Risky Business with EarthSafe
Testing the Aquatabs H2O Purification Tablets in Ecuador
Words: Anastasia Leniova
Photos: Anastasia Leniova and EarthSafe
Trail riding and racing can get you far, even further than expected sometimes. Of course, most normally take drinking water along, but you might also lose it on gravel bumps in Ecuador, like I did. I tried to postpone this review as much as I could, but it was time to test EarthSafe’s Aquatabs Water Purification Tablets. Full of determination, I stopped by the first creek and reached for the tablet pack and empty half liter bottle I had on hand.
There are quite a number of water purification solutions on the market, from iodine tablets with a signature aftertaste and color the water brown, to filter cups that are good but take up space in your luggage, and chlorine tablets of different kinds. I prefer tablets, as they don’t take up much space in your luggage. In extreme cases, you actually don’t need a bottle to disinfect water, you can do it in a plastic bag for example, or anything else you can hold water in.
Aquatabs work simply: you add one pill for 0.75-2 liters of water, shake well, and wait; the active ingredient NaDCC, or Sodium Dichloroisocyanurate Dihydrate, takes 30 minutes to purify water. The manufacturer promises it kills harmful microorganisms, bacteria, and viruses, but recommends letting sediment settle or filtering the water through a buff or handkerchief prior to treating.
The tablets kill Giardia, one of the two most common causes of waterborne disease outbreaks, but it unfortunately doesn’t kill the second one, Cryptosporidium, that can be found in North American backcountry waters. The good news here is, that with some additional filtration, the Cryptosporidium can also be eliminated. Chlorine Dioxide tablets take care of both, but disinfection takes 4 hours instead of 30 minutes and can cause throat irritation.
The Irish-made Aquatabs come in two sizes. There’s a bottle sized 49 mg tab, available in strips of 10 tablets and packs of 3, 5, 10, or 25 strips, and have 5 years of shelf life. There’s also a 397 mg option for RV tanks and cisterns, to treat up to 4 gallons of water with a 2 year shelf life.
I gathered some water from the creek and opened the tablet pack easily without scissors. As one tablet is enough to disinfect 0.75 to 2 liters of water, I decided to use half for my half liter bottle. The tablets are microscopic, around 2mm in diameter, but I managed to separate the halves with my nails. I added that to the water and continued my way out of the mountains while the tablet was doing its job.
At that time I didn’t know about Cryptosporidium and didn’t filter the water additionally. I was also determined to include the photos in the report if something went wrong. After 30 minutes I drank the water; the tablets didn’t change color or leave any marks on the bottle, and tasted just like tap water with only a slight taste of chlorine. All that was left for the review was to wait a day and see how my digestive tract would react. As you see, no photos of possible consequences are included, so the experiment can be considered a success.
To sum it up, Aquatabs are a really good travel solution for extreme cases, prevent most water-caused diseases, and with a little additional filtration, prevent all. They are weightless, cost effective, have a long shelf life, and are convenient to have in your first aid kit just in case.