Probably the most well-known portable water purifier, the various models of Steripen use a UV lamp to kill the bugs and bacteria. You just dunk the lamp into a cup or water bottle, stir for a minute or two, then drink. It’s a simple, inexpensive process, but it does have some limitations.
Firstly, it only purifies — there’s no filtering mechanism. This means you can’t use cloudy/dirty water with it, and while the treated version is unlikely to make you sick, it won’t taste any better than when you started.
The reliance on battery power also isn’t ideal, although at least this Ultra model charges via USB. Cheaper versions use hard-to-find disposable batteries.
While it’s good to be able to purify water in any vessel, I’d rather carry a bottle with a UV lamp built in. That way I could purify when necessary, and just use it as a normal water bottle the rest of the time.
There are several different models of purifier in the UK-made Drinksafe range, but my preference is the “Travel Tap” for one simple reason. As well as sucking water through the filtering/purification mechanism like the other models, you can also use the Travel Tap by gently squeezing the bottle.
This simple change greatly increases its usefulness, letting you do things like rinse your toothbrush and irrigate wounds with clean water.
I also like that you can remove the filter mechanism if you know the water is safe, meaning you don’t use it up unnecessarily. A lanyard and insulation sleeve are included in the package.
The Travel Tap has an 800ml capacity. It can purify up to 1600 litres of water before the auto-shutdown mechanism kicks in and the filter cartridge needs replacing. That’s pretty good — if you’re drinking two litres a day, it’s over two years of daily use.
The LifeSaver was originally developed to provide clean water to people in developing countries who wouldn’t otherwise have access to it, and it shows in the design.
It’s a simple piece of equipment that’s easy to use, reasonably robust, and lasts a long time without needing maintenance. That makes it equally useful for travelers as well.
It’s relatively heavy, at around 22oz (625g) when empty, so may not be for you if you’re an ultra-lightweight traveler. The purification cartridge lasts for an impressive 6000 liters before needing replacement.
You’ll need to replace the carbon filters more frequently, though. Depending on how dirty the water you’re using is, it’ll be roughly every 250 liters.
Filtering of the 750ml capacity takes under a minute, which compares favorably to many other approaches. The failsafe filter and cartridge mechanism won’t let you pump water after they’re used up, which is a much better approach than trying to remember how much water you’ve used, or using your stomach as a petrie dish to find out.