Thursday, October 27, 2016

GRAYL Ultralight Water Purifier - a review by Terry Craig, The Disabled Hiker

If you would ask my wife, she would probably tell you that I have three
hiking gear obsessions that at least equal her obsession with purses and shoes. Inner-marital battles aside, she may have a point.

The first would be sleeping bags. (One for every 30° in temperature rating between 70° and -20°F.) 

The second would be tents. (lightweight and inexpensive, I have 4 total.)

And last would be water filters/purifiers. All featuring different levels of filtration and/or purification to the water. All totaled between water purification tablets, filter bottles, and pump filters I have seven different methods and levels of water treatment at my disposal.

All of these items were accumulated over what seems like a lifetime of hiking experiences. But I don't think of any of these items as simply "extra equipment. Over time, I've learned how to dial in the specific equipment I wish to carry with me on any particular hike depending on the particulars of the environment I will be passing through and the conditions I will find there. And why should water purification be any different? 

 Interestingly enough, unlike sleeping bags and tents that have lasted me 30 years or more, when it comes to water filters/purifiers, this is simply not the case. It became apparent to me early on that all water treatment devices were only as good as your ability to get filter inserts or cartridges for them. And once that ability was gone it became even more disappointing to have to throw out the whole device simply because they stopped making filter inserts and cartridges for them. This led to an early revelation that spending huge amounts of money on water purification was just unsound economically.

Understandably, it would be hard to expect any company to keep making a product for 30 years without change or modification. And what lies
beyond this need for modification is the fact that water filters and purifiers have significantly improved over the last 30 years. And the GRAYL Ultralight Water Purifier stands as the latest testament to these improvements.
Removing 99.9999% of viruses, (e.g. Rotavirus, Norovirus, Hepatitis A, ...)
99.9999% of bacteria, (e.g. E. coli, Salmonella, Cholera, Shigella, ...)
99.9999% of protozoan cysts, (e.g. Giardia, Cryptosporidium, Amoebae,) 

NOTE: The GRAYL Ultralight Water Purifier does not classify as a water desalination device. 

The GRAYL Ultralight steps beyond the normal ability's of water filters by also removing particulates like sediment and salt as well as many chemicals like chlorine and iodine. And then, as if that wasn't enough, it also removes heavy metals like lead and arsenic too.

When totaling all the facts, the GRAYL Ultralight Water Purifier not only far surpasses the capabilities of any of the drinking bottle type water treatment devices I've used in the past, but it is quite possibly the most thorough water purification system I've ever used... Period.

Because of my physical issues, the first time I used the GRAYL Ultralight in the field I found myself a bit concerned on a couple fronts. First, that I would not be able to find a level enough surface to operate the GRAYL's press, yet be close enough to the water that I wasn't continually getting up and moving between two separate areas either. And second, that like all the other pump handle, piston pump, and squeeze bottle filter/purifiers out there, I would almost certainly end up having to put an arthritic pain warning on the GRAYL Ultralight Water Purifier as well. But as you all know, I'm not the type to give up that easily and I soon found myself devising a plan to create the perfect work-around.

Using the GRAYL Ultralight on a number of rocky and uneven surfaces quickly put the first of these concerns to bed as I intentionally use the press on a wide variety of different surfaces. Even still, this ultralight water purifier seemed remarkably stable despite my prior concerns. But I knew the hand pain warning was going to be a bit more of an obstacle to overcome.

However, unlike other water treatment products in the past, I soon found a great DIY fix for using the GRAYL Ultralight Water Purifier in spite of one's arthritis and other painful conditions that affect dexterity and cause pain that makes using the hands difficult.
Note: you may want to get a little help with this DIY project for making the GRAYL Ultralight Water Purifier even more user-friendly than it already is.

I had a great summer testing out the GRAYL Ultralight Water Purifier and putting it through its paces. And no matter whether I was filtering from a pristine mountain spring, or from the edge of a beaver pond, I got the same results. i.e. clean ... safe drinking water.

Take a look at what I found out.


TDH Note: GRAYL Ultralight Water Purifier
manufacturer; GRAYL inc.

* Pack weight – 11.25 oz. total. 
* Pack size –  2.7/8 in. wide (cylindrical) X 9.5/8 hi
* Max. capacity – 16 fluid ounces

1. Initial appearance & impressions upon delivery. Handsome packaging. I really loved all the information on the outside of the box. This information answered nearly every in-store question I had about the filter. I like to approach the opening of a product upon delivery as if I had just stumbled across the product in my favorite hiking store. It's all there... from how the filter works, to exact specifications and all that can be expected from the GRAYL Ultralight Water Purifier. Should I have come across the GRAYL as an in-store purchase, I feel I would be very confident in the purchase and what I was getting with this particular ultralight water purifier.
2. Comparative price – $59.50 + S&H

3. How easy is the product to set up and use? –
* The GRAYL Ultralight comes pre-assembled and ready to use. But it is highly recommended by the manufacturer to filter two presses (one liter) of water through the press to flush any loose particles from the carbon filter before taking your first drink. Of course this flushing process is typical of most (if not all) filters that use activated carbon within the filter core, and the process need only be repeated when replacing the core itself.
* Separating the two working halves of the GRAYL can be a bit difficult. Especially for those who are having physical problems in their hands, fingers, and wrists.
(Note: This does get easier once the parts are moistened, but this is definitely something to be considered for those who are living with these conditions.)
* The manufacturer suggests the following tip for separating the outer (dirty water) cup from the press & inner (clean water) cup.
A. Sit on a camp stool, chair, or rock) with your feet flat on the ground.
B. Remove the lid in place the GRAYL Ultralight on the ground between your two feet.
C. Use the inside of the soles of your shoes to grab the lower edge of the outer cup
D. Grip the rubber ring towards the top of the press with one or two hands.
E. Pull upwards in a slow and smooth motion.

4. Product Pros –
* What impressed me right off was the GRAYL water purification system’s ability to filter out such a wide variety of contaminants. Everything from particulates, protozoan cysts, viruses and bacteria such as Giardia or Cryptosporidium ... to chemicals and heavy metals.
Sadly, due to the ecological damage to our nation's waterways, having a water purification system with you such as the GRAYL is what I would call 'peace of mind’.
* Considering the wide range of contaminants this ultralight water purification system can eliminate, I truly would feel confident taking this water filter with me into a wide range of emergency/disaster situations as well. In areas where flood damage has occurred, it could take months to

restore public utilities such as the water and sewage system. Having a water purifier on hand such as the GRAYL Ultralight would literally be a lifesaver in such an emergency situation. And as you can imagine, even more so for the physically handicapped/disabled whose mobility will be even more restricted in such an environment. 
* Equally impressive, was the speed at which the GRAYL Ultralight filtered 16 ounces of water. Although my physical condition pushed me slightly past the 15 seconds that was listed on the box, I was still extremely impressed with its flow rate. With little more effort than my own body weight provided, the GRAYL Ultralight Water Purifier powered through 16 oz of water in just under 20 seconds. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that even though I needed to back off a bit on the pressure I was applying, the purifier continued to transfer the water at a good rate of speed relative to that pressure.
* Although the instructions that came with the GRAYL Ultralight Water Purifier recommend replacing the purifier cartridge on a yearly basis, further testing by the manufacturer has revealed that the purifier cartridge can last up to three years when thoroughly dried and stored properly between uses.

5. Product Cons – 
* Unfortunately, there is no way to back flush this filter should it become clogged by debris. Therefore I would recommend using a bandanna or other piece of cloth as a pre-filter when filling the bottle. This should be sufficient to keep out any additional and unwanted debris from clogging the purifier cartridge. On longer hikes, (more than 7 days) I would suggest purchasing and carrying an additional purifier cartridge with you.

Additional purifier cartridges for the GRAYL Ultralight Water Purifier are available online @ {GRAYL Replacement Purifier Cartridge }

6. Possible medical concerns –
* I must admit, I was a bit skeptical at first about how the GRAYL Ultralight Water Purifier worked. From the perspective of a person living with physical disability, my points of concern were that the amount of downward force needed, combined with the stability of the user, might cause the filter to slip out from under the user as they leaned over the filter to push downward. This could of course cause injury to the user. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that the GRAYL felt very stable as I used it on a variety of uneven gravel, rocky and sandy surfaces.
* Sadly, those living with arthritis in the fingers, hands, and other areas associated with the physical requirements of using this water filter, may find their condition severely limits their ability to use the GRAYL Ultralight Water Purifier. Certainly to some degree, the use of two jar lid grippers (flat pieces of rubber used for opening jars) could possibly minimize this difficulty.
(Note: Click Here, to check out the cool DIY project on how to make an Easy Pull Handel that will help make using the GRAYL easier. )
* Other suggestions on how to make the GRAYL Ultralight Water Purifier easier to use can be found in section 8 of this review listed below.

7. Medical benefits of the product-
* As an adaptive hiker, physical pain is all part of the journey. And that's regardless of whether you're out on the trails, or safe at home in bed. However, I've run into a strange phenomenon over the years of dealing with constant chronic intractable pain. When in the wilderness, any and all "extra pain" is magnified by 10. This of course makes me a very cautious hiker that takes water filtration very seriously. And as mentioned before in #4 (product pros) ... the wide range of contaminants that the GRAYL Ultralight Water Purifier removes makes this filter particularly useful in a wilderness setting. Especially when you don't always know what's upstream.

8. Clinical Observations and Suggestions –
I truly enjoyed using the GRAYL Ultralight Water Purifier. Especially on day hikes when I really wasn't feeling up to carrying a lot of water. Carrying the GRAYL I was able to simply rely on the water sources I came across as I went. Even when some of them didn't look all that appetizing to my thirst. However, when forced to use more questionable water sources I found that my bandanna or even my T-shirt made a perfect pre-filter that helped to keep larger debris out of the filter core ... if not also to give me a false sense of security as well.

At this time in the review I try to offer some kind of insight as to how to make the product more adaptive hiker friendly. And in spite of the usual arthritis/hand pain issues associated with nearly all water filters, I found the GRAYL Ultralight to be a very thorough and well thought out product. And when experimenting with the arthritis/hand and wrist pain issue, I couldn't help wondering that if there was a textured surface around the bottom of the bottle, it might enhance the manufacturer’s suggested method of separating the two halves (see #3) by giving your boots a little something to dig into. This can be easily achieved by storing some extra duct tape around the base of the GRAYL Ultralight Water Purifier. Another suggestion to create a more textured surface around the base would be to use an extra wide Ranger-Band around the base. 
(Ranger-band - a wide rubber band cut from a bicycle tire inner-tube.)

When you start talking about filters that require no use of the hands you are usually talking about UV light, which doesn't hold a candle to the level of purification the GRAYL provides. The other method would be to use a slow drip filtering process, which can often take hours. And neither of these ideas are good for an on the move situation when you may be forced to drink from less than desirable water sources.

And so... for the innovative design,  high flow rate, ultrahigh purification quality, and emergency situation preparedness abilities, all made testing the GRAYL Ultralight Water Purifier a pure joy. 

When combined with the many ways I found to adapt the GRAYL to the needs of the adaptive hiker or backpacker, I find myself extremely impressed and proud to award the GRAYL Ultralight Water Purifier with a full five star endorsement. 

Great job to the people at GRAYL inc.


Reviewed & written by: Terry Craig, 
The Disabled Hiker

Assistant editor: Dave Deubler
Photos by: Larry Deitch, 
Terry Craig,
& GRAYL inc.

Disclaimer: This blog, written articles, video presentations, and all content within are not intended to take the place of professional medical advice. Please consult your Doctor before making any changes to your treatment plan and/or changes to your exercise routine.

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  1. At first, it eliminates chlorine perfectly from the water. Besides eliminating chlorine from the water, it also eliminates other two hazardous components from the water. XAMMAX water filters

    1. This is the second year using mine and i'm still very happy with it. Especially when I'm on the move and don't feel like the hassle of stopping to play with filter and hoses and all that jazz.
      Glad you liked your GRAYL as well.

  2. Great real life adventure sharing this blog. This is a learning post. You can learn and take a decision how to safe hiking. I love your post this is fantastic.

    1. Thanks so much for commenting Shane. Glad you enjoyed the blog. If there is anything you would like to see featured on the blog please don't hesitate to let me know. I love to make hiking easier for all of us.
      Be well.

  3. I am thankful for this blog to gave me much knowledge regarding my area of work. I also want to make some addition on this platform which must be in knowledge of people who really in need. Thanks.

    1. Hi. So glad you enjoy the blog. For collaborative projects I can be reached at
      Thanks for reading The Disabled Hiker blog.

  4. Your product is really great and innovative as well. Very nice concept. Great appreciation for you.

    Thank you!

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