Finding clean, safe water can be difficult when traveling off the beaten path. Many of the world’s water sources are contaminated with bacteria, viruses and parasites that can make life miserable at the very least.
Diarrhea from waterborne pathogens is one of the most common causes of death among people in developing countries. Botulism, cholera, dysentery, and typhoid are transmitted through contaminated water—and those are just a few of the many waterborne diseases. Even that clear, cold mountain spring may harbor parasites such as giardia and cryptosporidium.
Fortunately, there are ways to purify water, including boiling, water purification tablets, micro-filtration, and ultraviolet (UV) light. The advent of portable UV purification systems has made that a viable option for field use.
UV purification systems offer a number of advantages over other methods. UV purification is fast, easy and proven effective against all microbiological pathogens. But still, there are limits to this technology.
Water turbidity must be low for UV purification to work well. UV purification doesn’t remove chemical contaminants, but then neither does boiling or chemical disinfection. When UV-treated water is exposed to visible light for any period of time, a process known as photo reactivation can take place.
Boiling, while effective against all pathogens, is time consuming.
Chemical disinfection and water purification tablets also take time and may not be effective against all microbiological pathogens.
While micro-filtration systems may remove bacteria and protozoa as well as chemical contaminants, most filtration systems do not remove viruses, as they are too small and pass through the filters.
UV water purification is not a new concept: it dates back to 1916 in the United States. It’s in use today by major American, European and Asian cities. UV water purification doesn’t actually kill pathogens per se. It renders them harmless by disrupting their DNA, thus preventing them from replicating.
The World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, and the Red Cross recommend solar water disinfection (SODIS), which is a form of UV water purification, as the method to treat drinking water in developing countries. SODIS utilizes the UVA rays from the sun. All SODIS requires are sunlight and PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles. PET bottles are marked with a “1” on the bottom in many countries. In the SODIS method, clear PET bottles are filled with water and set out in the sun. The water is ready to drink in six hours in bright sunlight or two days if overcast.
Commercial UV water purification systems utilize UVC light. UV light can be separated into various wavelengths, with short-range UV (UVC) considered germicidal UV. It’s mutagenic to bacteria, viruses and other micro-organisms. It breaks the molecular bonds within DNA, making it a highly effective means of destroying micro-organisms.
CamelBak® has recently come out with an innovative new portable UV water purification system called the All Clear™ Microbiological Water Purifier. The All Clear combines a UVC water purification system with a .75-liter (25-ounce) CamelBak water bottle to create a simple to use, fast and effective system that purifies water in 60 seconds.
The All Clear has been thoroughly tested by a U.S. EPA-approved independent lab to ensure that it meets or exceeds the EPA standards for microbiological water purification devices. Lab testing showed that the All Clear reduced bacteria by 99.9999%, viruses by 99.99%, and protozoan cysts by 99.5% when used as directed.
The All Clear features an innovative cap with built-in UV light that maximizes UV exposure. Its shock-resistant design provides enhanced durability over other portable UV disinfection systems on the market. The All Clear cap weighs approximately seven ounces and comes with a protective carrying case that also holds the charging cable.
The UV bulb is recessed into the cap. It has a shock-resistant design and is insulated for efficiency in cold water. The All Clear has been tested and proven effective for treating water down to 39 degrees F.
The All Clear bottle is made of Eastman Tritan™, a tough, BPA-free copolyester. It imparts no taste or odor and is dishwasher safe. Tritan blocks UV light, preventing exposure to the eyes or skin during purification.
The All Clear is exceptionally easy to use. Simply fill the bottle with water to be treated, replace the UV cap, push the power button, and agitate the water. The UV cap features an LCD display readout with a countdown timer that automatically shuts off the UV light. When the countdown is complete, the water is ready to drink.
To prevent inadvertent activation, the power button must be depressed for two seconds. The UV cycle can be canceled by depressing the power button again for two seconds. Step-by-step instructions are printed on the outside of the All Clear bottle.
The All Clear features built-in diagnostics. If the All Clear detects a UV lighting problem, it will display an error alert, and the purification will be halted. When the UV bulb has exceeded its usable life span (10,000 cycles—the equivalent of three .75-liter bottles of water a day for nine years), it will no longer illuminate, and the display screen will indicate that the bulb has exceeded its useable life.
Power is provided by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. The battery isn’t user replaceable. Fully charged, the All Clear is good for about 80 60-second cycles (approximately 16 gallons of water), sufficient water for about two weeks in the field.
The All Clear can be charged from virtually any USB-compatible power source, such as wall chargers, car chargers, laptops, battery packs, solar chargers, and even hand-crank chargers. A USB cable is included with the All Clear.
The All Clear battery can be fully charged from empty in about five hours. Solar charging takes longer, typically 15 to 20 hours depending on the size of the solar panel and the intensity of the light. Coupled with my Brunton Restore™ portable solar power supply, the All Clear provides virtually indefinite operation in the field.
The All Clear is designed for use above 32 degrees F. Since colder temperatures may degrade battery performance, the All Clear should be warmed to above freezing before use in freezing weather.
Because UV water purification depends on the close proximity of the UV light, CamelBak recommends that the All Clear be used exclusively with the CamelBak .75-liter Better Bottle™ or .75-liter Eddy™ bottle.
The All Clear also includes a Camel- Bak Classic Cap. The Classic Cap is designed to convert any CamelBak bottle into a leak-proof container for water storage. Like the CamelBak bottle, it’s dishwasher safe.
The All Clear is intended for use with clear, particulate-free water to ensure effective UV light transmission. Using the All Clear with murky water isn’t recommended. Particulates will block UV transmission. According to CamelBak, UV light transmission is effective in water ranging from clear to that with the cloudiness of weak lemonade.
If there’s no other option than to use turbid water, CamelBak recommends first filtering the water through the optional CamelBak All Clear Pre-Filter to remove larger particulates. Then the water should be filtered twice through a Cascade Designs MSR® MiniWorks™ EX Microfilter or equivalent, followed by two All Clear UV purification cycles.
The threads on the bottle should be wiped with a clean cloth before drinking, as they aren’t protected from possible contamination. Using the All Clear Pre- Filter will help protect the threads from contamination during the filling process.
The size of the system may be an issue for backpackers or those traveling light. But considering that most of us carry a water bottle, the All Clear really takes up little additional space and adds little weight.
CamelBak’s insulated Bottle Pouch is a great way to carry the All Clear. Manufactured with 1000D Cordura® and tactical-grade nylon webbing, the Bottle Pouch is designed specifically to carry either a .75- or 1-liter CamelBak® bottle and fastens to any MOLLE attachment system. It has a zipper closure with pulltab for easy access.
CamelBak has a real winner in its All Clear system. It performs exactly as advertised. I consider it an essential accessory for traveling outside CONUS or anywhere that microbiological water contamination may be a concern. The money saved from not having to purchase bottled water will quickly pay for the All Clear.
Covered by CamelBak’s Got Your Bak™ lifetime guarantee, the All Clear Microbiological UV Water Purifier has a suggested retail price of $99.00. The All Clear Pre-Filter lists at $18.00.