Water Purification

Methods & Tools for Filtering Water while Bike Touring

The institute of Medicine has determined that an adequate dayly intake of water is roughly 3 liters and even more during physical exertion.

In most parts of the United States and Canada we take clean water for granted. We have faith that a simple turning of the tap knob will produce a pure stream of unpolluted H2O for all our needs. While bicycle touring, sooner or later you’ll find yourself in some weird ass corner of the world like the Amazon jungle, Egyptian desert, the Nullarbor of Australia or Detroit. The quality of the water in most of these areas is suspect to say the least and rather than chance a case of Montezuma’s revenge or worse, it is best to treat your water prior to consumption. In the past, the only reliable methods of water treatment were either boiling for a period of 15 minutes or the use of iodine tablets. Besides the obvious foul taste of water treated these ways, it also takes a lot of time and uses a lot of precious fuel. Modern techniques have streamlined the water purification process making it possible to turn swamp water into pure bottled spring water within minutes. These are the tools and method I use to accomplish this task while touring the world.


* MSR MiniWorks EX Water Filter Pumpmsr_miniworks
Ceramic/carbon Marathon™ EX element effectively removes bacteria and protozoa including giardia and cryptosporidia
Also removes unpleasant tastes and odors caused by organic compounds, such as iodine, chlorine and pesticides
Filter can be cleaned over and over for maximum field life with no tools required
AirSpring Accumulator™ increases filtration speed up to 1 liter per minute.
Bottom screws onto an MSR Dromedary® Bag or Nalgene® water bottle for easy operation
Easy disassembly lets you troubleshoot and maintain the MSR MiniWorks EX filter in the field

* MSR Dromedary Bag 10 litermsr_dromedary
Boil it or freeze it, the polyurethane, food-grade coating inside handles every use
Versatile three-in-one cap lets you fill, drink and pour with ease
A clever handle around the opening makes filling the bag easier than ever
Webbing straps down each side let you attach the bag to your pack, bike or hang it from a tree limb

* CamelBak All Clear Water Purifier Bottlecamelbak-all-clear
All-in-1 system is simple to use! Fill the bottle with water, screw on the All Clear cap, press the power button and agitate the bottle until the treatment is complete
Fast and efficient design lets you treat 25 fl. oz. (0.75 liter) of water in only 60 seconds.
LCD screen on the All Clear purifier cap verifies the success of the treatment
Long-lasting UV bulb is rated at 10,000 cycles; shock-resistant design protects the UV bulb for effective purification every time
Once the treatment cycle is complete, remove the All Clear UV purifier cap, stow it in the protective case and screw on the included CamelBak Classic cap
CamelBak All Clear water purifier bottle operates on a built-in rechargeable lithium ion battery; fully charged battery provides 80 treatments (equivalent to 16 gal. of water)
Use the included USB cable to recharge the battery with a portable power source, a solar panel or a home computer; battery fully recharges in about 4 hrs.


When I come across a water source of questionable purity I always use this method to ensure that I am drinking and cooking with healthy uncontaminated water. First I fill a small clean stainless steel or aluminum pot with the clearest and most undisturbed water I can find to keep sand, mud & debris to a minimum. I then submerge the filler hose from my MSR MiniWorks pump in the pot and screw the pump head onto the mouth of my MSR Dromedary bag or a standard bike water bottle. Making slow deliberate pumps (about 70 per minute), I transfer the dirty water from the stainless pot into the Dromedary bag, stopping to refill the pot as needed. Once the Dromedary bag is filled, I transfer the water into my CamelBak All Clear water filter bottle, screw on the cap, press the power button and wait 60 seconds while the UV light scrambles the DNA of all those nasty viruses and bacteria that may have slipped by the pump filter. From here I pour the purified water into an empty waiting water bottle and repeat the process for the rest of the water in the Dromedary bag. This process usually takes about 15 to 20 minutes and yields enough water to last me for two days. On the plus side, the water tastes great and makes the food and hot drinks much better.

The CamelBak All Clear utilizes proven UV technology to effectively neutralize microbiological contaminants including viruses. This paired with the MSR MiniWorks (that filters out chemicals and debris) gives you as close to a perfect glass of water as can be obtained.

MSR MiniWorks EX Water Filter – 1lb. – 3oz.
CamelBak All Clear Water Purifier – 1lb. – 1oz.
MSR Dromedary Bag 10 liter – 9oz.
Total weight of water purification system 2lb. 13oz.
This system is not light weight by any means but pure water is one of the most important pieces to the bicycle travel/survival puzzle. This is an area that does not have a low weight or a cheaper cost alternative. Remember, water is life!

Additional Notes:

The CamelBak All Clear treats 80 cycles or 16 gallons with each charge. The unit can be recharged using any of the Anker external USB battery systems or charged directly from an E-werk and Son28 dynohub front wheel so a connection to the grid is not necessary.

The MSR MiniWorks is easily cleaned in the field with a small synthetic scrubber.

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