I had been traveling with a pretty basic setup for water: buy a water bottle at the airport, carry a few water purification tablets for emergencies, and call it a day. I never really had a ton of issues. But I have some pretty annoying/comical stories of the shit I have done because I was in the hotel room, had no bottled water available, and didn’t want to drink the tap. But that’s for another post.
I started to look at what I might pack to take care of my water needs on a much more manageable level. I knew I wanted a filter, so I started looking at what filters out what and decided I needed/wanted something that handled both bacteria in the water and viruses. That quickly narrowed the search and led me to buy a Grayl Ultrapress (16.9oz). Grayl makes a few variants of these — the differences are predominantly the capacity and the materials. The Ultrapress is akin to carrying a slightly skinnier Nalgene bottle, with about half the capacity.
I love this so much; I own several of them — and highly recommend them. So let me tell you why this is a stellar filtration bottle.
The Filter, Size, Capacity
As mentioned, this is a 16.9 fl oz water container weighing just under 13oz. It’s 9.75” tall and just under 3” in diameter. The base and sides have rubbery grippy stuff, and the entire kit feels very premium. Amazingly, Grayl also advertises that it is drop resistant to 10ft when full of water — making it ideal for outdoor use and travel.
It will filter the entire canister of water in about 10 seconds. What it filters, though, I found pretty impressive for the form factor. Here are the specs on that from Grayl:
- Active Technology: Electroadsorption and ultra-powdered activated carbon.
- Removes: Waterborne pathogens (99.99% of viruses, 99.9999% of bacteria, 99.9% of protozoan cysts), including Rotavirus, Hepatitis A, Norovirus, Giardiasis, Cryptosporidium, E. Coli, Cholera, Salmonella, Dysentery and more.
- Filters: Particulates (sediment, microplastics) and ultra-powdered activated carbon adsorbs many chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, heavy metals, VOCs, flavors and odors.
- Cartridge Lifespan: 300 presses (150L/40 gal), as “press time” reaches 25 seconds (or three years have elapsed since first use) it’s time to replace your purifier cartridge.
- Cartridge Shelf Life: Stored under proper conditions, an unopened Purifier Cartridge has a shelf life of 10 years. After a cartridge has been used, it lasts at least 3 additional years.
- Testing Standards: Independently tested by a certified laboratory to meet or exceed NSF/ANSI protocols 42 and 53 for sediment, pathogen, and chemical removal; meets the EPA Guide Standard and Protocol for testing microbiological water purifiers.
I typically don’t paste in specifications like that, but it’s important on this one. It can give you 16.9oz of water that you can confidently drink in 10 seconds flat. You can store the cartridges for ten years without worry, let it dry out, and keep using it for a long time. And you get about 40 gallons of water production from each filter, albeit 16oz at a time. And it’s been tested and certified — no BS here.
I don’t look up water safety stuff where I go and don’t want to think about it. I want to drink water and not get sick anywhere in the world. I feel confident I can do that with this water bottle (and this isn’t even about non-USA travel; US water isn’t always safe).
One of my biggest draws with this water filter is how it works. It’s effectively two canisters, which nest. The inner canister has a filter at the bottom. Pull the inner canister out, fill the outer canister with the water you want to filter (to the line marked), and then “press” the inner canister back into the outer. No water squirts up the sides, and the clean water filters into the inner canister. Once you’ve pressed it all the way down, you can seal the lid or drink — you are good to go. If you are concerned that the water might spill out — you’d have a misplaced concern.
I fill/filter this when I arrive and toss it into the bottom of my bag where it rides on the side/upside down/whatever, and I have never seen a drop leak out. And you don’t need to do the paranoid dance that you do with other filter systems — making sure the unclean water doesn’t touch the clean bits. The very design of this makes the entire thing dead simple, with cross-contamination a minimal risk.
Why Carry It
There are two parts to this: the ‘why carry a water filter’ part and the ‘why carry this water filter’ part. I’ll address both.
The reasons I carry a water filter are:
- I am not a local, so while the water might be safe for a local to drink — it’s not safe for me.
- I’d prefer not to get sick when I travel.
- I am shit at estimating how much water to keep in my room and making sure I have enough with me when I am out and about.
- One time, I made coffee in a hotel room with what I thought was a bottle of sparkling water which had gone flat because I had a rushed morning meeting. Oh my god, you guys, it wasn’t flat.
- Wandering around at 5 am because the kids drank both provided bottles of hotel water and are “dying, I am so thirsty” is not fun, and I want to avoid it.
- ‘Water security’ is a lot of peace of mind.
The reasons I carry this water filtration bottle and not any others:
- Filters for taste, viruses, and bacteria. It covers a lot of bases and does it well.
- Is an enclosed system that only requires you to find water; there is no need for another bottle or anything else. And it also doesn’t stand out if you happen to have people watching you use it.
- It is dead simple to use, and thus I don’t have to be the only one to use it; I can quickly explain it to others.
- It filters it all at once instead of filtering it while you draw the water through a straw. This means you can filter 16oz, pour it into a coffee maker or another water bottle, and filter more water. You don’t have to filter on demand as you consume it — this is a huge deal for overall convenience. Don’t underestimate this.
- The filter has a great shelf life, so even if I never use it, it’ll still be ready to go when/if I need it.
There you have it! I take one with me any time I travel.
The biggest downsides of this system:
- It’s heavy.
- The capacity is low (Geopress is larger), so it’s a little hard to make this work while out hiking if you don’t have a secondary bottle.
- No back flushing here, so you can’t extend filter life.
- 40-gallon filter life is not ideal, but fine for my use.
- It’s all expensive, but you don’t visit this site for budget reasons.
One of these bottles is always roaming around my gear. Whether a road trip, a hiking trip or I am heading on an airplane somewhere. I do nothing special with them to keep them from being damaged or leaking. It always works, I’ve yet to get sick from drinking water from it, and I’ve yet to find it a waste to bring.
Quite honestly, this might be the most practical of all the stuff I recommend to people on this site.