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Aquamira Water Treatment Drops Review

Aquamira Water Treatment Review

Aquamira Water Treatment Drops

Reliability
Weight
Treatment Capacity
Speed
Ease of Use

Reliable and Fast Water Purification

Aquamira liquid water treatment purifies water using chlorine dioxide which kills all bacteria, viruses, and protozoa. They're tasteless and fast acting and won't stain your bottles or hands.

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Aquamira Water Treatment is a liquid chlorine dioxide solution that many backpackers use to purify and disinfect backcountry water sources like streams, ponds, lakes, and rivers. If you’re unfamiliar with chlorine dioxide, it’s a well-established disinfectant that works by releasing a highly active form of oxygen, which is a strong oxidant and a powerful germicidal agent.

Chlorine dioxide has been widely used by municipal water treatment plants to kill a variety of waterborne pathogens since the late 1940s but is iodine and chlorine free.  Chlorine dioxide is a significantly stronger oxidant than iodine, with greater pathogen killing power. Unlike iodine, chlorine dioxide does not discolor water, nor does it give water an unpleasant taste. It also doesn’t leave behind any by-products in treated water, unlike other purification agents like bleach or iodine.

Aquamira is best used with clear water that doesn’t have sediment or suspended solids in it. It comes packed in two bottles, labeled Part A & Part B. To administer it to your water, you mix 7 drops from Bottle A with 7 drops from Bottle B for each liter of water you want to purify. The two bottles come with an extra bottle cap for you to mix the solution together. One mixed, you wait 5 minutes for the combined solution to turn yellow before pouring it into the water you want to purify. The two bottles contain enough solution will treat up to 30 gallons of water. Aquamira will also purify any container that your treated water comes in contact with, including bottle caps, water reservoirs, hydration system hoses, or bite valves.

After mixing, you need to wait another 15 minutes for Aquamira to kill bacteria and viruses, including Giardia and Norovirus, or 30 minutes if your water is very cold because it takes the chemical reaction longer to occur. If Cryptosporidium is present or a concern, the treatment time is 4 hours. However, you can reduce the treatment time to 1 hour, if you double the number of Aquamira drops you add to the water you wish to treat. How do you know if Cryptosporidium is present in your area? Ask the agency that manages the area, like the local Park Service or Forest Service. Other knowledgeable local backpackers should also know, but it pays to ask around.

Mixture of Drops from Bottle A and Bottle B

Backup Water Purification

My current water filtration/purification system consists of two components: a Sawyer Squeeze water filter that I use in conjunction with a 2L Platypus reservoir, plastic soda/water bottles, and Aquamira water treatment drops. Most of the water I encounter during trips is crystal clear stream water with very little sediment,  suspended solids, or viruses so I can filter it with a simple water filter like the Squeeze.

I carry Aquamira as a backup to the Squeeze in case it fails or gets impossibly clogged in the field. I also use Aquamira drops to batch purify several liters at a time, especially overnight in preparation for the next morning, or when I don’t feel like squeezing multiple liters through my filter. Aquamira also gives me a complete purification solution if I discover that I’ve entered a territory where Cryptosporidium is a concern, without the need to carry a much heavier water purifier like an MSR Guardian all the time. Aquamira drops also have a shelf life of 4 years, so you can carry the same batch season all season and into the next if you have any left over at year’s end.

Chlorine Dioxide Drops Vs Tablets

I like carrying Aquamira drops instead of chlorine dioxide tablets because they work about twice as fast since the chlorine dioxide is already in liquid form when it’s added to the water and doesn’t have to dissolve first. I carried tablets for many years previously but found that:

  1. The packets create a lot of small trash that I’d rather not deal with on a trip.
  2. The packet requires scissors to open. Not difficult, but an extra step, and something to keep track of.
  3. That the tablets would occasionally not dissolve.
  4. Chlorine dioxide tablets are about 4 times more costly than water treatment drops

Comparable Chemical Water Purification Products

ProductActive IngredientVirusesBacteriaGiardiaCryptosporidium
Potable Aqua Iodine TabletsIodineYesYesNoNo
Potable Aqua Iodine and PA+ Plus TabletsIodineYesYesNoNo
Polar Pure Iodine CrystalsIodineYesYesNoNo
AquatabsNaDCCYesYesYesNo
Potable Aqua CIO2 TabletsChlorine DioxideYesYesYesYes
Katdyn Micropur TabletsChlorine DioxideYesYesYesYes
Aquamira CIO2 LiquidChlorine DioxideYesYesYesYes

Recommendation

I turned into a backpacker the day I learned how to filter and purify water during a day hike. I can still remember that day when I realized that I could take hikes that exceeded the capacity of my hydration reservoir without having to worry about running out of water.  Since then, I’ve experimented with many different filters, UV light, and chemical water purifiers looking for the perfect system that works the best for me and the water I usually encounter on my hikes. Anyone who tells you there is one best water treatment system is just plain wrong. Each technique or device has its own strengths and weakness depending a wide range of factors ranging from water turbidity, the amount you want to process each time, your group size, known organisms in the water, water temperature, level of effort, wait time, and cost.

Aquamira water treatment drops are a good water purification option when you don’t want to carry a bulky water filter or purifier, when the water you want to treat is not turbid or filled with suspended sediment, or you’re concerned about viruses that your water filter is unable to remove (since you can use the filter and then the Aquamira is a two-stage process). Personally, I like to carry Aquamira as a batch and backup water treatment option, but I know people who carry it as their only option since it’s so lightweight. The stuff works well and I depend on it to stay healthy.

Disclosure: The author purchased this product.

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15 comments

  1. Aquamira or Aquaventure as it is called here in Europe has been my main water treatment method. Unfortunately it is not available any more anywhere in Europe and I could not find any explanation for its disappearance from the market.

  2. Many thanks for this concise and well-written article. I mostly hike with my family or a group, so I am a gravity filter guy. But I like the idea of adding chlorine dioxide as a backup.

    I’d be interested in a future post discussing how you know when you need to replace a hollow-membrane filter. Last fall I failed to sleep with the filter and the temp unexpectedly dropped below freezing. I *think* its ok…

    • Better safe than sorry…. replace it. Getting an intestinal bug in the wilderness really takes the fun out of the adventure!

  3. I have a weird relationship with water. I only like drinking water when I’m thirsty, otherwise it tastes lousy to me, and even then I tend to be pretty sensitive to the taste of water. I was the one at work who noticed when the water filter needed to be changed; the water tasted really terrible, and no one else even noticed.

    If, like me, you are very sensitive to the taste of water, you may also be sensitive to the taste of Aquamira-treated water. It always tastes to me as if an aspirin has been dissolved in the bottle, which is not a flavor I enjoy. So although Aquamira doesn’t seem to have a taste to most people, I definitely notice a taste. If you are a sensitive water-drinker like me, you’ll probably prefer a different treatment method.

    That being said, of *course* I would use it if I had no other options. I definitely prefer lousy-tasting water to dehydration or giardiasis. I do not have to get giardiasis to know that I wouldn’t enjoy having it, not one bit.

    • Slow Gin Lizz: try a drop or two of lemon extract.

      • Ooh, good idea!

      • Or True Lemon or True Lime, which is freeze-dried juice, usually found in the baking aisle of the supermarket, since used for flavoring icing. A SteriPen water treatment doesn’t add any taste, nor does it remove any.

      • MarkR, that’s also a good idea! Totally worth a try. I mean the True Lime stuff, not the steripen. I’ve used that, and it’s great, but I don’t own one and probably won’t buy one myself.

    • For neutralising of chlorine (as from household bleach), Vitamin C is sometimes used in industrial water treatment before disposal. Reaction products are pretty harmless, although its reactions with chlorine dioxide (like AM) and their chlorite byproducts is a little more difficult and beyond my small knowledge of it. At least, when using diluted bleach for e.g. apparel disinfection, last wash in vitamin C solution could help stop any further deterioration of the fabric.

  4. Rob Kelly aka QiWiz

    I use AM a lot. In winter, if cold enough, it can freeze and even expand to crack the bottle. I’ve had this happen, so not just a theoretical concern. To be on the safe side, when temps get into mid 20’s F, I keep it in a jacket pocket during the day and in sleep system at night.

  5. Since I have developed a highly allergic reaction to anything Iodine, probably from having used it for 20 some years, I have been using this product as my backup to my First Need Purifier.. Haven’t had to use it yet but glad to know it is there and that it works…

  6. Great article. Only one item I think might be in error. You indicated using aquamira if enter area with crypto. Crypto is effective timely filtered by sawyer

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