Filter 1000 liters (264 gallons) of water by drinking through a straw directly from the source – for under $30! I hit the trail to review Vestergaard’s award-winning LifeStraw Personal Water Filter which filters down to 0.2 microns. This means most waterborne bacteria and cysts won’t get through.

Carry Water Or Filter It?

Long distance outdoor endeavors raise water questions:

How much water should I bring?
Can I count on finding water?
Should I filter the water I find?

For backpacking, I’ve often lugged the Katadyn Base Camp Water Filter which can scoop up multiple gallons of water, and then use gravity to provide clean water to an entire group of backpackers.  This is a great solution for hiking with a group, but is expensive, bulky and finnicky. This isn’t a good solution for filtering water on the move, but is an excellent solution for the campsite.

I’ve been casually searching for a good trail running water filter solution for a few years.  Strapping liters of water onto my back tends to hinder the aesthetic and freedom of running, but is mandatory on long outings.

One solid solution to this problem is grabbing a Nalgene and a SteriPen, but the cost is still high and the process is a bit tedious: pre-filter water, treat with UV, don’t get untreated water on the rim of the bottle. Which is why I was delighted to stumble upon a $20 solution at our local Bass Pro Shop, the LifeStraw Personal Water Filter .

A $20 Water Filter? Yeah, Right.

Walmart teased me with a similar straw filter solution in the past, but when I read the fine print, it only filtered out “debris” (my shirt can do that!). What’s more, the straw required the following:

  • Collect water from safe source (Doesn’t the need for a water filter preclude a safe source?)
  • Clean water with approved disinfectants or by boiling (Again, if I’m going to boil my water, I don’t need a filter… unless I’m drinking silt, which I can allow to settle first)
  • Straw filters out debris and improves taste (What? I can filter debris out of my water with a cloth. Heck, I can filter out debris with my teeth. Good luck to those who didn’t read the fine print.)

I was pleased the specs on the LifeStraw box looked solid, containing no such warnings, so I snagged a filter and decided to take it for a spin.

LifeStraw Specs:

Check out the specs:

  • Filters at least 1,000 liters of water (264 gallons)
  • Weighs only 54 grams (2 oz.)
  • Removes up to 99.99999 percent of waterborne bacteria
  • Removes up to 99.9 percent of waterborne protozoan cysts
  • Reduces turbidity by filtering particles of approx 0.2 microns
  • BPA Free and contains no chemicals
  • Uses no batteries or moving parts

That’s as good as most expensive backpacking filters on the market! According to the LifeStraw website:

LifeStraw® and LifeStraw® Family have been distributed to nearly every major international humanitarian disaster since 2005 and in broad public health campaigns in the millions.

To  further strengthen the filter’s credibility:

Time magazine named LifeStraw® the “Best Invention of 2005.” In 2008, it won the Saatchi and Saatchi Award for “World Changing Ideas”. Esquirecalled LifeStraw® the “Innovation of the Year.” Forbes stated LifeStraw® is “one of the ten things that will change the way we live.”

It should be noted, the Lifestraw will probably get the job done in North America or on tap water in modern countries, but it will not take care of viruses which may be encountered anywhere but especially in developing countries water supplies.

The LifeStraw is solid, if you are near a consistent water source and can lay on your stomach.

Colorado Springs features a variety of mountainous trails snaking up and around Pikes Peak.  A fair number of these trails cross water at one time or another (not always the case out here). A friend and I decided to run/hike a loop near a water source with the LifeStraw as my only way to get water.

Using the filter is easy, pop the caps off both ends, stick the straw in some water and drink. After sucking on the filter a few times, water starts to flow. I was treated to ice cold water, no debris, and no bad taste.

Cleaning the filter simply requires blowing the water out of the straw.

Oh, my stomach is fine after a week.

Verdict

The LifeStraw is a winner, it works directly from the water source, but could also be used to drink water captured in a container.  This is a lightweight, portable solution great for traveling and exercise. At $20, it’s a no brainer and makes a great gift. Plus, buying one of Vestergaard’s water filters helps save lives. For each LifeStraw® sold, one school child in the developing world receives clean water for an entire school year.

Update:

So far, I’ve experienced no ill effects from using the LifeStraw, and my mother-in-law successfully took the LifeStraw Go Filter Bottle on a trip to multiple foreign countries.

However, after doing some homework, the LifeStraw needs to be qualified: don’t count on it for your foreign travels. Read Eytan’s review and consider one of his suggestions for bottles ( Katadyn MyBottle, Lifesaver Bottle, and the GRAYL. ) which also resist microscopic minerals, viruses and chemicals.

Regardless, for my trail running purposes, the LifeStraw is great.