On the Hell Hike and Raft last year, I overhauled my hiking hydration scheme to include my Potable Aqua PURE electrolytic water purifier. As a Potable Aqua Brand Ambassador, I had the lovely perk of getting my hands on it prior to its release so I could put it to the test.
The PURE is a small device that converts a brine solution into a disinfectant. It’s an alternative to filtering or tablets for water treatment in the field and weighs about 3.8 oz in a 7.5 cubic-inch package. Some of the notable features are:
- It has a built-in solar charger but can also be charged using a USB cable.
- It has a life span of 500 charges and 60,000 liters.
- One full charge can treat more than 150 liters of water.
- Kills nearly virtually all bacteria in 15 minutes, viruses and Giardia in 30 minutes, and Cryptosporidium in 4 hours.
- Treatment is scalable from 1 liter to 20 liters.
- Includes a built-in emergency flashlight.
The PURE comes with everything you need to get started:
- PURE device
- Brine solution bottle
- USB cable and adapter
- Chlorine test strips
- Carrying pouch
Using the Potable Aqua PURE device is fairly straight-forward. Simply pour a small amount of brine solution into the treatment chamber, select the volume you want to treat, and activate the treatment process. In seconds, the solution transforms into a foamy liquid that you then pour into your water container. Let it treat for however long is appropriate for your water conditions, anything between 15 minutes to four hours. That’s it. The device comes with guidelines to assess your water treatment situation and determine the treatment length.
As for the brine solution, the PURE comes with a 1 oz. bottle to store the solution but you can use any bottle that suits your purposes. The solution can also be mixed in the treatment chamber in the absence of the brine bottle. The device has two extra salt storage chambers that allows you to mix additional solution while on the trail without having to carry a separate container of salt.
The device also includes chlorine testing strips to check that the concentration is adequate to treat for the big baddies, Giardia and Cryptosporidium. The initial product I tested did not include the testing strips as part of the process. I was admittedly a bit disenchanted with the added complication at first but it has proven not to be cumbersome. While I’d prefer not to have the extra step, it does add peace of mind that you’re water is properly treated over tablets or filters. And you can avoid the testing strips by increasing the disinfectant dose as outlined in the instructions or by pre-treating with a cyst filter.
Some of the features and benefits I like about the PURE are:
- Unlike the tablets that differ in the protections they provide against water-borne nasties, the PURE has the benefit of treating all of the bugs by simply increasing the treatment time. No need to decide which type of treatment to use. Simply scale your treatment time.
- It leaves a slightly salty taste that I liked. The chlorine or iodine taste of the tablets isn’t bad, but this is an improvement.
- On the Hell Hike and Raft, I had the opportunity to discuss the device with my fellow ambassador, Scott Gauvin of Hiking Forward. We debated the benefits and drawbacks and came to the conclusion that the PURE is more cost effective than other treatment methods.
- Scalable treatment is excellent.
- It’s easy to use. I had some trouble seeing which setting I was on in the bright sun but I learned to make sure I shaded it with my hand so I could see what I was selecting.
- It’s also supposed to prevent bio-growth in your storage containers but I haven’t been used it extensively enough to vouch for that yet.
Prior to testing the PURE, I was intrigued but also hesitant for a few reasons…
- I skew towards simplicity in my adventures. The idea of a water treatment device that required power left me with very serious skepticism. I don’t like relying on electronic devices when it comes to such a crucial resource.
- It seemed complicated… brine solutions, testing strips, charging it, etc. Initially it seemed high-maintenance and that’s not my idea of a good time.
- In cold temperatures, will the battery function? Limitations of camera batteries come to mind./li>
Those misgivings have been handily overcome.
- The brine solution goes a very long way. A bottle a brine with two chambers of salt to make more will last more than most people will spend in the wilderness at one stretchw.
- A single charge will treat 150 liters of water.
- There are two ways to charge it: via the built-in solar panel or with the included USB cable. That means my Goal Zero Switch that I carry for my phone can also charge the PURE if necessary.
- Unfortunately, I have not tested the battery at cold temperatures to find out if it will hold up. And probably never will. This Florida native has no intent to head into the arctic circle or other sub-freezing climates to find out. So no worries for me really.
Initially, I got my grumpy on over the chlorine strips and the fact that it was something that would need to be replenished beyond the need to resupply easily-accessible salt. With some time to reflect, I realized the testing strips are really no different than the need to replace tablets or filters. And it’s avoidable if necessary or if your prefer. I will say I’d like to see Potable Aqua rethink the packaging on the chlorine testing strips. The container is far too bulky for hikers and backpackers who are concerned with every cubic centimeter and gram.
So overall, I’m a fan of the PURE device and it has earned a permanent place in my gear. The life of the charge and the brine solution (and salt storage) are so extensive that it suits any level of adventure and more than covers my needs.
There’s no ideal solution for water treatment in the field. Every method has its trade-offs. There are many different vectors for water-borne illness and I like the broad, scalable treatment the PURE offers.
In addition, I plan on keeping this little gadget handy during all of my travels and for emergencies. Scenarios like Snowpocalypse come to mind when I consider all of the potential uses for the PURE.
Adventure on, friends!
Disclaimer: Potable Aqua provided the PURE device to me free of charge to test and review. However, my opinions are my own and and my experience may vary from yours.