Review: GRAYL Ultralight Purifier [+Filter] Bottle

Water purification is among the biggest hurdles for those new to camping and backpacking. The need for easy, confident water treatment is paramount to the success of any trip—but the variety of systems and processes that come with them can be overwhelming. GRAYL has attempted to even the playing field with the new Ultralight Purifier [+Filter] Bottle. It’s an entirely self-contained capture, filter, and drink unit that yields 16oz. of potable water in about 15 seconds. It’s appealing on paper—but our field testing developed a bigger story and shined some light on its limitations.

We used the Ultralight Purifier [+Filter] Bottle as a primary water filter for two overnight trips for groups of 2-3. One of my “best practices” in backpacking is to drink a liter anytime I’m actively filtering water.  The idea is that while you’re at the water cooler, you should think of your tummy as an extra bottle. I’m guilty of not drinking enough water in my day-to-day life, so when I’m outside I really have to consciously drink water.  GRAYL makes that an easy commitment to keep.

Here are the Specs:
Weight: 10.9 oz.
Material: BPA free Polypropylene #5 and ABS food-grade plastic, food-grade silicone
Dimensions: 9.625″ (24.5 cm) tall x 2.875″ (7.30 cm) wide
Life Span: 150 liters.

What’s good?
Wow, is this convenient.  There’s no water transfer to complicate things. I don’t need to put clean water in that container and keep these components in a different compartment because they’re contaminated.  Fill. Press. Drink. This development in itself is something—I really think GRAYL can develop this out.

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Fill. Photo by Will Kammin.

It’s simple. You can hand the Ultralight Purifier [+Filter] Bottle to someone who has never been outside, show them how to use it once, and they’re good to go. As someone who regularly takes beginners out, I think this is a great piece of confidence.

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Press. Photo by Will Kammin.

It’s fast. 15 seconds for 16oz. of potable water from capture to drink. I can’t think of a faster purification process outside of the drink-through filters like LifeStraw and the Sawyer Mini, but neither of those function like a potable water container. They hold untreated water and filter it as it passes through into your mouth. I can use the Ultralight Purifier [+Filter] Bottle and add that clean water to food, I can use it to brush my teeth or wash my hands, or I can save it to drink later.

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Drink.  Photo by Will Kammin.

What’s not so good?
It’s not as easy as it looks. I’m man enough to admit that while using the Ultralight Purifier [+Filter] Bottle to filter 2.5 liters of water (5-6 presses) in the morning for breakfast and coffee, it fatigued my hands. The circular opening at the top has a small surface area and the force required to press water through the filter is substantial—you’re putting all that pressure into the meat of your hands. I could use a thumb rest or a ledge of some sort of distribute that force a little better.

The containers don’t function independently of each other. I really think this needs a one-way valve to turn the inside drinking vessel into a standalone unit. Because of the low volume, my first thought when using the Ultralight Purifier [+Filter] Bottle was to purify 16oz., screw the cap on, and take another 16oz. of untreated water back to the camp site in the open-top outer container. That’s not how this works. The filter on the bottom of the drinking vessel will not hold water. A one-way valve system would be a huge upgrade. The ability to screw the cap onto the outer unit would be nice too—if I wanted to use this as a standalone water bottle and fill it up from the tap, just using the outer container with the cap would make more sense.

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Fill. Photo By Monica Lauw.

It’s heavy for only storing 16oz. The weight-to-storage ratio is 16 ounces of storage: 10.9 ounces of weight. I can carry a Sawyer Mini, two 64oz. flex bottles, and two 1-Liter Nalgene bottles at 198 ounces of storage: 13 ounces of weight. That’s an easy decision on most trips.

The Ultralight Purifier [+Filter] Bottle has a startlingly short life span of 150 liters, but replacement filters can be had for $25. As a comparison, the LifeStraw Go Filters have a 1,000-liter lifespan, Katadyn Hiker Pro filters have a life span of 1150 liters, and Sawyer Mini filters last for an obscene +375,000 liters.

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Press. Keeping the bottle on the ground and using your body weight to press the filter down is the easiest way to get your water quick. Photo by Monica Lauw.

Nit Picking
Lastly, I think maintenance is a bit of a concern. The filter takes a while to dry out and raises some concern over mold and ice. Instructions are to air dry the unit completely but this does take some time and vigorous shaking in my experience. The owner’s manual states that, “An integrated anti-microbial agent suppresses the growth of mold, mildew and bacteria, keeping GRAYL fresh between uses.” I haven’t had issues, but a faster dry time would be a confidence booster.

I’ve discovered that if you empty the container and press a container full of air through the filter as you normally would with water, you can force clear the filter to some degree, just like with a normal pump.

How does this improve my experience?
For day length rambles near a water source, this is great. As a personal filtration unit, I can get behind this. Personally, I think its convenience promotes better hydration. Stopping for water is typically a chore—GRAYL effectively eliminates that “task” element. It’s even got enough flexibility to work as the primary water treatment system for groups as large as three, though I wouldn’t recommend it.

As a water filter for adventure travel, this is an easy pick. Car camping, backpacking in South America, touring Asia, GRAYL filters would make great companions for any of these.

Where the Ultralight Purifier [+Filter] Bottle really comes into its own, is in disaster and preparedness scenarios. While all water treatment systems are valuable in an emergency kit, I can’t think of an easier, more accessible way to treat water. I think that’s where GRAYL has really succeeded with this product—it’s the accessibility to clean water that makes this stand out. Fill. Press. Drink.

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Taking a bottle for the road. Photo by Will Kammin.

Disclaimer: GRAYL gave me this product in exchange for my review.

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