Recently we talked with Tyson Benton, who is travelling South America with only one water bottle – an Ecousable Ech2o.
This stainless steel bottle has a long straw with a water filter inside, and is designed to help you stop buying hundreds of plastic bottles. We were sent a couple of water bottles with water bottle filters to use and review during our trip; it makes sense considering we hate buying bottled water and it’s necessary in so many countries.
In the past, I’ve publicly derided taking water filters because of the extra weight … let’s see if they can change my mind.
The Echo2 bottles arrived while we were in Cusco. Packing was minimal — a cardboard box with some paper packing: all totally recyclable … if we were in a country that makes recycling possible.The bottles had stylish lines, one plain stainless steel, the other with a brushed-metal swirl running around it: nice and easy for Linda and me to recognise the differences. Each bottle came with a velcro collar, a shoulder strap, and a caribiner. The shoulder strap became part of a camera case, and the caribiners were too angular to be comfortable. I replaced mine with a more-rounded option immediately.
Unscrewing the lid, I removed a long, thick plastic straw with a huge filter bulb on the end. It felt like the straw and filter combo was about the same weight as the bottle itself. The whole thing had stylish lines, but was quite large at 750ml.
After a quick wash, I took the risk and filled my bottle with Peruvian tap water. Although the bottle holds 750mls of water, you have to account for displacement from the straw and filter — normal capacity is around 500mls.
Considering the amount of Travellers’ D we had recently suffered, I felt a bit anxious: there was no way I wanted to spend another few days sculling back loperamide and antibiotics to match my stomach cramps. The water tasted fine, but with a slightly sour taste. I’d never tasted Cusquenean tap water before, but I later realised the filter doesn’t cover up bad-tasting water: the water in San Pedro was completely undrinkable.
Drinking from Peruvian taps, Inca fountains and Lake Titicaca’s islands
First things first: At time of writing, I’ve been using this bottle and filter for 100% of my water intake — around half a litre a day (supplemented with beer, wine and coffee, don’t worry!) — for eight weeks and I’ve only been sick once.
My luck has been better on this than it was on bottled water, where I was sick for large parts of the first five weeks in South America.
I’ve drunk from taps in Peru and Bolivia and streams on islands in the middle of Lake Titicaca (one of which was precariously down-stream from a donkey); and Indie Travel Podcast designer extraordinaire Angela took Linda’s on a trip to Machu Picchu, drinking from Inca fountains along the way. So far, the filters have proved 100% successful in keeping us from the sickbed.
One day, determined to test my ability to survive in the wild without actually going off the grid, I half-filled my bottle before a day hike in the Sacred Valley outside Cusco. Our group of five Kiwis and Renzo, a Peruvian couchsurfer, started with a calm minibus ride to Chinchero, looking around the ruins before descending down the valley towards Urquillos.
I filled my bottle from a clear stream that turned into a waterfall alongside some steps. The bottle lived in my bag’s side pocket and came out regularly for sips of cool, clear water. When we stopped at Urquillos, I refilled my bottle with water from a natural fountain — I’m 99% sure it was powered by the small aqueducts that flowed from the river: completely open and natural.
That water lasted for the rest of our hike, the bus into Pisac and the bus home again. Once again, no problems with digestion or anything else: the filter works again.
Replacing the filter
But the filter doesn’t last forever. It needs to be replaced every six months or so. I guess this is easy enough for US-based readers, but what about us full-time travellers? How easy is it to find replacement filters at fair prices worldwide?
We did a little poking around on the Ecousable website and Amazon to find that it’s reasonably affordable, with Amazon stocking it at about US$25— ideally, I’d like this to be much lower.
The replacement process is as easy as unscrewing one part and changing it for the replacement part — no engineering required.
I’ve been unconvinced about water filters and filter straws for a long time, but I’m sticking with this bottle. It’s large and heavy, but sits fine on the outside of my daybag … and it’s seldom empty these days.
I’m using it for all my water needs, and no longer hesitate when filling it from most water sources. If you’re in the market for a product like this — for home or travel — definitely go for it.