The Camelbak All Clear

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Children float in the Nile on rafts made of discarded water bottles.

This post is going to be a bit out of the ordinary from what I usually write about, but I am trying to cover all things about travel in South Sudan. The items I use while over there are definitely part of that. Being that I’ve had products that have failed and ones that I’ve been very happy with while traveling, I like to pass on the information when something works well.

Whenever I travel in South Sudan, clean water is a problem. You can’t just simply drink out of the tap. For one reason, there frequently is no tap, and if there is, you definitely don’t want to drink directly from it. On all previous trips, I’ve drank nothing but bottled water. There are three main problems though. The first is that it’s easy to end up spending a large amount on nothing but bottled water.  The second problem is waste. I look around, and Africa is littered with discarded plastic bottles. The smell of burning garbage that is so prevalent in Africa is due in large part to burning plastic bottles. The third thing that has come to my attention is that in some places now, the bottled water you’re sold is not actually purified water. They just find a clear looking source, bottle it, and voila, instant dysentery starter kit.

I decided this time to bring a Camelbak All Clear with me, which is a water bottle with a high power ultraviolet lamp in the top of it. It doesn’t filter the water, but rather sterilizes it (so I understand), making it drinkable. If you have a source of clear water that you suspect is full of nasties, you turn the lamp on, and it counts down for 60 seconds while you agitate it, after which, the water is supposed to be safe to drink. I was apprehensive about trying it, being that I was going to be out in the middle of nowhere for a good week, during which time stomach sickness would have been a real problem. In fact, for the first day or two, I went ahead and bought bottled water. But in my wife’s words in a conversation on the sat phone, she said; “You spent the money for it, you may as well use it.”  I’m not sure if she was trying to kill me, but I took her advice.

For five days I drank water that was sourced out of the Nile, which if you’ve ever been there, is not exactly Culligan. I still didn’t entirely trust the Camelbak, so I ran the UV cycle twice each time. Nevertheless, I had no stomach problems the entire time in South Sudan. In fact, I was the only one on my team that didn’t, but I suspect theirs came from medication rather than from the water. So having put it through that test, it is definitely something I would use again, not only traveling overseas, but also on backpacking trips and such. You’re supposed to get about 80 uv cycles out of each charge, and it charges by usb connection, so it’s good for at least a week of use. I hope this was helpful for anyone wondering.

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