I first learned about the LifeStraw Personal Water Filter a year ago when one of the readers of Backdoor Survival sent me an email extolling its virtues. Although it sounded cool and the price (about $20) was right, I did not bother to test one myself. After all, I already had a Berkey Sport bottle, a Nalgene water bottle and some water purification tabs in my pack. I was all set.
Or so I thought.
During my recent trip to Alaska, I decided to carry along a LifeStraw and use it for some field testing. After all, what better place to stick a straw in the water and drink than a beautiful Alaskan glacial pond or stream?
Today I am pleased to report that there is well-deserved merit to the popularity of the LifeStraw. Not only is it extremely compact (meaning it takes up almost no room at all), but it is ultra-light weighing in at a mere two ounces.
Follow along below as I tell you about my LifeStraw experience and give you an opportunity to win one for free!
HOW TO USE THE LIFESTRAW PERSONAL WATER FILTER – THE RIGHT WAY!
Before I set out on my Alaskan adventure, I removed the LifeStraw from its plastic wrapper, threw the directions in my pack and went searching for a suitable body of water. I found a nice pond and being bound and determined to do it right, I crawled down the bank and stuck the LifeStraw in the water, ready to begin my test.
Alas, I knew right away something was wrong. During my first try nothing happened as I tried to suck water from the top – much as you would suck on a straw sitting in a glass of juice or soda.
Clearly, I was doing something wrong and knew that it was time to RTFM. I pulled the instruction leaflet out of my pack and read that before use, you need to uncap the LifeStraw and hold it upright in the water for a minute. Apparently this allows the water to seep up the filter membrane and initiate the flow of water. You then do five quick sucks to get the water to flow easily.
Sure enough, once I tried this, the water flowed and I was able to take a long, healthy drink of darn good tasting water.
The moral of this story: take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with the instructions before trying out new gear. Of course I knew that but my vacation befuddled brain was not running at full tilt.
I also tried using the LifeStraw in a more traditional way by sucking the water out of a cup.
That was not quite as much fun but of course, that worked too. The water I drank tasted good – but understand the pond looked pretty pristine to begin with. That said, there was no chemical or plastic tasting after-taste from the LifeStraw itself.
When I was done drinking, I drew up a straw-full of water then blew it out. According to the directions, this empties any remaining water from the chamber and also clears out any debris that may have been drawn up from the water. I then recapped the LifeStraw and stuck it back in my pack, ready for its next use.
Now truth be told, it was kind of fun blowing the water out of the chamber so I kept doing it – playing like I was a human squirt gun. But like I said, I was on vacation and a little silliness was in order.
THE LIFESTRAW SPECIFICATIONS
According to Eartheasy, the master LifeStraw wholesale distributor for the USA and Canada, a single LifeStraw can filter up to 1,000 liters or 264 gallons of water. Not only that, it removes 99.9999% of waterborne bacteria and 99.9% of water-borne protozoan parasites.
The LifeStraw itself is made from a BPA-free plastic material and has no moving parts to wear out. It comes with a lanyard for carrying the LifeStraw around your neck but the lanyard material is nothing special. I am going to remove it and make one out of paracord instead.
One other thing worth mentioning is that the LifeStraw has a shelf-life of five years meaning that you can put it in deep storage for use down the road – if you need it.
Update on 02-11-2014: A Backdoor Survival reader asked the question:
In the article about the LifeStraw I noticed this, “the LifeStraw has a shelf-life of five years”.
What happens after the five year mark? Does the filter get brittle and decompose or something? How do you determine if a filter is no longer useful? Is there a way to prolong it’s shelf life? I.e. put it in can of vinegar?
Here is the response from EarthEasy, the US distributor of the Lifestraw:
The shelf life comment on LifeStraw products have actually been removed. The reason for this is because the filter has no chemicals or moving parts, meaning that there will be nothing that can expire.
When the LifeStraw reaches capacity, you will be unable to draw water through the unit. To prolong the life, what you will need to do is to back flush the unit after every use. You can even hold the LifeStraw under the sink and use your faucet to back flush all the contaminates caught within the pores.
To do that, you will need to hold the LifeStraw under the sink and use your hand to seal off the top, so that you get water pressure through the straw to back flush.
That is terrific news for those of us with LifeStraws. This means we can now stockpile them as part of our preps. Wohoo!
USES FOR THE LIFESTRAW
Given its light weight and compact form, the LifeStraw is perfect for the bug-out-bag. Not only that, for prepping purposes I like the idea of having a back-up water filter so that if you question the water coming out of the tap of your home (or even at an emergency shelter), you can sip away knowing that you will not get sick from the water.
A LifeStraw is also a good addition to your travel kit. It is easy to pack and lightweight – a real bonus these days of insidious airline baggage fees. Plus, given the questionable water in many foreign countries, using the LifeStraw may actually prevent sickness or distress when bottled water is not available.
The same applies to hiking or bicycling where space and the weight of your pack are important. My suggestion is to continue to carry a Nalgene water bottle or canteen. You can then fill it with water but sip the water through a LifeStraw while drinking.
AND NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY
Last week I announced that I was giving away three LifeStraw Personal Water Filters. That giveaway continues through June 27th, when each of the winners will be selected at random.
There are two ways to enter the giveaway and each entry counts (up to a maximum of two entries).
1. First, you can leave a comment below sharing your current portable water purification method. And if you don’t have one? No worries – just say so. We do not judge here on Backdoor Survival!
2. Second, you can visit the article Water – The Survival Basic and enter a comment there as well. (See the article for the topic.)
That gives you two separate chances of winning – now how cool is that?
THE FINAL WORD
Water and staying hydrated are so important to survival that I write about it over and over again. Even so, just when I think I know it all, I learn of a new way to store water or a new way to purify water.
Do you still have some questions about water and why it is important? Be sure to read read is 8 Reason Drinking Lots of Water is Important for Survival.
Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!
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Bargain Bin: Don’t want to wait for the giveaway? The LifeStraw Personal Water Filter contains no chemicals, no batteries and no moving parts to wear out. It features a a high flow rate and weighs only 2oz. It works quickly, taking roughly 3-5 seconds of sucking to start the flow of water through the filter. It’s ultra-light and inexpensive enough to keep in your backpack in case of emergencies or for hiking trips. Click on LifeStraw Personal Water Filter to purchase the LifeStraw on Amazon.
waterBOB Emergency Drinking Water Storage: Have you considered storing water in your bathtub? The Water Bob is a bladder that you can use in your bathtub to store water if you know that a storm, flood, or hurricane is brewing.
NALGENE BPA-Free Water Bottle: These $8 water bottles have served me well. I fill them up with water from my Royal Berkey and keep one bedside, one at my desk and another in the bathroom. Keep in mind that price-wise, some colors will be more expensive so if color does not matter, go with the cheapest (currently the green version).
Katadyn Vario Microfilter Water Filtration System: This highly regard water filtration system is currently on sale for $69.99 which is 26% off the normal price of $94.95. The Katadyn system combines the benefits of easy operation, high water output, and extended cartridge life. Not only that, it filters up to 2 quarts per minute of pumping.
Colloidal Silver Medical Uses, Toxicology & Manufacture: If you are interested in learning more about colloidal silver, this is the book to get. It is written by John Hill, the same author of How to Live on Wheat which I reviewed awhile back in my article Why Store Wheat – Wheat 101 for Newbies.
55-Gallon Barrel Combo: Check around because prices vary on this combo. Back in January 2011, I paid about $160 for the same thing so anything less than $150 (with shipping) is a great deal.
Potable Aqua Water Treatment Tablets: Potable Aqua Water Purification Tablets make questionable water bacteriologically suitable to drink. Easy to use and the water is ready to drink in 30 minutes. One 50 tablet bottle treats 25 quarts of water.
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