User Review: CamelBak All Clear
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $117
Safe water with a minimum of fuss.
- Kills pretty much everything
When I heard that my local outdoor store was going to be getting some of these in, I ran right down and grabbed one. Finally, all rugged all-in-one water treatment system that would kill bacteria, spores, and viruses in just 60 seconds, and unlike a water filter would be low maintenance and not prone to plugging.
As with any water treatment system, there's no real proof that it actually killed anything — you just know you DIDN'T get sick — so it's hard to judge how well it works except from studies that show that UV light works well. The theory is that the UV light damages the DNA of micro-organisms so they can't replicate.
It's wise to pre-filter the water just to get out the lumps, and an accessory screen is sold for that purpose. To remove smaller floating particles, it would also be nice to use a coffee filter, although the UV should cope with that to some extent anyway.
No filter can handle chemical contaminants like industrial waste or agricultural chemicals, and a UV system does nothing for the taste. On the upside, at least you can be sure that what you're drinking is safe to drink.
Now the kicker: I bought this as the ultimate backpacking system, but when it came right down to it, I actually found the treatment module a bit heavy. That may be more to do with the psychology of backpacking, where you're continually trying to shave off a few ounces, or to choose the lightest possible option. On an easy route, where I expected to find potable water at a couple of places en route, I chose instead to carry one full 750 ml. water bottle and one empty one, plus Aquatabs so I could alternate from one to the other.
That doesn't mean that I won't use it on a mountain trip. I think it will be especially invaluable in summer on a long hike, where water consumption can easily exceed the 1 litre/four hours that you get using the Aquatab system I mention above. And it will also be very useful where I have to provide water for a number of people.
EDIT: Just returned from a mountain backpacking trip with some serious elevation. Shaved off pound after pound, but still came in at 38 lbs with .750 l of water and the All Clear. I did use that system for purifying glacier lake water and it had the advantage of giving me lots of water as soon as I wanted it. My partner carried Pristine drops, though, and I envied her the lighter weight.
Even using the UV system, I still filled a hydration bladder each evening and tossed in a couple of MicroPur tablets. More water, more easily. More time, but way less weight than that electronic module. For anything long and hard, where every ounce counts, I think I'll have to go back to the tablets.