I'm really note sure what to make of the Camelbak All Clear UV water purifying bottle. It strikes me that this must have been one of those genius ideas on paper that managed to make it through development, testing and into production only to find that it kinda doesn't fit the need of the customer - at least, not me.
Camelbak make some really great products, and to be fair the All Clear purifier is a beautifully manufactured product - it's just not very practical. Firstly it's heavy, a whopping 1lb, 1oz compared to the SteriPEN Adventurer UV purifier that weighs 3.6oz (with batteries).
The All Clear is rechargeable via a USB port and able to deliver 80 cycles of UV purification on a full charge. That sounds great, but if you take it out on the trail only partially charged and run out of power you're going to be hard pressed to charge this back up. The SteriPEN on the other hand uses replaceable lithium batteries that can be swapped out if you are carrying spares. At least you have that option.
I want to like the all-in-one design of the All Clear purifier but I'm just not feeling it. The sad thing is that despite some of it's design flaws it's incredibly simple to use.
You start by charging it up via the USB port and the supplied micro USB cable. It takes about four hours to fully charge and the LCD display on the top indicates when the charging is complete.
When you need to purify dirty water to make it safe to drink, you unscrew the large top cap/unit and fill the bottle up from what ever water source you have available making sure not to fill it above the maximum fill line, clearly shown just below the neck of the bottle.
You then replace the cap and tighten it. To begin the UV purification cycle, you press and hold the blue button on the top of the cap for two seconds. The LCD screen will blink and a 60-second count down timer will begin.
This is the clever part and something that still amazes me when I use UV purifiers. Just like the SteriPEN, the All Clear uses proven UV light to effectively neutralize viruses, bacteria and protozoa in the dirty water to make it safe to drink.
As soon as the 60-second count down begins the LED indicator light in the underneath of the bottle lid (real UV light is invisible) turns on and the water bottle will need to be agitated for the full 60 seconds to ensure that the UV light has had enough time to penetrate all of the water and contaminants in the bottle.
Outside on the trail in full daylight it can be quite hard to see when the LED indicator light is on, but I was able to find a shaded spot by the stream to get this photo. The bright white/blue LED light glowing through the water is very cool. After the 60 seconds are up the water is safe to drink.
I'm very comfortable using UV purifiers like the SteriPEN and even the All Clear for water sources that are free flowing and already very clean looking. However, UV filters are not my preference for cloudy or murky looking water because they do nothing to clean out all the guck that is in the water - I like my water to look somewhat clean when I drink it.
If you're like me and prefer to have clear looking water for drinking I would recommend you consider a water filter/pump like the Katadyn Hiker Pro or the MSR MiniWorks for murky water or some form of pre-filter.
The Camelbak All Clear does come with a standard plastic bottle cap that can be used once the water has been purified. It's a nice touch that allows you to store the heavier UV lid in your pack when you don't need it and use the lighter one on the bottle instead. Either way you're still carrying the weight, but it sure does make the bottle lighter to carry.
Conclusion - Suggestions I think the All Clear has huge potential in the Camelbak product line-up and hope they continue to develop and improve the idea. It's just that this first version is heavier than most people (backpackers) would expect. Clearly it would not be targeted at lightweight backpackers (yet). For day hikers, campers, and families I can see this slotting right in and being a great option.
I'd like to see Camelbak enhance this product/concept with particular attention to reducing weight. I'd like to see some other battery options, like replacing the batteries with AAA lithium ones. I'd like to see improved water-proofing of the bottle head (lots of electronics) as I was concerned about how thoroughly I washed it out when I got home after my hike.
What do you think about UV water purifiers in general? Do you use one and if so what's the best and worst thing about it?
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