is exposed to a lot of animal and human activity and this results in it being very contaminated with a wide range of bacteria, viruses, and other contaminants that you’re going to want to get rid of before drinking.
Of course it’s better to be safe, rather than sorry, so you should always take the precaution and purify or filter your water whenever you’re even the slightest bit unsure just to avoid any issues with your health.