User Review: CamelBak All Clear
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $80 with 20% off at REI
Just upgraded my backpacking water treatment to the Camelbak All Clear system. No pumping necessary, no chemical taste, no waiting ... ready in 60 seconds. And no fear of breaking the UV lamp as it is sealed in the water bottle cap. A compact system made more useful with the prefilter that covers the cap threads from contaminated water when filling the bottle prior to treatment.
- UV bulb is protected from breakage in a closed unit
- Prefilter covers bottle cap threads
- 60 second cycle and you are ready to drink
- Charge it prior to trips w/o buying expensive Li batteries each time
- More compact than my SteriPen, smaller overall package
- Nalgene caps fit the bottle to get rid of the bulky Camelbak lid and save a bit of weight
- Works on smaller volume (0.7 liters) for each treatment
- Cannot carry back-up battery; must use solar or hand-crank USB recharger
I am a long time user of the SteriPen and before that, various pump filters (most recently MSR), ever since my college roommate became sick with Giardia on a White Mtns backpacking trip in the 1980's. I have used chemical tablets as well.
The Camelbak All Clear is, in my opinion, an upgrade to all these options. My favorite purification method, up to this point, was the SteriPen, with UV effectiveness, and its prefilter system on a Nalgene 1 liter bottle. But with the All Clear protecting its UV bulb in a "bottle cap", and with the helpful LCD screen and clear instructions printed on the outside of the bottle, I feel this unit is easier to use. As with other UV systems, the All Clear delivers the wonderful fresh taste of mountain stream water without the risk of organic contaminants.
It purifies a smaller volume of water on each cycle, with the same efficiency of the SteriPen (SteriPen takes 90 sec for 1 liter, All Clear takes 60 sec for 2/3 liter). So time-wise it's a wash ...
Weight-wise, the units are comparable. The All Clear is an ounce heavier than my SteriPen unit, but the Camelbak prefilter is lighter and smaller Camelbak bottle with a minimal Nalgene cap more than makes up for the weight difference. I use a flexible, lightweight 2 liter water storage bottle, not suitable for use with a UV unit, so carrying the smaller, stiff-sided 2/3 liter bottle saves me weight over the SteriPen's system with a 1 liter bottle.
I use my cooking pot to dip water from a stream or other water source, so as not to accidently drop the prefilter, bottle or UV unit into a roaring glacial stream. Then I pour the water through the prefilter into the bottle a ways back from the stream on "safe" ground. I still worried that I would accidently smash the exposed SteriPen bulb on a rock, and am less worried with the All Clear's construction. I added a wrist loop to my SteriPen, as I was always concerned that I would drop or whack it against a rock and be left without a water purification system on a multi-day backpacking trip. And by the way, I use a clean handkerchief to wipe any droplets of water from the outside of the bottle, esp the cap threads, since the UV treatment does not have any effect outside the closed bottle.
Last fall I sent my backpacking partner down to get water, and he confused the steps needed to use the SteriPen. I believe the instructions and LCD screen reduce the chance of someone forgetting how to use the device properly.
UV treatment has the benefit of breaking down organic molecules in bacteria, viruses and protozoa. Pumps are only as good as their filter pore size, and can be readily clogged by glacial rock-flour. Tests by SteriPen show that UV still works on mildly turbid water, like glacial runoff that would clog a ceramic filter in seconds. I have spend many wasted minutes sitting by a stream cleaning my ceramic filter after each pumping cycle, and don't want to have to do that again.