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Best Water Purification Tablets for 2024

The average human can only survive a few days without water. Perhaps the most important thing you’ll pack in your outdoor gear, then, is something that will ensure you can turn any water into safe drinking water if you need to.

Water purification tablets are a popular solution for camping, hiking, backpacking, and emergency kits because they’re effective, lightweight, and affordable.

Whether you plan to use water purification tablets frequently for day hikes or backpacking or just pack them away for emergencies, there is an option out there that’ll meet your needs.

We’ve rounded up the best tablet options on the market for outdoor adventures, and we’ve also included a powder solution for consideration.

For general outdoor adventures, check out Aquatabs. If you’re putting together an emergency-preparedness kit for natural disasters or to keep with your camping gear, you might consider the economical Potable Aqua with PA+Plus tablets instead.

Before you decide, consult our Buyer’s Guide section and our FAQs to get all your questions answered. This will help you make an informed decision.

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Our Top Picks for Outdoor Water Purification

Best Water Purification Tablets for Emergency Kits – Potable Aqua with PA+Plus

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Image by Potable Aqua

Potable Aqua makes a quality product at an affordable price, which makes it perfect for your emergency kit. Two Potable Aqua iodine tablets treat one liter of water, and the neutralizing tablets included in the Potable Aqua with PA+Plus package mitigate taste, odor, and color left over from the iodine.

Potable Aqua iodine tablets require a 30-minute wait time before the treated water is safe to drink.

After the initial half-hour, you add the neutralizing tablets (also two tablets per liter), which require another few minutes of waiting, but it’s worth it if you want better-tasting water. This second step is optional, but many prefer the two-step method to achieve the best taste possible.

An unopened bottle of Potable Aqua iodine tablets has a shelf life of up to four years. Opened bottles should be used or discarded within a year. Please note that iodine tablets do not kill cryptosporidium.

Best Water Purification Tablets for Outdoor Adventures – Aquatabs

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Image by AquaTabs

Aquatabs leverage chlorine to kill viruses, bacteria, and Giardia cysts (but not cryptosporidium), and many people prefer the taste of chlorine-treated water over iodine-treated water.

Each Aquatabs tablet treats up to two quarts of clean water or a little less than a quart of dirty water (filter sediments from dirty or turbid water before treating it).

These tablets are EPA-approved and require 10 minutes to dissolve and then 30 minutes to do their work before the treated water is safe to drink. Since Aquatabs are individually packaged, they’re the perfect solution for bringing along with you on outdoor adventures, including hiking and backpacking.

The active ingredient is chlorine, so Aquatabs may leave a slight chlorine taste behind in your water. The shelf life for this product is five years from the manufacture date.

Best Water Purification Tablets for Killing Cryptosporidium – Katadyn Micropur MP1

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Image by Katadyn

Katadyn Micropur MP1 tablets are effective against cryptosporidium—unlike the other options on this list—in addition to other types of bacteria, viruses, and cysts. If you’re worried about crypto, this is the tablet for you.

Katadyn Micropur tablets meet the EPA’s purification guidelines, using chlorine dioxide as the main active ingredient. There is little to no taste or odor, and the shelf life is five years.

The downside is the wait. For Micropur MP1 to be most effective, you need to put the tablet in and let your water sit for four hours before you drink it. Use one chlorine dioxide tablet per liter of water. Each tablet is individually wrapped and sealed for convenience and portability.

If, in your expected use case, you can wait several hours before drinking, you should highly consider this option because it’ll kill crypto.

Best Purification Solution for Turbid WaterRothco Clor-Floc

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Image by Rothco

Sometimes, you just don’t have access to clean or clear water. Rothco Clor-Floc is designed for those scenarios.

Used by the U.S. Army, this military-grade solution leverages aluminum sulfate and triclosan sodium dihydrate to purify water and aggregate sediment particles so they’re easier to filter out of your water.

While not in tablet form, Clor-Floc’s powder packs work similarly to tablets. You pour the water purification powder from a single serving into a liter of water, shake for a minute, wait three minutes, swirl for 30 seconds, then wait for up to 15 minutes before it’s safe to drink.

The process will leave any sediment particles settled at the bottom of your water bottle or container.

Clor-Floc does not kill cryptosporidium, and its shelf life is three years.

Buyer’s Guide

When buying a product that could save your life someday, it’s best to do your homework. Here are some points to consider when selecting the best water purification tablets for your needs.

Effectiveness Against Contaminants

Consider the water sources you may be drinking from during your planned excursion(s), or what water sources may be available to you on future excursions.

The tablets you decide to pack should be effective against the common contaminants found in those water sources, which may include bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and other pathogens.

Note that some solutions are effective against cryptosporidium, while others are not.

Cryptosporidium is a microscopic parasite that causes diarrhea in humans, and it is the leading cause of waterborne disease among humans in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Ease of Transport and Use

Choose a solution that will be convenient to transport for your intended use, which could be day hiking, backpacking, camping, or traveling. Many tablets come in lightweight, compact packaging that is easy to throw in your day-hiking pack, carry-on luggage, or emergency kit.

You also want to consider how easy a water purification system is to actually use. Tablets are typically straightforward, which is ideal in an emergency. Simply add the recommended number of tablets to a liter of water, and wait the recommended amount of time.

Some solutions require shaking, swirling, or other additional steps.

Taste and Odor

Many water purification tablets claim they have “no taste,” but in reality, there is usually some chemical taste left over from the purification process. Chemical taste and odor might range from a slight aftertaste that only some users can detect to a noticeably chemical smell and taste.

Wait Time

Some tablets purify water in a half-hour or less, while others take several hours to work their magic. Consider your use case and how long you can wait between treatment and clean water.

Shelf Life

Water purification tablets expire, and the shelf life will vary depending on the individual product. Consider how often you’re willing to resupply and choose accordingly.

Budget

Consider all the factors above and select an option that makes sense for your budget. In general, water purification tablets are an inexpensive purification solution, especially compared to other options, such as straw water filters.

Frequently Asked Questions

Wondering whether a tablet will actually work, whether there are side effects to using water purification tablets, or whether you’re better off just boiling some water instead of using chemical treatments? Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions.

Do water purification tablets actually work?

Water purification tablets successfully kill or neutralize nasty stuff like bacteria, viruses, and protozoa that may lurk in water from sources like streams, rivers, lakes, and wells.

Tablets often contain active ingredients like chlorine, iodine, or chlorine dioxide, which disinfect the water to the point where it is safe to drink.

Note that not all tablets neutralize all contaminants, and each tablet’s effectiveness relies on proper usage. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use and check the expiration date on the bottle or package. Also, be aware that purification tablets do not remove sediment or pollutants from water.

Do water purification tablets affect the taste or odor of the water?

Some purification solutions leave a noticeable taste or odor in the water due to the chemicals used in the process. Ultimately, though, safe water is better than tasty water.

Are there side effects from using water purification tablets?

There may be side effects for short-term use among certain individuals, depending on a product’s ingredients and how often it’s used.

For instance, an iodine tablet isn’t suitable for people with an iodine allergy, and it may not be a great solution for those who suffer from thyroid conditions, either. Chlorine tablets may cause some gastrointestinal issues for some people if consumed regularly.

Pregnant women and people with existing health conditions should consult with a healthcare professional before use. Long-term use of iodine tablets, chlorine tablets, and other chemical purification solutions isn’t recommended.

How long do water purification tablets take to work?

The options on this list treat water in anywhere from about 20 minutes to four hours. Check the individual product’s bottle or packaging for exact wait times.

Can water purification tablets be used in cold or turbid water?

Many water purification tablets are effective in cold water, but it will take longer for them to dissolve in cold water versus warm water.

You can use purification tablets in turbid water, but it’s recommended to filter the water first to remove sediments. Rothco Chlor-Floc not only kills viruses and other pathogens but also offers flocculation, a process that attracts particles and makes them settle at the bottom of your water bottle.

Do water purification tablets expire?

Purification tablets expire, even when stored in unopened containers. Check the product’s expiration date and recommended shelf life after opening. To ensure water quality after treatment, replace tablets before they expire.

What’s better, boiling water or using a water purification tablet?

Boiling water is a natural and highly effective way to kill or neutralize harmful microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, and protozoa. However, boiling water requires a heat source and time, which may not always be practical on outdoor adventures.

Water purification tablets are convenient to carry and do not require a heat source. In some cases, the chemicals released from a water purification tablet remain in the water for several days, keeping it safe from re-contamination.

Tablets and similar solutions, such as powders and drops, leverage chemicals to disinfect water, but they do not necessarily kill all harmful microorganisms. Tablets may also leave a chemical taste or odor behind, and they expire.

How Will You Choose to Purify Your Water?

We’ve covered a few of the best water purification tablets on the market, plus a powder option that all perform well for outdoor adventures. Whether you’re prepping for natural disasters or treating water to drink as you hike, having a water treatment solution on hand will help keep you safe and hydrated.

For most on-the-go situations in the outdoors, we recommend Aquatabs. If you’re very concerned about cryptosporidium and can plan four hours in advance, choose Katadyn Micropur MP1 tablets instead.

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