The Grayl: The Easiest to Use Portable Water Filter/ Water Bottle Purifier

We were standing in the main square in Antigua, Guatemala. At the very center of this UNESCO World Heritage city is Parque Central. At the center of Parque Central is a beautiful fountain. And that’s where we first put our Grayl water bottle purifier to the test for the first time.

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Grayle water bottle in Antigua, Guatemala
Using the Grayle water bottle in Antigua, Guatemala — Photo by: LiLing Pang

We were very curious to see how this ingeniously simple water purifier would perform under all sorts of conditions. We’re grateful that Grayl agreed to send some complimentary water bottle purifiers for our family of five to put through the wringer during our six month trip through Central America.

Testing The Grayl Water Bottle Purifier

The Grayl looks like a pretty ordinary water bottle from the outside. So, as the kids and I fumbled to get it ready to test, we could see the eyes in the Sunday afternoon crowd fixing on us. This is a town that is no stranger to crazy tourists doing strange things. But even then, to see a family hopping over the knee-high fence and scooping water out of the dirty fountain into a water bottle was almost too much for our audience of street vendors, performers, and locals. They watched us with intense curiosity as our teen fit on the middle piece and leaned in to press the water through the purifying filter. He then proceeded to lift it to his mouth to drink. You could almost hear the crowd gasp. Truth be told, I too was nervous. Considering that all the tap water in Guatemala needs to be filtered and boiled or purified, we were definitely putting our stomachs on the line to test this nifty water purifier at the town fountain. While a beautiful fountain, this was no Roman drinking fountain.

Purifying water from Cueva de Setzol in Guatemala – Photo by: LiLing Pang

I am delighted to report that we all survived the test with no stomach-ache or parasites. After this bold first test, it gave us confidence to put the Grayl to the test at lakes, rivers, streams, waterfalls, and swimming holes from Lake Atitlan to the Andean streams of Ecuador. Here are some of our photos of fun places we didn’t just get to swim in during our 6-month travels through Central America and Ecuador, but we also got to drink out of. It was so fun to taste our way through these countries, all thanks to our handy-dandy Grayl water bottle purifier we carried everywhere with us.

Traveling with The Grayl Water Bottle Purifier

Anyone heading overseas should always be concerned about the safety of the water supply. Even some towns in developed countries have issues with heavy metals and harmful chemicals present in their tap water. You might not get sick from the water immediately, but drinking it can have long-term effects on your health. However, if you’re traveling to Central America, South America, Southeast Asia, South Asia, Africa, or the Middle East, clean and safe water becomes a primary concern in staying healthy.

Clean water testing
Photo by: Bigstock/kozorog

Many municipal water sources in developing countries have issues with microscopic bacteria such a giardia, cryptosporidium, and Hepatitis A in their water pipes. Sometimes this is due to the poor quality of water treatment, other times, it’s due to sewage pipes contaminating water pipes. Once these bacteria are in the pipes, it’s really expensive to get rid of them. As a traveler, you’re likely to be even more sensitive to these contaminates. Not only can it ruin your trip to spend weeks with stomach troubles, dysentery in young children can quickly lead to dehydration, which is a very serious condition. So why even risk it?

Water Purifying Options

Delivering and installing water filters in Guatemala.
Delivering and installing water filters in Guatemala. — Photo by: LiLing Pang

There are several portable options at hand to keep your water intake safe.  The one that most travelers reach for first is bottled water, but bottled water consumed in large qualities (6-8 small bottles per day per traveler), is a lot of waste to incur, especially since many developing countries simply burn their plastic trash or poison the ground by burying the plastic waster. Most disposable bottles have BPA and other harmful plastics in them. Bottled water is an expense that families don’t often factor in while traveling. A family could easily spend $20 a day on bottled water.

Boiling water to purify water for drinking
Photo by: Bigstock/Luca Lorenzelli

Boiling, Iodine, or UV treatment:

Boiling or treating water with iodine tablets or UV light will kill bacteria and viruses in water. However, iodine treated water can taste really strange and your kids might turn their noses up to it. Boiling water can be rather troublesome when you’re on the go. None of these methods will remove heavy metals and chemicals in the water.

Filters with activated charcoal:

To remove heavy metals and chemicals from the water, you can use a filter with activated charcoal in it and the water usually tastes pretty good after being run through one of these filters. However, filters will not remove bacteria that can cause dysentery and completely ruin your trip.

Purifiers

Purifiers typically include both activated charcoal as well as silver ion/chlorine dioxide to kill microscopic bacteria, viruses, and protozoans and will also make water taste quite neutral.

A Water Bottle that both Filters and Purifies

Lining up to Purify water using the Grayl in Leon, Nicaragua
Photo by: LiLing Pang

The Grayl water bottle purifier both filters and purifies! And it does so in such a simple and quick way. Even our kids could filter their own water safely. Working on the same principle of a french press, you simply scoop up water from your source, fit on the middle cartridge, put some weight on the top of the press, and push down. In 15 seconds, you have clean great tasting water.

It was fantastic to know we would never run out of clean water wherever we were. It was even more awesome to go on hikes through the humid rainforest and not have to lug a heavy backpack full of extra bottles of water. We carried one bottle each and we were set.

The bottle was water tight when sealed. It is narrow enough to fit in a car cup holder or in your backpack’s side pocket. It is, however, heavier than a regular reusable water bottle. If you do not think your group is going to be separated often, you could just bring one Grayl water bottle purifier while everyone else carries a lighter water bottle that is easy to re-fill. Then you can use the Grayl to fill up the other bottles.

Each Grayl water bottle purifier has a capacity of 16 ounces. Basically about the size of a travel coffee mug. The filter cartridges are good for about 300 filter cycles (or 40 gallons of water). After you return from your trip you can store the filter for later use if you store it correctly in an air tight plastic bag. While the Grayl is very easy to use, pressing the filter into the water was too difficult for our 6-year-old, a little challenging for our 11-year-old, but really easy for our 14-year-old.

Buy the Grayl

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Pros of the Grayl:

  • Removes 9,9999% of all the pathogens (viruses like Hepatitis A, SARS, Rotavirus, disease-causing bacteria like E. coli, Salmonella and protozoan cysts like Giardia)
  • Filters and purifies water in just 15 seconds or (2L/min)
  • Easy to use with no fuss
  • Compact and highly portable
  • Well constructed
  • BPA free plastic
  • Reasonably priced in comparison to other portable water filters
  • Water tastes good and looks clear

Cons of the Grayl:

  • The capacity of the bottle is a little small at 16oz but this is only an issue if you don’t have access to a water source for a long time
  • Heavy for a water bottle at 10.4oz without water (but light for a water bottle + water purifier)

What’s the bottom line? Is it a Yay or Nay for the Grayl?

Absolutely a Yay! This is an essential item to have if you’re traveling to a developing country or backpacking into the wilderness. No more spending tons of money on bottled water. No more hearing your kids say they want a soda because the water tastes bad. Instead, say yes to reducing your plastic waste as a traveler, and staying healthy and hydrated so you can enjoy your whole trip.

Disclosure: Trekaroo receives complimentary products from companies like the Grayl to facilitate our honest reviews. However, as always, our opinions are entirely our own.

About the author

LiLing Pang is Co-founder and CEO of Trekaroo . She is a mom to two boys and a girl (13, 11, and 3) currently traveling through Central America. Together with her husband, Brennan Pang, they hatched the idea of Trekaroo one summer day along the California coast while searching for the best kid-friendly tide pool near La Jolla with their curious 2.5 year old.

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