How Kyle Stringham Invented PurTrek, the World's First Water-Filtering Trekking Pole
By Mekenna Malan | October 20, 2021
It all started with a Boy Scouts trip through Yellowstone, and ended with one of the most innovative products the outdoor industry has seen in years.
Ogden native Kyle Stringham is the founder and CEO of PurTrek—a revolutionary 2-in-1 trekking pole and water filtration system—that solves the age-old issue of carrying heavy water and filtration gear. Read our interview below to discover how Stringham came up with the idea for PurTrek, what the invention process has been like, and how you can add some PurTrek poles to your gear closet.
“PurTrek is a solution that grew out of a real need in the outdoors. Filtering water isn’t quick or easy enough, and 50% of hikers don’t hydrate properly,” Stringham says of the inspiration behind PurTrek. “We’ve taken two pieces of gear and combined them into one element, so you’re not only going to drink more water, you’re going to enjoy your hike more.”
When the idea for PurTrek occurred to Stringham a few years ago, he was hiking through the backcountry of Yellowstone. “I was a scoutmaster and had about 12 scouts with me,” he says. “When we got to the third river crossing of the day, I was holding a bunch of trekking poles in one hand and a bunch of water filtration systems in the other as we got everyone across.” Once everyone crossed safely to the other side of the river, Stringham began the long process of filtering enough water for 12 boys.
“After about a 45-minute session of water filtering, it just kind of hit me: it could be completely possible to take a water filtration pump mechanism and mount it on top of a trekking pole,” Stringham says. “The ideas started flying. I knew it would have to be lightweight. How could I design a system like that to actually work? After that, I came home and started creating and the chaos ensued.”
Four years and 36 prototypes later, international patents for the product are filed and PurTrek is now live on the market in limited quantities. PurTrek was officially unveiled in August at the inaugural Big Gear Show in Park City, where Stringham was able to demo the product to leaders in the industry. The feedback he got was monumental. “There were probably three or four people that I talked to that have been in the outdoor industry for 20-30 years, and they told me they thought PurTrek was the coolest innovation they’d seen since they started working in the industry,” Stringham says.
So, how does it work? “Everyone’s biggest question is whether PurTrek is heavy or bulky,” Stringham says, “But it’s neither. A trekking pole does, in fact, really complement a filtration pump. The design of both works off of each other really well.” Designed with help from the Swarm design studio in Salt Lake City, PurTrek is crafted with 7075 aircraft aluminum for lightweight durability, and at first glance is just like any high-quality trekking pole. It just also happens to contain a 0.2 micron filter that removes 99.999% of waterborne bacteria and 99.9% of waterborne protozoa. “People ask me, ‘How fast does PurTrek filter?’ And my reply is, ‘How fast can you pump your arm?’" Stringham says. "You can filter at least 2-3 times more water than other standard pump filters in the same amount of time.”
For Stringham, who was born and raised in Ogden, the town and surrounding outdoor opportunities hold a lot of significance and inspiration. “I love the layout for the neighborhoods and how we’re nestled right up against the base of the mountains. I love the uniqueness of how our storm systems work," he says. "And GEAR:30 is our local gear shop—I cut up a lot of your products during the invention process and product testing.”
It’s been an expensive ride with lots of ups and downs, Stringham says, but getting PurTrek on the market has been “a dream come true.” While PurTrek is available in limited quantities for now, potential customers can pre-order their PurTrek set online and should follow along for more updates and accessories releases.
“The feedback for PurTrek has been so incredible so far,” Stringham says. “I’m looking forward to the day when I stumble upon someone on a backcountry trail far from home and see them using the poles.”