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Faux Cause Marketing From the CamelBak All Clear Bottle

In the May 2013 and June 2013 issues of Outside magazine CamelBak ran an ad for its new All Clear water-purifying bottle that looks for all the world like cause marketing. But it isn’t.

It depicts a photojournalist-style picture of Garrett Means, wearing scrubs and identified in the body copy as a humanitarian aid worker. To his left is a black woman holding an All Clear bottle.

The body copy continues; “the Tanzanian village that Garrett visited didn’t have any potable water. He used the CamelBak All Clear for all his personal water and taught the locals how to use it before he left.”

CamelBak All Clear bottles use UV light to treat .75 liters of water. You fill the $100 bottle with clear water, press the button for two seconds which activates the UV lamp and then shake it for 60 seconds so that the UV light gets to all the water in the bottle. The bottle has a lithium-ion battery in it that’s good for about 80 cycles before it has to be recharged. You can recharge it using a USB cable.

UV light is a proven anti-biological agent. But the All Clear system works only with clear… if suspect… water. If the water has chemical contamination or heavy metals in it the UV lamp in the All Clear will do nothing to remove them. There’s no filter, so if the available water is muddy or salty the All Clear won’t do anything to eliminate those contaminants either.

In other words, the All Clear is pretty much about killing the little bugs in bad water. I’m not a scientist, but it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that the All Clear bottle is less effective against the little bugs in cloudy water. So while the All Clear may be a good choice for Garrett, it’s probably not that great an option for the villagers in Tanzania unless their water is clear and unpolluted by dirt, chemical, or metal contaminants. And… even then… only if they have ready access to a power plug or a USB port.

This is faux cause marketing from a company that has done plenty of legitimate cause marketing over the years, notably for causes like Water.org. But there’s no cause here except Garrett’s good health. If CamelBak had left out the part about teaching the locals to use the All Clear, it seems to me that the ad would have steered clear of faux cause marketing.  

If this sounds like I raining on the All Clear, I’m not. When I was a Boy Scout, I drank some bad water from an ‘approved’ well along the trail at the bottom of the Grand Canyon and subsequently contracted a Giardia infection (official name: ‘giardiasis’). It’s nothing you want, believe me. I would have been very glad to have had the All Clear then. But for Tanzanians depicted in the ad, it’s almost certainly not their best option.

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