The scenario: You plan a sailing trip with your friends renting a boat. You aim to make your footprint as little as possible. There are lots of aspects to that. One big one is your plastic footprint. How can you tackle the drinking water situation? The last thing you want to do for the environment, your wallet, and your health is buying a pallet of bottled drinking water. But often also you cannot trust blindly on local tap water and on the quality of water tanks on boats. You want safe drinking water, minimum pollution and not too much hassle. What can you do?
I still have to come across the first charter company that offers sailboat charter with a water filtration system installed on the boat (If you are one or know one, reach out to me and I can help you tackle this topic). Buying bottled water is still the status quo. Private boats more and more have water purification and filtration systems installed. These installations are often big, bulky and require some installation time. A good long term investment. It only doesn’t make sense when simply renting a boat for a week or two.
I’ve spent hours and hours researching possible water filtration solutions to bring onto the boats, and now also onto camper vans. I’ve put different water filtration solutions to the test to figure out feasible and trustworthy solutions. I’ve simply tested them by using and sharing them with the ocean nomads crew as well as testing them during road tripping with my camper. No scientific A/B water tests have been undertaken so take the advice lightly and as a simple suggestion to try out one of these solutions for yourself.
The water filtration criteria:
- It makes water from the tank and taps potable
- Travel-friendly (light and not too bulky). It must fit in the hand luggage.
- The water filtration system can cater for 3-8 people.
- Not too time consuming to produce drinkable water
First, why bother travelling with a portable water filtration system?
Water is life. It’s a basic human need. 1 in 9 people lack access to safe water and collecting drinking water is the daily priority. At home, you may have the luxury to drink safely from the tab, in many countries and on sailing boats buying plastic bottled water has become the norm. We buy it because bottled water is cheaply available, we need it on the go, we want bubbles, because we think drinking from a sealed bottle is pure and free of contaminants, or we simply don’t know what the alternatives to plastic water bottles are.
With pollution all around us, it is becoming more and more difficult to figure out if water is safe to drink. So we buy bottles flown and shipped from as far as Fiji or the Himalaya, because we assume it’s better than the alternative, we don’t know what the alternative is, or we’re gone travelling unprepared. Water has gone from being a free natural resource to one of the most profitable commercial products of the last century. It doesn’t make sense, does it?
Consider these facts, explore the simple and cheap alternatives to plastic water bottles. Then choose what works for you!
FACTS ON PLASTIC BOTTLED WATER
- We produce almost 20,000 plastic bottles every second (1). We globally buy a million plastic bottles per Minute. It is estimated that over half a trillion plastic bottles will be sold in 2020 (2). Only 9% is recycled (3). Where does the rest go?
- The amount of water going into making a bottle could be up to six or seven times what’s inside the bottle. The total energy requirements for every bottle’s production, transport and disposal are on average equal to filling a quarter of that bottle with oil, with an energy cost a thousand times larger than the energy required to procure, process, treat and deliver tap water.
- Tiny pieces of plastic have been found in over 90% of the world’s most popular bottled water brands. Levels of plastic fibers in popular bottled water brands could be twice as high as those found in tap water (4).
- The quality of tap water is more regulated than bottled water. There is no regulation yet that demands brands to spell out the source of their bottled water. One study found that only 55 percent of bottled water brands are actually spring water, while the remaining 45 percent brands sell treated tap water as bottled water.
- If plastic bottles are exposed to heat or sit around for a long time chemicals can seep out of which some are possible endocrine disruptors.
Bottled water is not a healthy option for the ocean, our wallet, and ourselves.
Here are 5 portable group-friendly water filtration solutions to consider
Most countertop water filtration systems have a ceramic based purification filter that you simply connect to the tap with an attachment piece. When you open the tap, the water will slide through the ceramic filter. Purified water will come out of the counter-top system (that has it’s only little tap) that you place or attach somewhere next to the fixed tap. Counter-top system also exists with carbon based or other filters.
- Easy of use. You simply click it on the tap (IF it’s the right connection).
- No need for pumping or waiting. It simply gets filtered based on pressure.
- They are compact, lightweight, and durable. You can easily replace the ceramic filter.
- Ceramic is a natural material and doesn’t remove all healthy minerals. You can clean the filter relatively well yourself so you don’t have to replace it too often. Replacement filters are not expensive.
- It doesn’t fit on every tap. Sometimes you need a piece to be able to attach it which you may not have around.
- It doesn’t work with little water pressure. In a small boat or campervan, for example, your water pump may not be powerful enough to make it work.
- It’s a little bit bulky.
- Ceramic itself doesn’t remove chemicals like chloric and other heavy metals.
- Fairly easy to break the outside cast. One boat heeling over and it’s done.
Weight: +/- 1 kilogram.
Price: Starting from 89 euro.
This pump system I’ve used on two trips now and in my campervan. You simply manually pump ‘dirty’ water through a (double) filter system and it comes out drinkable. It takes a few minutes to fill up an 8 liter jug (about a minute to pump 2 liters). The filter is a combination of ceramic and a microfilter. It’s lightweight and easy to put in your hand luggage.
- No installation necessary
- Value for money
- Easy to use
- Double filtration. You can use this filter with quite dirty water.
- It’s a bit fragile
- The ceramic gets easily damaged
- Lots of parts and seals. After some usage it leaks slightly.
In the video below I briefly talk you through the Katadyn Vario Filter (minute 3.30)
Weight: 730 grams
Price: 85 euro
Often available in your local outdoor shop!
This water filtration solution lasts. It’s made of metal and robust. No plastic bits and pieces that can easily break or wear down. Even the US Military uses it. It filters about 1 liter / minute and the filter lasts for around 50.000 liter, depending on the water quality.
- It lasts
- It’s solid
- No installation necessary
- You get 20-year warranty.
- The system is not cheap. And the replacement filters are not cheap.
- It’s not super light
Weight: 900 grams
Price: 230 euro
How does a UV water purification unit work? You simply turn it on. Put it partly in the water you would like to purify, the UV light turns on and you wait a minute (1,5 minute / liter). UV destroys over 99.9% of bacteria, viruses, and protozoa. What it doesn’t do is filtering particles out of the water. If this is necessary you can combine the UV pen with another filter. Some pens you can charge with USB, some need batteries.
- It’s quick and easy to use. You can simply put it directly in your water bottle.
- It’s very lightweight. You can just put it in your pocket.
- It’s cheap.
- No replacement filters necessary.
- It doesn’t remove particles.
- It needs charging or batteries. You can do +/- 50 water purification sessions on one charge.
- You can only purify 1-2 liters at the same time.
Weight: 250 grams
Price: 64 euro
Maunawai Water pitcher
When researching waterpitcher you’ll find thousands of different options. most of them simply have a charcoal filter that needs replacement often, and are made in china. After researching far and beyond for a simple to use filtration solution that hasn’t been made and shipped from China, I’ve come across the Maunawai Kini. The Maunawai Kini is a water pitcher that doesn’t only remove a high range of pollutants from the water, but it gives life back to water, adding minerals and goodness. You simply add water on top, wait a few minutes, and healthy tasty water poores come. I’m digging more into the topic of not only purifying water but also the importance of optimizing it for human health. More to come on this! And on the Kini. There’s a beautiful story behind it and I only just started testing it, but I’m fan. It’s my current favourite solution!
- Easy to use.
- It’s simple, tasty, and affordable.
- The jug itself is locally manufactured in Europe.
- It’s healthy. The water is not merely purified, it’s alive with maximum superpowers for the human body.
- It needs some time to sit to do its work.
- The filter lasts a limited time (3 months).
Weight: +/- 1 Kilo
Price: 88 Euro
5% Discount with code OP2020
(10 % discount for Ocean Nomads members.)
How do you know if it’s safe to drink?
We don’t know if bottled water is right. We don’t know if using the methods ourselves is right. What I do know is that the water quality result reports from the drops, charcoal method and filtration are positive, I’ve never got sick, and the water quality results from bottled water not always are. The main reason I ditch the plastic is because I’ve seen bottles floating around in the middle of the Atlantic, have first hand seen its impact, and now have learned that every bottle made never ever disappears. The second reason is health. Knowing what I know now after having studied tons of research report, I trust using self-purification methods myself more than bottled water that likely has been standing in the sun which is linked to health issues in the long run.
Of course we don’t want to spend a week in the bathroom either. To get extra confidence you can travel with some test strips to test the water quality. But very few of these test are actually reliable. For proper testing, you need a labratorium. The next thing on my to do list!
Sceptical? Test your water!
Are you looking for a more individual travel friendly water filtration solution? Then check out this blog!
Are you a charter company and looking to properly install water filtration on your boats? Contact me with your exact needs and I can help you to make it happen.
Disclaimer: As always, opinions are my own. What drives me is saving the ocean. Sometimes links to ocean-friendly alternatives to plastic water bottles contain affiliate links. If you’re looking to purchase something, huge thanks if you purchase it via this website (but try to find it locally first! ). At no extra cost to you, orders and bookings through this website give me a tiny piece of the pie that help me keep investigating, exploring and creating content about on ocean action and solutions! Waterfilterexpert and Maunawai have sponsored a system but only because I approached them and all opinions are 100%my own. The information about best travel water filtration presented here is not a substitute for specific training or experience. When going into the outdoors it is your responsibility to have the proper knowledge, experience, and equipment to travel safely. These are brief findings to simply get you started. I’m not an expert on water filtration and I can’t guarantee drinking water happiness with anything written here. I’m just doing the research, testing, and communicating the findings accordingly to make it easier for you to reduce your environmental footprint. Let me know how you go! I continue learning and exploring more about this topic. Also the next project is properly testing the different water results and sending it to a laboratorium so really see the before and after of the different solution.
Love to hear your tips and suggestions! Together we can tackle this!