For most people living in the United States and other developed nations, water is taken for granted, but a portable water purifier for travel is an absolute must. The reality is most of the world must walk at least three hours to fetch water and at least 400 million people live in regions with severe water shortages. If you're planning an extensive backpacking trip or hike you must be prepared with a plan of how to obtain one of the earth's most valuable resources. Here are our tips for choosing the best water purification system to maximize your outdoor adventure.

"Bliss Float" by Daniel Hoherd via Flickr Creative Commons

What to Consider

Size - You want to pack light if you're carrying a backpack or stuff your suitcase with souvenirs so in either case something bulky is not ideal. Water Purification Pumps are bulky, awkward, and less convenient for those going off the beaten path. As the name would imply, they usually involve some sort of pumping mechanism where you fill a bag with water, pump it by hand or electronically to run through a tube, and come out clean on the other end. SteriPen, on the other hand, is a small, hand-held device, similar to...well, a pen. The base encases a grouping of a few batteries that can range from smaller, photo-type batteries for those concerned about size, to four-double AA's. The tip of the pen is a wand-like UV light bulb that uses UV energy to kill microorganisms compact enough to fit in your pack.

Taste - Iodine tablets are a good option size-wise, but are known to cause a slightly rusty, metallic taste in your water. Aside from that, iodine tablets are something you have to estimate extremely well or guarantee you can find wherever you go to avoid running out. And you don't want to interrupt your trip by having to ration your water by how much you can purify. With SteriPen your only limit is the lamp-life and one lamp lasts up to 8,000 Liters. Many models use rechargeable batteries as well so you don't have to worry about finding those while traveling, either. Since SteriPen uses a light to kill microorganisms, there are no added chemicals to the water to alter the taste.

To Bottle or to Not Bottle - The other consideration is to not use any sort of water purification and just buy bottles of water along the way. A SteriPen can be purchased for as little as $50, which may not seem cheaper than bottled water on shorter trips, but with a lamp-life of 8,000 Liters, you can use it on every trip you take, no matter how long you're gone. And the less-obvious clincher that also makes you the planet's personal super- hero? Pollution. With a SteriPen, you don't have to contribute to the growing waste on the planet (where more places than not, don't recycle), or better yet, the production of all those plastic bottles in the first place.