A long, cool drink from crystal clear cirque lakes, refreshing mountain springs and enchanting ponds will quench your thirst but three days later, bring on the butt-faucet, stomach cramps, bloating, nausea, loss of appetite, fatigue, rapid weight loss, etc., etc., etc. Graphic? Yes. Exaggeration? No.
Giardiasis, that vile, parasitic, invisible fluvial zoo happily resides in all untreated water sources throughout the world. Water purification, by any means, in the backcountry is a must.
The CamelBak All Clear™ Microbiological UV Water Purifier (MSRP $99) is a new UV purification method that uses ultraviolet light to sterilize water by jumbling the reproductive systems of harmful bacteria so they cannot reproduce. This allows them to pass through your body without taking your innards and gizzards with.
The All-Clear is very easy to use. Add water (either by scooping from a lake or river or filling from a hotel room faucet), screw on the lid and hold the button for two seconds. When the UV light comes on, alternate flipping the bottle upside and down and right side up (a.k.a agitating) until the light goes off.
The battery charges on a USB port. CamelBak provides the cable but not the AC/Auto to USB power adaptor. Charge times will vary depending on how low the battery is and how powerful the power source. When I received the All Clear, the battery was completely dead it took about two hours via my laptop to charge it to about half-power. Another couple of hours and it was fully-charged. The LCD display on the cap shows the charge/battery status.
Fully charged, the All Clear can process more than 20 liters, which is enough for several days away from power. If you are planning a longer stint off the grid, and don’t have a solar charger, there’s always the SteriPEN or the timeless Katahdyn.
CamelBak states that the bulb of the UV light will last 10,000 cycles, or purify three liters of water a day for nearly seven years. Should this “limited longevity” be a concern? Only if you live in the Alaskan bush and drive into town once every decade.
I have drunk water from Lake Superior, Cayuna Lakes, the Poplar River and various hotel room faucets using the All Clear. My innards and gizzards remain intact.
I believe that this is a good product and I’m confident that it does what it is designed to do. But I did find some points of contention:
The UV light does not alter the taste of the water. If you’re drinking from a sparkling spring in the Rockies, cool. But if you’re drinking tap water from a motel in Slackjaw, SD, it will still taste like tap water from a motel in Slackjaw, SD. I did, however, run the motel water through the Camelbak Groove® .6L. I was instantly transformed to a cirque lake fed by snow melt high in the mountains.
The UV light does not filter the water. Every bug, silt particle, tree fuzz or microscopic organism will still be in the water unless you filter it with the CamelBak All Clear Pre-filter ($15) or another type of filter.
The All Clear comes with two lids: the agitator and a basic screw-on lid. The screw-on lid does not have a valve or straw. If you don’t want to risk ingesting the untreated water drops that lurk on the threads of the screw cap, you will need to add a bite-valve lid from another bottle, or pour the clean water into a cup. If you’re in the backcountry, this is just one more thing you have to pack. If you’re traveling and staying in hotel rooms, this should be no biggie.
The whole system, with cap, bottle, case and charger weights in at 12.50 ounces. If you’re planning a backcountry backpacking trip, and you’re a weight-weenie, beware.
The agitator and USB cable comes in a soft, thin, neoprene travel case. If you’re traveling, and the agitator is packed in a suitcase or a backpack, be careful how you pack. The power button is easy to unintentionally activate. Anytime the UV lid is activated, it goes into its 60-second treatment. This counts against the 10,000-cycle life.
In my opinion, you can never have too many options for treating and purifying water. The CamelBak All Clear™ Microbiological UV Water Purifier is definitely an option that is up there with the best of them.
For me, and what I do, the All Clear is a good option for short hikes or traveling, especially in developing countries or any international travel. It’ll be going on every trip I take and will be the # 1 item I pack for Honduras in February. But for backpacking, I have to remain stubborn and old-school: Katahdyn all the way.
CamelBak has an FAQ site with a great deal more information about using the All Clear in icy water, boiling water, cholera and E.coli.
If you live in Minneapolis, REI and Midwest Mountaineering carry the All Clear.