Drinking water woes: A classic travel conundrum

Staying hydrated while travelling is a constant battle, particularly when you are not sure of the local water quality. The oft-mentioned rule of thumb is that you can drink the tap water in “developed” countries, but not in “developing” countries, however, there are many regions where it is still not a good idea to drink tap water. For example, in the Greek Islands, desalination is not very good, so tap water is not potable. Also, Karen & I nearly poisoned ourselves with some tap water from a small town in the UK. It was gross.

I have used a lot of water filters while backpacking, but these filters are less useful in urban settings (basically you can get water all over everything, which is less practical). Despite my best intentions, I have bought too many plastic water bottles, which makes me feel like a terrible person.

As [hopefully] my travel destinations in the next year include the Canary Islands and Morocco (both on the “not safe for tourists” list), I have been looking into water filtration bottles and UV filters, which may be a better option, so I thought I would share my research and wonderings about the best option for my upcoming travels.

LifeStraw (and LifeStraw Go Bottle)

2 years ago, I purchased a LifeStraw in the hopes of avoiding buying bottled water while travelling. However, the logistics quickly showed me that it was hard to carry around a wet water filter, and I struggled to find a bottle that would fit the large straw inside (e.g. it is too tall for a Nalgene bottle, and too thick to fit in the mouth of many stainless steel water bottle). You also need to suck really hard on the life straw, which meant I found that I would drink less water, which is not an ideal byproduct. It is possible that the LifeStraw bottle with integrated straw makes this easier, so it might be an option.

GRAYL geopress bottle

I am considering the GRAYL bottle, where you just fill and press an inner container through a filter, removing viruses, which is an advantage over the LifeStraw bottle, but it is a bit more expensive. You scoop up water with the outer cup, then just press the inner bit down (with the orange filter on the bottom) to magically filter the water.

SteriPen UV filtration pen

The final option, that I have been toying with for ages is to get a SteriPen, which uses a UV light to zap any of the baddies int the water. This would allow me to use whatever bottle or a cup and give it a zap. I feel this might be the best option for travel, as you don’t really need to use a pre-filter (as I won’t be scooping water out of lakes/rivers and getting silt), but now you can buy a pre-filter, which I would only take with me if I was backpacking. The classic (left) takes AA batteries, is a bit cheaper, and comes with the pre-filters (which can be used on a Nalgene bottle), larger, and heavier (185g). The SteriPen Ultra is lighter (77g), USB rechargeable, smaller, and more expensive.

Have you used any of these? I would love to hear what has worked for you!

I also thought I would pop this infographic I stole from [somewhere on the internet] as it illustrates how there are lots of places that you should be careful with the tap water.

Cheers: Unsurprisingly, tap water is safest in the developed world, including: UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Northern and Western Europe, the US and Japan


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