It’s not your regular on-the-back hydration source, but for those longer multi day runs where you’re in the middle of potentially contaminated nowhere, this bit of water kit may just keep the in-out body fluid equation in your favour. TRM Assoc. Ed, Simon Madden, reviews the Camelbak All Clear Water Purifier.
Clean, clear, beautiful, abundant, quenching, life-giving water. We, the privileged few, take it for granted, but it is not always so abundant and, worse still, when it is fouled by pollutants it can be life-taking rather than giving.
Even if the taint on the water you drink is not dire, it can still ruin your guts and leave you crook as a dog.
And it’s when we are away from the conveniences of civilisation that water quality can become a pressing issue. When there are no taps – or when they can’t be trusted – there are heaps of ways for you to treat suspect water before you swill it; pills and tablets and wands and, for the more esoteric amongst us, probably praying to Poseidon*.
Also on the list of options is UV light treatment, like that performed by the Camelbak All Clear. The technology has been around for a while but essentially short wavelength ultraviolet light is mutagenic to viruses, bacteria and protozoa, rendering them harmless or prohibiting growth and reproduction. With these nasties neutralised the treated water is now potable without killing you or rotting your gizzards.
The All Clear system is quick to use; fill the bottle, screw on the purification lid and press the go button, agitate the water by rolling the bottle over for the duration of the 60 second countdown to ensure that the entire contents are equally exposed to the UV light, and bangow, the bad stuff is dead. Drink to your good health.
In 60 seconds you purify 750ml of water, not an industrial quality but enough to satisfy immediate needs, and a full charge gets you 80 cycles before you again need to charge the battery unit via USB.
The Field Testing:
I have had a Camelbak All Clear in my pack for more than a year now and in that time I have tested it to Adventure Types’ (publisher of Trail Run Mag and other adventure titles such as Vertical Life) exacting standards. I have used it to treat suspect water before ingesting it in a bunch of different joints including stuff that I got out of the tap in foetid Tonsai in Thailand, desalinated cat’s piss in Oman and in an illegal-logging town deep in Malaysian Borneo, from streams in the Grampians and both tank and standing water on the Larapinta Trail in the Northern Territory.
On these trips the worst affliction that I got was a gurgle in guts, but that is no more than I would expect on an unfamiliar diet in a strange land and in an odd climate. I’m no doctor but I do know that I am alive and despite a chronic case of Aging I am suffering no ill effects. Either the purification works or I am invincible**.
The Be Carefuls:
The All Clear won’t take flavour out of the water. If it tastes like arse when you put it into the bottle it is going to taste like arse when you take it out. I guess you could try cordial if you find it too offensive but that sounds impractical to us.
It also doesn’t remove particulates from the water – if you want to get rid floaties like dead bugs, gravel or sticks you need to run the water through a filter. The All Clear doesn’t come with a filter as standard so you have to shell out extra for it. Worthwhile, or in a pinch use your sock.
It treats the water directly in the bottle you will be drinking out of so you need to make sure you wipe the rim when you are done – any rimjob water will likely still be contaminated. It would be a crying shame to go to the trouble of treatment only to be brought undone by a couple of diseased drops on the lip of bottle – remember the famous saying kiddies, ‘a minute on the lips, a lifetime of the shits’.
The complete unit of bottle, battery lid, UV light and charger is relatively heavy – that’s doesn’t mean that it is an Atlas-like burden but it is more than a couple of iodine tablets.
Suits – Travellers and backpackers to locations where water quality is a concern, remote area hikers, trail runners and climbers for whom weight is not the biggest issue. Loners and Preppers.
Doesn’t suit – Those with iron guts and a devil-may-care attitude to hygiene and health. Long-distance light-weight hikers and trail runners for whom every gram is critical. Cranks who still fear microwave ovens, calling them ‘death-ray machines’. Those with very big purification needs and desalination plant owners.
* TrailRunMag makes no case for the efficacy of prayer in either monotheistic or polytheistic traditions, by all means throw yourself on the mercy of your deity of choice but we encourage you to be prepared to meet your maker if you choose this faith-based method of water treatment.
** a facetious question, the author acknowledges he relinquished any claims to invincibility back in 2002.