If you go on a multi-day hike, having a bunch of water purification tablets can be a real livesaver. Literally. But which to pick? We drank nothing but tablet-purified water for 5 days to find out which brand of water purification tablets really worked best. In the end, we found Katadyn Micropur MP1 to be the brand to choose. It has a decent taste, fights cryptosporidia, and the smell doesn’t burn your intestines. We reviewed 7 of the biggest brands of water purification tablets for your multi day hiking or camping trip, read the article for details!
Disclaimer: This article has some referral links, but only for products we recommend. Unlike some of these other “review” sites, we only link to an Amazon product if we can recommend the product honestly. Thats why you won’t find links for the lower score tablets here!
It was a long road to figure out that Katadyn Micropur MP1 was the right choice.
After hearing stories about fatal hit with dysentery from other hikers while on a multiday hike some years ago, I made a promise to myself: Always make sure to keep my water clean. This is why I take water purification tablets with me when I go backpacking.
- There are a wide variety of water purification tablets on the market, many more than there were in the 1800s.
But which brand tastes the best?
- Which one kills cryptosporidium? If the tablets did not kill them, we deducted a full point on the score.
- Which one gives best bang for the buck?
Top Performer: Katadyn Micropur MP1 – Review Score: 4.5/5
I’ll be honest with you. I was actually going to give this award to the Aquatabs, because of their taste and ease of use.
But the best water treatment tablet should kill all microorganisms, including Cryptosporidium. Functionality comes before taste. That’s what these tablets do, while the Aquatabs only kill bacteria and viruses.
For this reason, the Katadyn Micropur MP1 received our top pick award.
The Katadyn Micropur MP1 tablets have the best taste of any crypto-fighting tablets and come in a durable package that is still relatively easy to open. The water purified with these tablets did not irritate my skin or throat at all, but I should know that I have been using the tablets for a few years now. Irritation and side effects are different for each person. Also, these tablets are quite inexpensive in comparison, which is also a plus for this option.
Close second: Potable Aqua Chlorine Dioxide Water purification tablets – Review Score: 4/5
Consider the Potable Aqua Chlorine Dioxide tablets to be your average, safe water purification tablets. They are not too strong in smell or taste, and the packaging is quite durable.
This brand is very similar to Katadyn, except for one small thing: the water purified with these tablets caused my throat to scratch.
Granted, this was the first tablet I tried for an entire day. It is possible that my body was just getting used to absorbing chlorine back into my diet. However, you should know that the result between these tablets and the Katadyn Micropur MP1 tablets was so close that this one side effect was the deciding factor in my choosing these tablets for second place and not first.
Best tasting Water: Potable Aqua with PA+Plus – Review Score: 3/5 (Don’t kill Cryptosporidium)
After a few days of chugging chemicals, I was curious to see what this two-part powerhouse was capable of.
I inserted the iodine tablet and let it do its work. Even before I put in the second tablet – whose sole purpose is to neutralize the iodine aftertaste and color in the water – I smelled and tasted the treated water.
It smelled like water. It even tasted like water! I was impressed that the chemical taste was almost non-existent.
Then I put in the neutralizing tablets. I’m not sure how much of a difference it made, but I was already satisfied. The water treated with these tablets was the best tasting water I drank all week, and it didn’t cause any irritation.
Note: Potable Aqua sells its iodine tablets with or without PA+Plus. PA+Plus tablets are neutralizing tablets for use after water treatment with Potable Aqua. They neutralize the iodine aftertaste and color in the water. If you do not want the PA+Plus tablets, you can buy only the Potable Aqua tablets.
NOTE: Despite their convenience, Potable Aqua with PA+Plus do not kill Cryptosporidium, a protozoan known to occur in North America.
Best value for money: Aquatabs water purification tablets – Review Score: 3/5 (Don’t kill Cryptosporidium)
Although Aquatabs don’t work against Cryptosporidium, they would probably keep you still safe in other conditions.
I was impressed with the price/performance ratio of these products. We found them fairly inexpensive on the internet.
The taste is good while the smell is only slightly chemical. These tablets are lightweight and don’t take too long to clean the water – only 40 minutes.
The only problem with the Aquatabs is that the packaging is not very durable. This was the only brand that failed the shelf life test. The tablets simply crumbled into dust. But then again, the packaging is easy to open, which I can’t say for all the tablets tested.
NOTE: Despite their convenience, Aquatabs do not kill Cryptosporidium, a protozoan known to occur in North America.
Worst taste: Aquamira Water Purification Tablets – Review Score: 2.5/5
The Aquamira Water Purification Tablets, like all other crypto-fighting tablets, take four hours to purify the water.
I had heard this stuff was extremely potent, so out of curiosity, I took a big sip of the Aquamira-purified water around the 2-hour purification mark.
It tasted so bad i had to check the dosage, but it was dosed correct.
After the cleaning process was complete 2 hours later, the water no longer smelled like pure bleach, but it was still the strongest smelling of the products. The taste was subtle, but chemical. My lips tingled off and on throughout the day, but that can’t be related to these tablets (I eat a lot of jalapeños).
I found it interesting that the Aquamira tablets were so strong, because prior to this project, my preferred water purification method was Aquamira two-ingredient water purification drops.
NO amazon link here, cannot recommend them!
Bad aftertaste: Coleman Potable Aqua with PA Plus Chemical Water Treatment Treats – Review Score: 2/5 (Don’t kill Cryptosporidium)
With most households and individuals keeping a stash of these water treatment treats. One of the popular choices today is the Coleman water treatment treats. You will find this product unique because each order comes with two bottles. One with a white cap is responsible for removing Giardia, cysts, and other microorganisms found in water. The second bottle, which is the PA plus, comes with a yellow cap and is tasked with removing the color and taste of Iodine in the filtered water. These actually remove bacteria, viruses, cryptosporidium, and Giardia.
Note that you don’t use both tablets at the same time. You’d need to have your water purified first using the tablet from the white-capped bottle and then afterward use the second tablet from the yellow capped bottle. Each container would have 50 tablets each.
Coleman water purification tablets work like the others, but we didn’t like the aftertaste..
NOTE: Coleman Potable Aqua with PA+Plus do not kill Cryptosporidium, a protozoan known to occur in North America.
NO amazon link here, cannot recommend them!
How to choose the best water purification tablets for your needs.
Aside from finding water purification tablets that “just work”, here are the important specifications you should consider before buying.
How to choose the best water purification tablets for your needs.
Time to prepare/ease of preparation.
Are you someone who always forgets to do things on a schedule? If so, a 4-hour wait is probably not ideal. Opt for the Aquatabs or the Potable Aqua with PA+Plus. Both will clean your water in less than an hour.
Weight is, of course, a crucial factor in any backpacking gear. Backpacks from all the brands we tested weigh less than an ounce, but some are more durable than others.
If you want to make your backpack as light as possible, opt for Potable Aqua tablets. They were the lightest tablets we tested.
If you prefer a more durable package, both the Potable Aqua Chlorine Dioxide tablets and the Aquamira tablets are extremely difficult to open without a camping or backpacking knife, but the tablets remain intact.
Taste & Smell
How much chemical taste and odor can you tolerate in your water?
If you are very sensitive, we recommend Potable Aqua with PA+Plus because the PA+Plus tablets neutralize the iodine aftertaste and color in the water.
Or if you like a strong chemical smell that gives you 100% assurance that any living organism that once lived in your water is certainly dead, Aquamira water purification tablets are for you.
Microorganisms the tablets are effective against
All of the water purification tablets we tested kill viruses and bacteria when used properly. However, not all of them kill Cryptosporidium.
Be sure to choose a brand that will kill any microorganisms you might encounter on your trip to the backcountry. We’ve indicated which of the brands we tested are effective against Cryptosporidium in the table at the beginning of this article.
Alternatives to water purification tablets
Here are two alternative ways to purify water:
Using a backpacking water filter. In our experience, this is the most popular method used by hikers and backpackers.
By boiling water on a camp stove or backpacking stove. It’s good to have the necessary accessories to boil water with you in case your primary water filtration method fails. Our testers like to carry an ultralight backpacking lighter to light the stove. We also know some backpackers who like to carry fire sticks to start a fire.
How we tested the water purification tablets
How we tested the 7 brands of water purification tablets.
Our testing procedure was in three parts.
1) Taste test
First, we wanted to test the actual taste of the purified water. To do this, we drank purified water with each tablet. Then, we rated the waters on how strongly they smelled of chemicals and how much the taste reminded us of water from a public swimming pool.
Taste test with water purification tablets
2) Side effect test
Second, we wanted to make sure there were no side effects from using each brand consistently. For five days, we drank only water purified with these tablets – whether it came from streams, rivers, or strange-looking park taps.
Each day, we focused on a different brand and then measured how we felt throughout the day. Did anyone have a sore throat? Did anyone have an eye irritation or worst case scenario, a chemical burn?
3) Packaging test
Finally, we evaluated each brand by its packaging. We threw each tablet package on the bottom of backpacks and suitcases, stepped on them, and so on. If the tablet exploded into a powder, it lost points.
While durability was important here, we measured the opposite in the next part of the test. How easy are the packages to open? Do I need a knife (because if so, that’s a real shame because I don’t always have one of those with me) or are my teeth enough?
Regardless of how well the tablet performed in terms of taste, smell, and packaging we downgraded the final score for each tablet that was not effective against Cryptosporidium. We hope that in this way we can create additional awareness of this health-threatening species.
All products tested are certified to meet the EPA’s microbiological testing standards for water treatment. We’re not working out of a lab here, so we’ve just had to trust that when these things are on the market, they’re not going to kill us