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How Water Purifiers Work: Your Guide to Outdoor Water Purifiers

June 23, 2022

When you know how water purifiers work, you have the upper hand.

The tricky part of outdoor adventures is getting a reliable drinking water source. Crystal ‘clear’ water may look tempting, but it does not mean it is ‘clean’.

You cannot even tell from tasting a little amount—let alone smelling—whether the water is safe to drink. Chances are, the water could be contaminated with harmful bacteria and viruses.

This is where water purifiers come in. A good water purifier can ensure that your drinking water is of good quality, without you needing to carry a lot of water with you.

Here, we offer guidance on outdoor water purifiers and how they work. An overview of treatment methods is also provided.

The Importance of Water Treatment

Not everyone has access to clean and safe drinking water. While it is a fundamental right, globally ‘771 million people still lacked even a basic level of [water] service’ in 2020, as per Unicef. Thus, having a safe and readily available source is a privilege.

With technological advancement, water filtration and purification can help support access to clean water. Unfortunately, not for free.

Water purification products also make sense from a financial stance, meeting the need for potable sources. If you have the means, one makes a worthwhile investment, whether for home or outdoor use.

Purification techniques are often applied during outdoor adventures through portable units.

It is easy to assume water is clean when it is clear, but it may harbour harmful bacteria and viruses. Hence why water treatment is important to maintaining your health in the outdoors.

Given this situation, a wide range of water treatment systems are on the market. Each has its own perks and quirks, but to maximise their use, it is important to know how water purifiers work—generally.

But before that, let us define what water filtration and water purification are.

Water Filtration and Water Purification

You may see your hand clearly underneath the water, but it does not mean it is sterile. Fortunately, water filtration and purification techniques can provide a cleaner water source.

When talking about water treatment, there are two main classifications. But are there any differences?

  • Filters – Filter out most waterborne bacteria and parasites
  • Purifiers – Removes most waterborne bacteria and parasites, as well as viruses

Water filters work by blocking the passage of particles, anything larger than 2 microns.

While purifiers also feature filtration, they often use techniques like UV light or ultra-filtration to offer a higher level of defence. Purifiers generally give better protection against viruses, which have smaller particles than bacteria and parasites.

The process

Water is a solvent, and it can dissolve other substances, such as detergent, when mixed with it. Amazing as it may sound, this trait can also affect its quality.

Take your home’s tap, for example. How long a trip do you think the water takes before it reaches it?

Before it makes it to your glass, the tap water has been diverted from natural sources. It may have started in a reservoir, then gone to a treatment centre where it was processed. All before being distributed to your home.

Throughout its journey, your water can absorb dirt, chemicals and other contaminants. This can lead to bad taste, unpleasant odour, or a cloudy appearance.

Depending on your location, and the condition of the water supply infrastructure, your water quality can vary. Thankfully, water quality standards in Australia mean the water from your taps generally need little more than some basic filtration.

But when collecting water from outdoor sources, like rivers and lakes, you must consider the potential of contamination. Such contamination can lead to unpleasant health consequences. But the process of water filtration and purification solves this problem.

Water purifier units may cost you upfront, but see how beneficial they are in time?

How Water Purifiers Work?

Every filter and most purifiers come with an internal element or cartridge. A cartridge features microscopic pores that catch debris, protozoa and bacteria.

Over time, strained matter louses up an element’s pores. This requires it to be cleaned and eventually replaced.

Purifiers often use chemicals like iodine or chlorine to kill viruses. Another method is to use UV light to treat pathogens.

Moreover, both can also include activated carbon in their construction. It is a component that is effective at removing unpleasant tastes. Activated carbon also helps reduce contaminants, such as pesticides and industrial chemicals.


Various factors can murk up your water in different ways. This includes silty water, leaf debris, mud rain, and glacial sediment.

Natural particles, though not a health concern, also impact how easy water is to treat. Plus, how much field maintenance is required and the lifespan of filter elements.

An effective way to deal with these is to use a prefilter. A prefilter removes large particles from the water to improve the treatment process.

Many models, especially with pumps, come with a prefilter. Others are sold separately. Either way, having this accessory can offer great advantages, such as:

  • Maintaining the flow rate of a pump filter, less maintenance and extend its lifespan.
  • Helps improves the effectiveness of chemical treatments.
  • It comes in handy (and absolutely is a must-have) before using a UV purifier on nonclear water.

But Which One Do I Need?

Now we are down to one question: which water treatment do you need for outdoor activities?

In remote areas, the water high up in the mountains is less likely to be contaminated. So, should you worry about the viruses in the water or not? (Another great question!)

Generally, protozoa and bacteria infect and affect humans and animals. They are transmitted through water sources by waste. When both drink from this source, they’ll get infected with the contaminants.

As a rule of thumb, if you are going to a remote area with a few people around, use filtration. There, the biggest problem is usually the water containing silt and debris and bacteria – not so much viruses.

Travelling in less developed countries with poor sanitation is another thing. Chances are, the tap water is contaminated with viruses. Thus, water purification is recommended.

Now, for areas where human waste is present, such as a camping spot near a stream or river, water needs both filtration and purification.

Get Your Outdoor Water Purifier Here!

There are different types of water purifiers available on the market. From pump, gravity and ultraviolet (UV) to bottle and straw styles, just to name a few!

Each water treatment method serves different purposes. But if you are looking for a pump unit, check our offer below:


Renogy Outdoor Water Purifier

Renogy Outdoor Water Purifier

Product code: JWP-005

This unit from Renogy allows you to filter water directly from any source for contaminant-free drinking water. It filters particles and microorganisms down to a nominal 0.1-micron level.

Plus, it has a capacity of up to 792 gallons with a flow rate of 600 ml per minute. A great choice for backcountry trekking and emergency preparedness.

This tactical water micro-filter is an essential item if you enjoy hiking or camping.

How Water Purifiers Work: The Bottom Line

Not all water sources are safe, particularly the ones from outdoors. Even the most pristine-looking source can make you sick.

It could contain bacteria, parasites and protozoa. These can cause nausea, diarrhoea, loss of appetite, fatigue and vomiting.

Simply put, the consequences of drinking untreated water can be severe. Thus, it becomes even more important for us to be aware of purification techniques.

When you know how water purifiers work, you can always have the safest way to treat water for drinking. Whether you are indoors or out for an adventure.

Invest in one, especially if you have the means, so you won’t have to put your health at risk anymore.

© Wiltronics Research Pty Ltd 2022

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