On Friday afternoon, I plugged my water bottle into a laptop USB port for a charge. Saturday found me in the woods of Wisconsin, dipping the bottle into a lake then pressing a button to purify its contents for a drink.
The $99 bottle, called the All Clear UV Microbiological Water Purifier, is made by CamelBak. It uses UV light to render microbes harmless, letting you grab a drink almost anywhere.
Specifically, the UV light “destroys microbe DNA,” as CamelBak puts it. Bacteria, water-borne viruses, and protozoan cysts, including the troublesome cryptosporidium breed, are rendered benign by the light.
This technology is not new. Municipal water plants have long used UV light to make mass quantities of water safe.
In the outdoors industry, Hydro-Photon has sold its UV-based SteriPEN product for more than 10 years. You dip the wand-like SteriPEN device in water and stir as UV light streams and purifies.
CamelBak’s All Clear is a similar concept but with a different design. The all-in-one bottle and purifier comes as a kit with two caps — one with the lamp mechanism, one a normal plastic lid.
The goal with All Clear is simple and quick purification. You fill the 0.75-liter bottle up to near the top then screw the cap on tight. Press a button and gently shake the bottle as light glows and a digital counter ticks from 60 seconds to 0.
That’s it. The water is rendered drinkable in a minute, CamelBak guarantees. You can pour it from there into another container or drink straight from the bottle.
The system is slick. But there are a few caveats. Make sure and wipe off the threads of the bottle, for example, so that you don’t ingest untreated drips.
Also, not all water works in the system. Water must be mostly transparent for the All Clear to function — it’s not a filter and any sediment or specs floating will remain. (The company sells a $15 optional filter cap if “chunky” water is likely on your trip.)
CamelBak recommends water that is “at least as clear as lemonade.” Anything funkier and you need a pump-filter or other product to work the H2O clean.
Personally, I’ve used UV purifiers around the world, from Patagonia to Nepal. My test this past month was not as exotic. But even water from a lake in northern Wisconsin can make you sick.
How do you know it works? CamelBak cites independent lab tests and EPA protocols… (review continued on Page 2 of this post)