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Review: GRAYL's Ultralight Purifier Bottle

I believe that the first trickle of sweat down your back on a hike is extremely satisfying. For me, it is an affirmation that I have made it out of my climate-controlled, florescent-lit office and out into nature. It confirms that I have managed to escape my desk and I am now pumping my legs, breathing hard and moving through the wilderness. I will be the first to admit though, it loses some of its significance when you feel that first bead of sweat, look over your shoulder and see your car at the trailhead 800 meters behind you.

My increasingly administrative position (reading stuck behind a desk until my sitting parts go numb)  at Immersion Travel Magazine may be a contributor to my recent lack of stamina, but there was no doubt in my mind who the real culprit was: my backpack. Often weighing in excess of 20 pounds, the bag carried my assortment of camera gear, survival kit, snacks and other equipment a traveling photog carries. While my water bottle was not the first on my list of things to replace with a lighter alternative; as fate would have it, an email about Grayl’s newest product found me before I could search for space-age cameras.

You may remember our previous review of GRAYL’s Legend bottle with travel filter and tap filter. We were wowed by all those products, so naturally, we jumped at the opportunity to test out their newest product, the Ultralight water bottle. This bright orange bottle is radically different in its construction, but it uses the same proven filters and french-press system.

After learning from their travel audience that the typical stainless steel bottles were too heavy to carry around, GRAYL made a move to invest in lightweight plastics to create a completely different experience. The new Ultralight bottle weighs 10.9 ounces compared to the Legend, which weighs in at 20.75 ounces. A little over a half-pound may not sound like a lot, but if you are backpacking or, in my case, hauling a bag full of cameras, every ounce counts.

To test it in the field, I loaded up my wildlife photography kit, roughly 18 pounds of gear, and headed into the San Mateo Wilderness Area near Temecula, California. There, the Bluewater and Lucas Canyon trails run along a stream, a source of water to test the bottle as well as a boon for wildlife photography. While the wildlife was quiet that day, the hike turned out to be spectacular and challenging, involving rock hopping and moving through thick brush to make headway along the unmaintained and rarely traveled trail back into Lucas Canyon.

While we didn't see much wildlife there, the San Mateo Wilderness is a rare rough and tumble region amidst the megalopolis of Southern California. The un-maintained trails make it perfect for testing camping and hiking gear.

During this hike the Ultralight took a few knocks and was even pulled out of my bag by a handsy tree. Despite being made of lightweight plastic, the bottle showed no signs of scratches or damage.

Since the filter system is the same in the Ultralight as it is in the Legend, I didn’t feel the need to put it through the ringer, like we did the last review. I also used it constantly over the previous three week period without issue, both in the backcountry and at the office tap (not sure which was more threatening). Needless to say, I trusted it to filter the water from the stream.

My Ultralight is bright orange, but it will be available in black as well. It came with the loop top, but it also has screw threads to secure it to the bottle, rather than the Legend’s twist lock system. I prefer the Ultralight style because of its simplicity and convenience, which we all know comes in handy when outdoors or on the road.

The Ultralight bottle is made in GRAYL’s facility in China, which has been vetted for ethical operations via third-party auditing. It currently is not available on GRAYL’s store, but if you want to get your hands on one soon, they are running a kickstarter campaign for the bottle. A pledge of $49 or more will net you an Ultralight bottle and travel filter, normally valued at $60 plus shipping.

February 18, 2016

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