The Holy Grayl

Yes you read that right, Grayl with a “y”. I’ll explain that all in a moment but first let me say, this is not a sponsored post. That said, if Grayl wants to send us free replacement cartridges, we’ll accept with open arms but for now, any of the product reviews or comparisons given below are unpaid.

Right, what is Grayl? It’s the mother of all water bottles; a military-grade device that can both filter and purify any water source. If you’re desperate, this water bottle can even filter your own urine. Hopefully, that won’t be necessary but good to know there’s a portable device with that level of filtration. So, why is this so important? At last count, there are only 28 countries in the world (some sources say 50) that have safe tap water. [If you’re interested in going down that rabbit hole, check out this graphic showing how safe drinking water is country by country.] A good number of places we’ll be visiting in Asia and Africa have tainted water supplies and as any traveller knows, drinking contaminated water is one of the easiest ways to get sick. We will do anything we can to prevent this including, as it turns out, spending a lot of money.

Finding the Holy Grayl

When I began the search for water bottles, I hadn’t really given the design much thought beyond finding something that was leak proof, light enough to carry long distances and easy enough to hold with one hand. [You’d be surprised how many bottles require a two hand grip.] Insulation was also key and it had to fit into the side pockets of our backpack. What about a price? To be honest, it wasn’t really something I was thinking about, I mean it’s a water bottle, how expensive can it be? Turns out, very.

The Grayl is considered the best filtration water bottle on the market and so it’s probably not surprising that it also comes with a price tag to match. How did I find the holiest of holies? See rabbit hole above. One link after another reviewing design, durability, capacity and of course, filtration capability. If we’re not hiking every day, do we really need something so sophisticated (and expensive!)? It’s legitimate question but one I answer like this: if we’re only going to get one bottle, it may as well be multi-purpose i.e. suitable for all settings. The good thing about the Grayl is that you don’t have to use the in-built filter system if clean water is available, the bottle can act as a standalone receptacle. In other words, you don’t have to waste the filter unless you really need it.

The good thing about the Grayl is that you don’t have to use the in-built filter system if clean water is available, the bottle can act as a standalone receptacle.

Is it worth it?

Between them, my children have lost about eleventy thousand water bottles over the years. With that in mind, my plan wasn’t to spend too much knowing whatever I bought would eventually end up where all water bottles go, some purgatorial space no one knows much about except that it’s where lunchboxes and goggles also reside. So, why then would I then go ahead and spend US$90 per bottle? Short answer, fear. If we’re going to travel to places where there isn’t clean drinking water, I have to have a solution. Yes, there’s always bottled water but then you hear horror stories of bottle tops being re-glued and clean water being replaced with tap second time around and quite frankly, it’s just not worth the risk. Plus, there’s also the environmental consideration; why buy bottled water when there are other safe solutions out there?

How holy is the Grayl?

According to their website, the Grayl can make clean drinking water anywhere on earth. It doesn’t just filter, it purifies too and all in an astonishing eight seconds. What does it filter? Glad you asked. It not only removes waterborne pathogens (viruses, bacteria and protozoa), it filters many chemicals (including PFAS and VOCs), pesticides, herbicides, heavy metals, flavours and odours. If you’re thinking, that’s a lot of invisible danger in a basic resource you’re absolutely right. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), diarrhoeal disease (caused by contaminated water) is the eighth-highest cause of death globally, but back to our original programming.

The Grayl works by filling the bottle with water and then inserting an inner cartridge that filters and purifies the water when depressed. As I said, the whole thing happens in less than ten seconds. I can’t imagine when that kind of timing would be important but again, good to know that clean, fresh water is just seconds away. In terms of usage, you’re looking at 300 cycles or 150 litres. Replacement cartridges cost about US$25.

What about other brands?

Sure, there are others out there, hundreds, thousands even. If you’re a hiker, there are some great comparison guides online including this one. Another “best bottles of 2023” list is here. There’s a range of to choose from including both filtered and non-filtered water bottles. If the Grayl is too expensive for your budget, there’s also LifeStraw, Waatr CrazyCap, Sawyer, Brita and CamelBak, all very reputable alternatives. That said, they don’t have all the features of the Grayl. If you’re travelling, my strong suggestion is to buy a filtered option. The best ones will set you back around US$50-$100 which is a lot of money especially when it’s probably going to be lost, but it’s still a darn side cheaper than a medical bill. Hopefully, we won’t have to find out.