Best Camping/Hiking Water Purification Tablets – Reviews and Guide 2020

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Last Update: 30.Jan.2020

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Katadyn Micropur Purification Tablets

Micropur MP1 tablets release chlorine dioxide, the same substance used in municipal drinking water plants worldwide. So not only is the water safe to drink, it also tastes great. Tablets are individually sealed for longest shelf life (5 years). Each of the 30 tablets included treats 1 liter of water. Wait time is as follows: 15 minutes for Viruses and Bacteria in all water, 30 minutes for Crypto and Giardia in normal water (60ºF, clear water), and 4 hours for Crypto in worst case water (39º F, very dirty, slightly acidic water, i.e. the kind you'd want to double pump with a purifier).https://amzn.to/31P22L7
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Potable Aqua® Chlorine Dioxide

Potable Aqua® Chlorine Dioxide Water Purification Tablets are for the emergency disinfection of drinking water. When used as directed, the tablets make contaminated water suitable to drink. Potable Aqua® Chlorine Dioxide Water Purification Tablets are for use by campers, hikers, militaries, emergency organizations, and anyone needing to drink water of questionable microbiological quality. Effective against viruses, bacteria, and cysts – such as Giardia and Cryptosporidium.

by Willie Test

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Last Update: 30.Jan.2020

While many of us live in a world where clean fresh water from a tap is the norm, when we go outside, we no longer have running water to drink from. Instead, we need to use natural water sources such as rivers and lakes to fill our water bottles, cook our dinners, and clean our dishes.

Unlike water from our tap, however, the water in the backcountry can carry innumerable harmful pathogens that could cause a whole host of different ailments and diseases. Thus, whenever we travel in the mountains, we need to be prepared to purify our own water to prevent these pathogens from hurting us in the first place.

The answer? Water purification tablets.

That being said, there are so many different water treatment systems out there that it can be difficult to find the one that’s just right for your unique needs. So, to help you out, we have your ultimate guide to the best water purifying tablets out there. Here we go!

Katadyn Micropur Purification Tablets

Purifying water couldn't be easier, simply drop a Katadyn Micropur tablet into a quart of water to drink with confidence and no chemical aftertaste.
Micropur MP1 tablets release chlorine dioxide, the same substance used in municipal drinking water plants worldwide. So not only is the water safe to drink, it also tastes great. Tablets are individually sealed for longest shelf life (5 years). Each of the 30 tablets included treats 1 liter of water. Wait time is as follows: 15 minutes for Viruses and Bacteria in all water, 30 minutes for Crypto and Giardia in normal water (60ºF, clear water), and 4 hours for Crypto in worst case water (39º F, very dirty, slightly acidic water, i.e. the kind you'd want to double pump with a purifier).https://amzn.to/31P22L7
Go to Amazon Shop
  • Technical specs

Best Use

Backpacking

Filter Type

Tablet

Active Ingredient(s)

Chlorine dioxide

Removes/Destroys

Protozoa, Bacteria and Viruses

Output

30 quarts

Weight

0.9 ounce

Pros

Destroys viruses and bacteria in 15 min

Meets the US Environmental Protection Agency purification guidelines

5 year shelf life

Cons

Long incubation time

Potable Aqua® Chlorine Dioxide

Purifying water couldn't be easier! Simply drop a Potable Aqua chlorine dioxide tablet from this packet of 30 into a quart of water and let it go to work.
Potable Aqua® Chlorine Dioxide Water Purification Tablets are for the emergency disinfection of drinking water. When used as directed, the tablets make contaminated water suitable to drink. Potable Aqua® Chlorine Dioxide Water Purification Tablets are for use by campers, hikers, militaries, emergency organizations, and anyone needing to drink water of questionable microbiological quality. Effective against viruses, bacteria, and cysts – such as Giardia and Cryptosporidium.
Go to Amazon Shop
  • Technical specs

Best Use

Backpacking

Filter Type

Tablet

Removes/Destroys

Protozoa, Bacteria and Viruses

Output

30 quarts

Weight

0.9 ounce

Pros

Effective against viruses, bacteria, Giardia and Cryptosporidium

Stored at temperatures between 60 and 86°F

Cons

Exposure to heat, humidity, moisture and air will reduce the effectiveness of the tablets

Potable Aqua with PA+Plus

Potable Aqua PA+Plus are neutralizing tablets for use after water has been treated with Potable Aqua. P.A. Plus neutralizes the iodine after-taste and color in the water.
Includes 50-tablet bottle of iodine tablets and 50-tablet bottle of PA Plus neutralizing tablets. Intended for short-term or limited emergency use and ideal for campers, hikers, or other outdoors enthusiasts. The iodine tablets make contaminated water safe for drinking and are effective against Giardia lamblia. Two (2) Potable Aqua tablets will treat 1 quart of water
Go to Amazon Shop
  • Technical specs

Best Use

Backpacking

Filter Type

Tablet

Removes/Destroys

Bacteria, Protozoa, Viruses

Weight

0.7 ounce

Pros

Good filtration

Iodine tablets clean water in 30 minutes

PA Plus tablets remove iodine taste, color

Cons

Filtered water doesn't taste good

What Types of Water Purification Tablets and Drops Are there?

As you can imagine, water treatment systems are of the utmost importance when we’re in the backcountry. Since they can protect us from potentially deadly pathogens, it’s wise to always travel with them.

But, with so many different kinds of water purification tablets and drops out there, how can you possibly choose just one for your adventures? Here are the major kinds to look out for:

Iodine

One of the original methods of treating water, iodine comes in a variety of forms for backcountry use, including as a drop solution or a tablet. Iodine is relatively inexpensive and is fairly easy to use, which makes it great for backcountry enthusiasts.

Iodine is effective against the most common bacteria and viruses, including salmonella, cholera, and E. coli. But it does not protect you against parasites like Cryptosporidium. Additionally, the temperature of the water you’re looking to treat has a large impact on the effectiveness of iodine tablets.

Generally speaking, colder water takes longer to treat with iodine than warm water does. Plus, particularly cloudy water usually demands more iodine to treat than clear water. So, you need to gauge your situation to make an on-the-fly decision.

The main advantage of iodine is that it is inexpensive and easy to find. However, people with normal thyroid function can only use iodine for up to six weeks at a time.

On the other hand, people with thyroid problems and pregnant women should always consult a physician before treating their water with iodine. Finally, many people strongly dislike the taste of iodine, which can be quite strong in treated water.

Chlorine

Chlorine has become a popular method of treating water both in the frontcountry and backcountry. In urban environments, chlorine is usually used to disinfect pools and municipal water systems. However, it is fairly common amongst outdoor enthusiasts, too.

People enjoy using chlorine tablets to treat their water because the chemical is pretty effective at killing a wide range of bacteria and viruses. That being said, it doesn’t protect you against Cryptosporidium.

Additionally, while chlorine is available as both a tablet and a drop, most hikers strongly prefer the tablets due to their longer shelf life. The main complaint against chlorine is that it leaves behind a bleach-esque smell in your water that can be off-putting to most outdoor recreationalists.

Chlorine Dioxide

Perhaps the best all-around water purification system around, chlorine dioxide is available in either tablet or droplet form. Chlorine dioxide is capable of eliminating the largest variety of different pathogens when compared to all of the treatment systems in this review, as it is able to kill both Giardia and Cryptosporidium.

Chlorine dioxide is, unfortunately, often the most expensive of the different types of water purification and is the least widely available, though you can find it at most major outdoor retail stores.

Benefits of Water Purification Tablets

Water purification tablets are incredibly important for any outdoor recreationalist as they are essential in the fight against waterborne pathogens. When compared to other forms of backcountry water treatment systems, water purification tablets have the following advantages:

  • Lightweight. Even the largest package of bulk water purification tablets will be lighter than a water filter system or UV sterilizer. Thus, clean water tablets are ideal for backpackers and other recreationalists.
  • Compact. A packet of tablets or a small bottle of water treatment drops is relatively compact. They takes up little space, especially when compared to a water filter.
  • Effective against viruses. Unlike the vast majority of water filters, purification tablets are effective against viruses. Most viruses, however, are often too small to be filtered out of water.
  • Low maintenance. While water filters require plenty of maintenance to stay in good working condition, tablets don’t. Water treatment tablets simply require you to place them in water, so you can worry less about your gear and spend more time outside.

What to Look for When Buying Water Purification Tablets

Since there are so many different kinds of water purification tablets, you’ll want to be sure you know what to look for when shopping around. Here are the things you should look for when looking for the best water purifying tablets:

Time to purify/Ease of preparation

Each specific kind of water tablet has a different purifying time. The purifying time is the time required to eliminate pathogens from your drinking water. Some tablets require as little as 20 minutes, while others need a full 45 minutes to make your water good to drink.

For the most part, the time required to purify your water increases for colder and murkier water. However, you can generally rely on the directions given on the tablet’s packaging. If you’re someone with little patience, you might want to opt for a faster tablet system for your water.

Taste & Smell

Taste and smell are one of the most personal parts of buying water purification tablets. While some people strongly dislike the taste of iodine and chlorine, others don’t really seem to mind. Therefore, you’ll want to test out different kinds of water purifying tablets to find the one that’s right for you.

Weight

Generally speaking, water purification tablets are fairly lightweight. These pills are often sold in blister packs so you can decide how many you want to take with you into the backcountry. That being said, the droplet form of water tablets tends to be slightly heavier, so you’ll need to decide if those few extra grams make a difference for you.

Procedures for Water Purification

The best way to figure out the procedure for treating your water is to follow the manufacturer’s directions as listed on their tablet’s packaging. However, there are some general steps you can follow:

  • Collect your water in a water bottle or hydration reservoir from a local water source. Cold, rapidly moving water tends to harbor fewer pathogens than warm, stagnant water, so we’d look for these sources first.
  • Prepare your water purification system. If you’re using a droplet system, you may have to premix two different chemicals together before putting them in your water.
  • Add the water tablets or droplets to your water, as per the manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Wait for the manufacturer’s recommended amount of time before drinking your water.
  • Enjoy your purified water!

In Conclusion

Water purification is an important skill for any backcountry adventurer. With the right water purification tablets, you can go forth into the mountains and drink confidently from any water source.

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