Travel Essentials Series #5: Avoiding Plastic Water Bottles and Treating Tap Water for Drinking

How do you avoid the dreaded plastic water bottle while traveling? 

The answer to this becomes much more complicated than simply using your own reusable water bottle, especially when you travel to countries where the tap water is unsafe for drinking. 

It's not so simple, but incredibly important!  

pile of plastic trash near the beach in Sri Lanka

When we chose to try to do everything in our power to reduce the amount of waste we produce along our journey, we knew that avoiding plastic water bottles could present a real struggle while in Bali and Sri Lanka where the tap water is unsafe for drinking.  We also knew that the infrastructure for proper recycling in these places was going to be questionable, so we had to assume that if we used plastic water bottles it could mean they would end up in the ocean, the atmosphere (through burning) or the landfill if we weren't diligent.  We really wanted to avoid leaving a trail of water bottles behind us, as many travelers unwittingly do. 

How could we manage to stay hydrated and use water for our daily needs while minimizing our waste while staying safe from illness? 

photo of water treatment options store display

After doing some research through the good ol' World Wide Web, we knew that we wanted to not only filter out bacteria, but also viruses.  I found this awesome review of the Best Backpacking Water Filters from Clever Hiker.  Of course, we wouldn't be doing any backpacking (our kids can barely walk a mile without whining and stomping their feet), but it gave some excellent guidance as far as weight, usability, and effectiveness were concerned.  We limited it down to chemical treatments and the two below. We ended up ruling out chemical treatments due to the long wait time for treatment to be complete (as well as poor taste).   


The two most feasible options we came up with were:

  • Portable UV Water Purifier...but which one???  They are expensive and there are so many to choose from!
  • Grayl Ultralight Water Filter and Purifier Bottle....but where could we get one in Australia??!!  

We ended up going with the Pure+ Ultraviolet Water Purifier SteriPEN.

Like most things in life, it came down to what was available that met our basic criteria and this was it.  So the decision was pretty much made for us!

This is from the packaging:

"For over 100 years, cities around the world have used ultraviolet light (UV) to make water safe to drink.  UV light destroys germs' ability to reproduce and make you sick.  Pure+TM destroys over 99.9% of bacteria, viruses, and protozoa.  "

It is reusable for up to 2,500 liters and has a USB charger (to avoid using batteries!).

We forked over $136 AD for this baby, but figured it would be worth every penny if we didn't get sick AND managed to not toss any plastic water bottles into the great abyss while traveling in Indonesia and Sri Lanka for 2 1/2 months.  

We have now traveled in Bali for 6 weeks and Sri Lanka for 2 weeks using our UV water purifier and I am proud to say that we have only used one plastic water bottle (after our daughter got car sick while on a tour...yikes) and none of us has been sick!  Knock on wood that our remaining time here in Sri Lanka continues just as smoothly!

How does it taste?  Well, I wish I could say that it tastes amazing, but unfortunately it doesn't do anything to make it taste any better than questionable tap water.  You get used to it.   But if taste is a big concern, I would highly recommend trying out the Grayl filter as the reviews on taste are pretty solid and I think we would have gone this way had we been able to find one in Australia.

One amazing side effect of using this filter to treat our water has been a new-found respect our daughters have for our tap water back home.  Instead of hearing them talk about how much they miss their toys or other comforts, my 10 year old has said many times, "Mom, I can't wait to get back to our tap water!"

**This post contains no affiliate links....just our opinions! 

how to treat unsafe drinking water while traveling