Insights For Success

Strategy, Innovation, Leadership and Security

Clean water for travel and survival (Steripen & Aquamira)

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment
Image by Tom Hal used under creative commons license 

Image by Tom Hal used under creative commons license 

November 2012, I wrote an article about the Steripen. The Steripen is still part of my travel kit and something I rely on regularly. If you have't read it, you should.

Why do I need to clean my own water?

The question I get asked most often is why? If you are someone that stays in nice hotels and buys expensive bottled water, you shouldn't have any issues? Wrong! Many years ago I lead a technical team undertaking a massive global IT deployment and everyone in my team got sick at the same time in Thailand. They were staying in 5 star hotels and were instructed to drink bottled water purchased from the hotel.

We enlisted the help hotel security to determine what had happened and after 2 weeks, we found the culprit. 

Hotel staff were draining the clean water from the bottles through a tiny pin prick on the bottom and replacing it with tap water.

How did my employees not notice, they snapped the water bottles open, so no one would suspect foul play. If you look under your standard 500ml water bottle, you will notice a little clump of plastic in the centre. They basically made a hole there, replaced the water and then used superglue to seal it back up.

So the moral of the story is, I don't trust bottled water anywhere. Everywhere I go, my Steripen is used to sterilize and give me peace of mind. 

Everything in 2s.

The first rule of survival is everything in 2s. You should plan to have at least a backup for every critical function. So how do you backup water sanitization? You certainly won't carry a second Steripen with you. One option is water sterilization tablets.  These are standard issue even in military survival kits because they are cheap, portable and easy to use.

Review of the Aquamira water purifier tablets

Having talked to a dozen survival experts, read hundreds of comments on various forums and product review sites and tried out a handful myself in the field, the best water sanitization tablets are the Aquamira ones (I chose tablets because the liquid version isn't travel friendly). The tablets provide the benefits of liquid chlorine dioxide in an easy to carry format.

Each tablet can purify 1 liter of water and each tablet is individually sealed. Using them is super simple:

  • Fill a canteen with 1L of water
  • wipe off excess water from rim and the outside
  • drop in a tablet
  • wait the prescribed time

Each pack provides enough tabs to purify the recommended amount of water for 1 person for 5 days. The water will have a small taste but nothing too dramatic.

If you can boil water, that is still the preferred route (rolling boil for at least a minute) but that is typically not possible during a disaster or in a hotel room.

Other tabs like Potable Aqua, MSR Aquatabs and Katadyn Micropur are as effective but the Aquamira is small but not too small and therefore easier to use and carry. 

Some survivalists recommend the use of household bleach, but bleach is messy, heavy and not practical for travel. Using pre-measured tablets is my first choice. Additionally many bleach products sold in retail are not pure and using bleach for extended periods of time is not healthy.

Over the last 2 years, I have had the honor of training with some of North America's best survival teachers and every single one of them recommended Aquamira when tablets were discussed. 

Do you use a Steripen and Aquamira?

The answer is no. My primary method of water disinfection is the Steripen. It is fast, easy and doesn't change the taste. If my Steripen fails, the tablets are my backup plan. 

Remember that neither of these will remove contaminants from water such as fuel, metal or chemicals. You have to make sure your water doesn't contain these types of contaminants otherwise you will have to use a water filter (article coming in a couple of weeks).