Grayl Ultralight Purifier Review
Cons: Hard to press, limited storage capacity, short filter cartridge life
Our Analysis and Test Results
- Better claimed filtration rate (8 seconds vs. 15 seconds per container)
- Better filter cartridge longevity (250 liters vs. 150 liters)
- Makes more water per press (24 ounces vs. 16 ounces)
- It is heavier than the ultralight (weighs about 5 ounces more)
We've tested these differences, and while the numbers aren't exact, we do prefer the Geopress for most applications and it's one of our top scorers! Be sure to check out the review on this product.
The Grayl Ultralight is a lightweight water purification system perfect for international travel. It can transform disgusting murky water into a pristine delicious experience.
One of the best things about this purification system is water quality. The purification media utilizes a combination of activated carbon and ion exchange technology acts like tiny magnets to rid your water of pathogens that could make you sick while traveling internationally. The ion exchange technology does not use pore size and instead uses the charged properties of the proteins in the microorganisms, to suck them up, cleansing the water of bacteria, protozoa (Cryptosporidium and Giardia) and viruses. In addition to these pathogens, the powdered activated carbon clears the water of chemicals, pesticides, and heavy metals.
When doing taste tests, this filter actually made our tap water taste better and cleared out water from pretty disgusting water sources. The purification media also clears what of particulates and other stuff. Just don't trust that it'll work when the water looks like chocolate milk.
Durability & Maintenance
This system is made from Polypropylene materials and seems fairly durable. We wouldn't expect it to survive if you accidentally tossed it over a cliff, but it survives basic ground drops (the biggest concern). Our only major concern is the gaskets wearing out over time or the lid accidentally breaking, which would render this unit useless. That said, we haven't read about any problems like this online nor have we experienced any issues after throwing it around for a few months.
We performed drop tests with the bottle completely full of water. We dropped it from knee level, chest level, and head level on a concrete surface. Each time we dropped it on the lid, bottom, side, and along seams that we thought might bust. In all cases, the unit stayed intact with just a few scrapes to show for it. As a result, we'd recommend it for the backcountry. The only issue is that if it does break, you need to have an emergency backup system ready.
The filter lasts for a measly 150L or 40 gallons. Most other filtrations systems last much longer than this. Currently, the replacement is about $25 which isn't too bad but doesn't have the longevity of other hollow filtration systems we've seen. The shorter lifespan is attributed to the unique virus removal technology.
Grayl does claim that this particular system can clean water at a rate of 15 seconds per 16 oz or 2 minutes per liter if you don't count the time to refill in between. We did three different tests in clear water, just at the kitchen sink at home. Prior to this, we followed all online advice to ensure that the system was set up correctly.
Over three timed trials, the average rate of flow was about 40 seconds per bottle (when following instructions closely), even new out of the box. When doing this again at the Colorado River, we had a heck of a time trying to filter as the particulates were blocking the chemical filter completely. We couldn't filter our water is this medium.
Weight & Packability
This unit weighs about 11.45 oz when completely empty. In comparison to a normal Nalgene bottle, it weighs more with the filter cartridge and the plastic material.
While it's in the same weight class as gravity filter kits, it's still relatively heavy when comparing other filtration options (with the exception of the MSR Guardian, purifying hand pump). The narrow profile does allow for this bottle to be packed away into a backpack, and the water-sealed lid guarantees that water won't leak in your bag.
Ease of Set-Up
Set-up is ridiculously easy. This unit has two cylindrical tubes that slid into one another. When we first got this out of the box, it was really hard to pull these tubes apart as the gaskets that create a seal is incredibly tight. Though on your first try, just twist each tube in the opposite direction and they will come apart.
From there, fill up your water canister. It's important that you note the "maximum" fill line. If you go above it, your water will spill out while purifying, risking possible contamination for the clean water that resides in the bottle. Once it's all filled, make sure the top is off as air needs to escape while you press one tube into another. Be sure to place the top in a safe place and don't put it near the water that is contaminated. This system does not purify water that can get caught on the threads of the top. Set it up on a flat or solid surface and get ready for the pressing of your life!!
Ease of Filtration
This is where this unit loses some serious points. Despite all the online review videos that show the user pressing this bottle with ease, it is hard (or we're doing something wrong)!! The two canisters that fit inside of each other are completely sealed. The air that escapes is pressed down into the housing and escapes through the filtration cartridge.
To press it down, you need to position your hands at the rim of the interior cylinder and press all of your weight onto your hands, slowly pushing the air out which also forces the water through the cartridge at the bottom. This leaves clean water in the interior cartridge. At the end of each filtration, our hands were left sore with imprints from pressing down on the lid. If you didn't have a solid surface to do this on (like in a canoe), it'd be difficult to filter. Overall, filtration is difficult and not our favorite.
The retail price includes the filter and the bottle press system. Given that the cartridge life isn't super long, it's not as high value as other options that will last an apparent lifetime without replacement. Value is decent but not the best overall.
The Grayl Ultralight is a convenient water purifier that can remove harmful waterborne pathogen including viruses. The activated charcoal makes water taste better by removing pesticides, heavy metals, and contaminants. It's not the most lightweight unit out there and the filtration is a bit painful and takes what seems forever (but is closer to 40 seconds).
— Amber King
Ad-free. Influence-free. Powered by Testing.
GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.Learn More