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Purified Water on the Go, Just Add Salt: Aqua Research H2gO Global Purifier Review

Instead of carrying a pump or gravity purifier, the H2gO Global from Aqua Research offers a filterless form of chemical purification that you can use on the go.

(Photo/Nick LeFort)
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With over 30 years of hiking, backpacking, and camping, I’ve used my fair share of water filters. For years, I swore by the MSR MiniWorks. Then I used its HyperFlow Microfilter for a while. Recently, I’ve been using a Grayl Purifier. Overall, my experience with these devices has been great. However, all three rely on filters and elements that eventually need to be replaced.

This past February, my good friend Jay contacted me to tell me he’d found something revolutionary: the Aqua Research H2gO Global water purifier ($114). He described a small handheld device that purified water using only salt and was solar-powered. And the real kicker? He said it never needed replacement parts.

I knew I needed to test this thing out, so I got one and brought it with me for a day in the woods. I planned on hiking, cooking, and having one heck of an adventure, and I didn’t bring any water with me.

In short: Designed and manufactured by Aqua Research out of Albuquerque, the H2gO Global is a compact, solar-powered chlorine generator that is an alternative approach to purifying water. Instead of running water through a filter, H2gO relies on a water and salt slurry that is added to the water you want to treat. There are no filters to be replaced and virtually no maintenance. The H2gO can purify up to 65 gallons of water on a single battery charge. That number can be greatly increased when you expose the built-in solar panel to the sun.

Aqua Research H2gO Global


  • Size 1.7” x 3.625” x 1”
  • Weight 3.8 oz.
  • Treatment volumes 1, 2, 5, 10, and 20 L
  • Battery (Cycle) Up to 65 gallons of water
  • Battery (Lifetime) Over 32,000 gallons of water
  • Charge time (Micro USB) 4 hrs.
  • Charge time (Solar) 24 hrs.
  • Efficacy Kills over 99.9% of viruses and bacteria
  • Price $114


  • Ease of use, transport, and packability
  • Battery life
  • Field confirmable effectiveness


  • Mini USB is a little outdated; needs a USB-C upgrade
  • Hasn't been proven to deactivate cryptosporidium

H2gO Purifier Global Review

(Photo/Nick LeFort)

What’s in the Box?

  • 1x H2gO Global with wrist strap
  • 1x brine bottle
  • 25x test strips
  • 1x USB cable with charging block
  • European charging block adapter

How It Works

Aqua Research calls it a “water disinfectant generator” on its site. According to the brand, a single dose from H2gO Global effectively kills over 99.9% of viruses and bacteria.

Cryptosporidium cannot be killed through standard filtration or with iodine or chlorine tablets. However, H2gO Global creates both chlorine and hydrogen peroxide. Aqua Research claims that this mixed oxidant solution has proven effective in when the brine is allowed to treat water for 4 hours.

Each unit can treat a minimum of 32,000 gallons of water in its lifetime. Compared with other purifiers for camping and backpacking, the LifeSaver Wayfarer pump purifier can hold up to 1,320 gallons before its cartridge needs to be replaced, while the LifeStraw Mission purifier holds 4,755 gallons.

Unlike those purifiers, which use hollow-fiber membrane filters to remove unwanted contaminants and pathogens, the H2gO simply kills them in your water. It’s not unlike iodine or chlorine tablets, which are common purification methods among backpackers. Depending on where you obtained the water, the purification process takes around 30 minutes.

Overall, the purification process takes as little as 30 minutes depending on where you obtained the water. But, if your water source is extra questionable, it can take up to 4 hours.

Ease of Use

Aqua Research H2gO Global - Making the brine
(Photo/Nick LeFort)

The most complicated part of using the H2gO is premixing the brine. You add salt to the fill line of the included bottle, and then fill the rest with water. Shake well. Once the salt dissolves, you pour it into the unit, and it brews up the slurry.

Each battery charge is good for up to 65 gallons of water, or 13 5-gallon treatment sessions. For reference, the standard Nalgene water bottle is 32 ounces. You can fill that sticker-covered vessel 260 times on a single battery charge.

(Pro tip: Hang the H2gO Global off your pack while hiking on a sunny day for a little extra battery juice.)

H2gO Global: The Right Water

What the H2gO doesn’t do is filter out debris and detritus from your water. That is a benefit of using a hollow-fiber membrane filter purification system over this one.

That said, you want to collect clear running water to disinfect with the H2gO. You’ll be less likely to pick up debris like bits of leaves, silt, or biomaterials that could irritate your system. If you can’t access running water, or the running water might be silty, sandy, etc., you should invest in a filter or purifier that prevents that material from entering your drinking water.

There are also options like Millbank Bags that act as a pre-filter, allowing you to pull water from any source available — even mud. I would recommend this to anyone pulling water from an outside water source where there could be organic material stirred up in it, and floating around.

In the Field

Before I even considered testing the H2gO Global, I watched the inventor Rodney Harrington’s (clearly dated) explainer video. Since the video was filmed, a few improvements have been made — but the process of using the H2gO remained unchanged.

Herrington makes the whole process of using the H2gO system unbelievably easy. I had my doubts. But I was surprised when I started messing around with mine. It is a stupid simple process for purifying water.

I had set out for a day of hiking and purposely didn’t bring any of my fine, crisp, and delicious filtered tap water from home. About a mile in, I found a great source of running water that was visibly free of debris and filled up my Nalgene.

A couple of miles later, having worked up a hunger and a hankering for some trailside fajitas, I initiated the process of using the H2gO Global while I prepped and cooked my meal. By the time the peppers, onions, and filet mignon were ready, it was time to test the treated water with one of Aqua Research’s included test strips.

H2gO Global purifier backpacking water filter
(Photo/Nick LeFort)

Within minutes, the test strip turned blue, alerting me that the water had been successfully treated and was ready to drink.

The water was cold and crisp. It had a slight salt flavor, but anyone who has ever used iodine tablets will find that the slight salt tinge is something you can overcome. Iodine purification like Potable Aqua has always made water feel soft and unrefreshing to me. Though I relied on it for a couple of decades, I am happy that I can easily purify water on the trail with this handy new H2gO Global gadget.

Replacement test strips are available on the Aqua Research website. A box of 25 is $9.

H2gO Global vs. Prime: Military, EPA Standards

H2gO Global’s purification standards were designed to meet the World Health Organization’s (WHO) requirements. But where those standards might be good enough for civilians, Aqua Research also developed the H2gO Prime, which was designed to meet Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards and military specs.

The H2gO Prime functions the same way the Global unit does. However, Aqua Research’s website says it uses twice the dosage as the Global. This unit also costs $114. Both the H2gO Global and the Prime kill viruses and bacteria in water.

H2gO Global: In Conclusion

H2gO Global purifier backpacking water filter
(Photo/Nick LeFort)

It’s hard to beat science. The H2gO purifier creates a chlorinated brine that you can prove is effective when using the included test strips. You can verify that the purification will work in the field. That’s a bit of peace of mind that other purifiers and water filters can’t provide.

I will also add that the size of the H2gO Global is really appealing. If you’re a minimalist or into ultralight camping or backpacking, this little unit is the right solution for you.

Save for my iPhone and a headlamp, I try to avoid using electronics in the outdoors. But when something comes along that can improve my experience out there, I find it hard to ignore. Last year, I jumped on the handheld GPS train. This year, here I am with a military-grade, disinfectant generator.

After years of using all of the brand-name water filters associated with outdoor life and living, I don’t see myself going back to them.

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