To purify, by definition, does not mean removing any and all random matter in a solution. It actually means to remove what is not wanted. So, a product that claims to purify water does not claim to make the water “pure” (like distillation or reverse osmosis); it just means that it removes what is not wanted, or unhealthy, from the water. Examples of purification methods include iodine tablets or chlorine bleach drops, boiling water, UV light like the SteriPEN Ultra, as well as chemical treatment kits like Aquamira Water Treatment (Chlorine Dioxide treatment)  and Polar Pure (Iodine treatment).

Essentially purification will remove bacteria and protozoa from the treated drinkable water, AS WELL AS viruses.

The following are some of the purification methods I’ve used and liked (or not) on the trail:



SteriPEN Ultra USB Rechargeable Portable, Handheld UV Water Purifier – $99.95

Weight: 140.61 g / 4.96 oz
Dimensions: 7.3 x 1.65 x 1.3 in

  • Lamp Life: 8,000 treatments
  • Full charge treats up to 50 Liters
  • Minimum Bottle Diameter: 20mm (0.8 in)
  • UV light destroys germs’ ability to reproduce and make you sick; The SteriPEN destroys over 99.9% of bacteria, viruses, and protozoa
  • Battery Life: Up to 50 treatments per charge and 300 charge discharge cycles; This is equivalent to 15,000 liters
  • Simple OLED display shows everything you need to know – treatment, lamp, and battery status; USB rechargeable from a computer, wall, or solar panel
  • Water Quality Association: SteriPEN tested and certified by WQA against US EPA Microbiological Water Purifier Standard


  • Quick, simple, and reliable
  • Non-chemical
  • Incredible warranty; essentially buy one and you’re good for the rest of your life


  • Needs to be recharged
  • Not the lightest option
  • Not the smallest option
  • Not a filter. Sediment will not be removed. 

This is an easy to use and reliable filter. However, it is not ideal for back country use, since it has to be charged every so often. There are other models that use replaceable batteries, but then you are carrying the extra weight of backup batteries and increasing your carbon footprint by disposing of so many batteries. I would definitely take this with me if I ever traveled internationally to an urban environment lacking infrastructure and sanitation standards, but not on a backpacking trip.





Aquamira Water Purifier Tablets

Weight (50 pack): 19.84 g / 0.7 oz

Aquamira Purification tablets give you a peace of mind when there may not be a fresh source of drinking water around. These are great to use while camping, hiking, backpacking, and hunting. Water purification pills should always be a part of any well-stocked emergency first aid kit.

Each of the Aquamira Purification tablets is capable of purifying 1 L or 33 oz. of water and each tablet is sealed in a child resistant foil pouch.  They come in a pack of 50 tablets (individually packaged) in a resealable storage pouch. It’s EPA registered and meets or exceeds all guidelines for Microbiological Water Purifiers and is extremely simple to use; just fill a container with one liter of water from a questionable water source, drop one tablet into the water, wait the required time listed on the package and you’re got fresh drinking water. It will not cause any undesirable discoloration of the water and actually might improve the taste of the water.

⦁ EPA Registered Water Purifier EPA Reg. No. 70020-22-71766
⦁ Just use one tablet per 1 Liter of water (33 oz.) is needed
⦁ Individually packaged tablets
⦁ Resealable pouch
⦁ Uses a powerful Chlorine Dioxide compound
⦁ EPA Registered
⦁ Easy to use
⦁ Tablets are individually packaged
⦁ Child resistant packaging

⦁ Sometimes child resistant can mean adult resistant too. It definitely took me a minute to open the foil package
Not a filter. Sediment will not be removed. 
This type of single serving purification is not ideal for thru hiking, in my opinion. Over time, these would end up being heavier to bring along, now that such great lightweight water filters are available at such affordable prices.

Again, purification against viruses is usually not necessary in the back country of most  of North America. Filtration, however, is always recommended. Therefore, I would save these for use on international travel hiking trips or in emergency/bug out kits.






Aquamira Water Treatment Drops – $19.95


Aquamira Water Treatment Drops were once, in my experience, one of the most popular ways to purify water while backpacking. In recent years, this two step treatment has lost popularity due to the lightweight and easy to use filters now flooding the market. Aquamira drops definitely developed a cult following and I have hiking buddies that are still devoted disciples. Back in the day, this was one of, if not the lightest purification option on the market.

I never really latched on to these, though. Aquamira drops are a two step process; you mix equal parts A and B, wait for “activation”, then add that mixture to the suspect water…and WAIT again! For me this is just too many steps and takes too much time (see below).

1) Prior to treatment, clean and disinfect the water storage container and lid.
2) place 7 drops AQUAMIRA Water Treatment (Part A) and 7 drops of Phosphoric Acid Activatgor (Part B) in mixing cap to pre-mix.
3) Let mixture react 5 minutes to ensure full activation.
4)Fill container with 1 quart (1 liter) water. Add contents of mixing cap.
5) Shake or stir and let stand for 15 more minutes. If water is very cold or turbid, let stand for 30 minutes.
6) Water is now ready to use.



  • Durable Plastic Bottles
  • Kills odor causing bacteria and enhances the taste of stored potable water
  • Treatment has a 4 year shelf life from manufacturing date
  • Treats up to 30 gallons
  • Easy to Use
  • EPA Reg. No. 71766-1
  • Liquid Chlorine Dioxide water treatment drops provide safe drinking water
  • everywhere
  • Two one Oz bottle of liquid drops treat up to 30 gallons of water
  • Kills waterborne pathogens better than iodine or chlorine bleach with no strange
  • aftertaste


  • Multi-step process
  • Takes 20 minutes to treat water
  • Only treats up to 30 gallons
  • Not a filter, Sediment will not be removed.

If you are in a area where purifying is a must, Aquamira Drops are one of the best options. Both these and Polarpure water treatment are lightweight and treat many gallons of water. Aquamira wins because of durable plastic bottles vs. Polarpure’s glass bottle; Polarpure wins  because one bottle can be used thousands of times vs. Aquamira’s 30 gallon limit.






Polar Pure Iodine Water Purifier – $19.95

Weight: 102.9 g / 3.62 oz

  • EPA certified to exceed the minimum threshold for sterilization.
  • Kills all bacteria and viruses before they mutate. Tablets can let organisms mutate and become immune. Filtration straws cannot filter out viruses, which are too small at .0004 microns
  • Treats up to 2,000 liters of water, unlike tablets which can decontaminate only 25 liters
  • Most cost effective of all treatments I’ve tried, at just 1 penny per quart. Tablets cost around 12 cents per cup of water treated
  • INDEFINITE SHELF LIFE when bottle is kept tightly capped. Other treatments need to be used in less time once the bottle is unsealed
  • Easy to use and compact bottle weighs just 5 ounces and fits in the palm of your hand. A decal temperature gauge on the bottle lets you know exactly the dosage to use to render water potable, depending on the temp of the water.


  • Small size
  • Indefinite Shelf Life
  • Treats over 500 gallons
  • No “premixing”


  • One of the heavier options
  • Glass bottle susceptible to breaking
  • Takes 20 minutes to treat water
  • Not a filter. Sediment will not be removed. 

This is my go to purification method, even though the glass bottle is not very ultralight or durable. When I go shopping, I’m a one and done kind of person. Once I’ve chosen and purchased a treatment system, I don’t want to have to continually purchase or refill my stock of that product. The Polar Pure water treatment has an indefinite shelf life and treats over 500 gallons of water! I am still using the very first bottle I bought back in 2011.

The way it works is pretty clever; when you first get the bottle it is empty, except for about 25 or so small hard beads of iodine about the size of BB gun ammo. To the bottle of beads, you add a couple of ounces (depending on the temperature) of water. The beads slowly release iodine into the couple of ounces of water in the jar. After a few minutes, you pour the solution into your larger vessel of water. The inside of the lip of the Polar Pure jar is designed to trap the beads as you pour the treated liquid out, saving them for many future uses.  Then you let the now treated water in your larger vessel sit for 20 minutes and presto, you have purified water.

The process still takes a while, but if you have to water bottles, you can get a good rotation going so that you’ll be drinking out of a treated bottle, while the other is being treated.








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