UV light kills all the aquatic nasties you might encounter in backcountry water supplies. It's a common and proven technology that has made inroads into backpacking equipment in recent years, most notably in the lightweight and compact outdoor product line from SteriPen.
Now CamelBak, that venerable purveyor of hydration-happy outdoor gear, has jumped on the UV bandwagon with its 0.75-liter All Clear Water Bottle ($99). What's notable and different about it? The UV light is integrated directly into the cap, which means you no longer have to carry (and protect) a separate water treatment gadget.
Simply fill up the water bottle, hit the button, and in 60 seconds you've got safe drinking water. The 7-ounce lid features two rechargeable lithium batteries good for 80 treatments (that's 16 gallons) and recharges via a USB charging cable (included).
You'll need to agitate the water during the treatment process (CamelBak suggests turning it upside down and back several times), a standard recommendation for UV water treatment to ensure that all of the water receives equal UV exposure.
UV light has some noticeable advantages over other methods, notably its speed and the lack of residual tastes imparted by chemical treatments. Its drawbacks include your reliance on a battery-operated device, which could run out of juice or simply stop working. This is particularly problematic with the rechargeable battery system in the All Clear Bottle—you can't replace the batteries in the field if you've neglected to keep the unit adequately charged.
The other significant drawback to UV treatment is that, unlike a water filter, it does nothing to remove sediment—a concern if you need to treat some seriously funked up water. To address this issue, CamelBak offers its All Clear Pre Filter ($15), which screws onto the top of the bottle and removes particles down to 500 microns in size as you fill it up.
For a thorough review of all the water treatment options, including filters, chemicals, and other methods, check out my AMC Equipped article, Liquidate the Bugs: Backcountry Water Treatment. Another extensive review of the options can be found online at Zen Backpacking.
“Equipped” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Matt Heid.