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LifeStraw® Water Filter
LifeStraw® Water Filter for emergency survival and backpacking
Weight: 2 ounces (56 grams)
Length: 9 inches (22.5 centimeters)
Diameter: 1 inch (2.5 centimeters)
Purifies a minimum of 1000 litres (264 gallons) of water
Removes virtually all bacteria (99.9999 percent) and protozoan parasites (99.9 percent) that can contaminate water, including giardia
Dehydration, In physiology and medicine, dehydration (hypohydration) is the excessive loss of body water, with an accompanying disruption of metabolic processes. It is literally the removal of water (Ancient Greek: ὕδωρ hýdōr) from an object". Websters defines it as an abnormal depletion of body fluids. While it is easy to take fluid intake for granted during our daily, just a few hours of hiking will quickly remind us the importance of proper hydration. Once the mind begins to crave water, it is difficult to concentrate. Further symptoms include weakness, dizziness and headaches leading to diarrhea, cramps and difficulty breathing. You can imagine your heart struggling to pump the blood and eventually leading to life threatening seizures and eventually death. Unless you are facing immediate danger from exposure water quickly becomes your top priority. However, the Lifestraw and other filters like it are not limited to a survival tool. By designing a lightweight and reasonably priced filter, the filters can now be used as a part of your backpacking tools. A two ounce water purification method opens up the possible applications (boat dry bag, get home bag, backpacking).
The Institute of Medicine recommends 9 cups (2.2 liters) to 13 cups (3 liters) or more of water as an adequate daily intake. For this reason we stick to the rule of two is one. Carry multiple methods of water purification in your pack. Contaminated water leads to negative effects that will increase your water loss.
We cover emergency water filtration and alternate methods of water filtration in other articles, for the scope of this article we want to talk about Verstergaard Frandsen's LifeStraw®. This lightweight water filter can be carried for backpacking or as an item in a survival pack. It has been used in countries where a large number of people do not have access to clean drinking water. Named one of Time Magazine's best inventions in 2005, Lifestraw is a proven product. We test it in different environments and share our findings with you.
We received our Lifestraw and opened the package excited to run the tests. One of the caps to cover the filter end was broken. As noted the straw is lightweight, the first thing we tried to do was see if it would fit inside of our water bottle. The straw is slightly longer than a 38 ounce water bottle. However we were able to carry inside the bottle using a water bottle pouch. According to Veestergard's site the lifestraw can filter particulate matter larger than 0.2 microns. This is comparable to larger filters such as MSR's mini-works. The mini-works weighs in at one pound (Weight 1 lb / 456 g).
Note: One thing to keep in mind are viruses.
Viruses such as Hepatitis A, rotavirus, Norwalk virus which can average in size at 0.004 microns. If you live or are traveling in an area where this is a concern, then a water purifier may be a better solution. Something that adds a chemical such as a chlorine based or iodine solution. An example would be the MSR SweetWater. The First Need XL is supposed to be a chemical free option. More backpackers are using UV light for purification but this is not an area we are going to cover.
There are several advantages to the lifestraw. Cost and weight. In regards to taste and turbidity removal, it would be interesting to run a comparison. For now we will document the turbidity removal with the lifestraw. The MSR miniworks contains a carbon core to remove unpleasant tastes. From our experience using the miniworks on long term backpacking trips the taste of the water should be of higher quality.
Duration of each filter as documented by manufacturers and distributors:
Lifestraw Purifies a minimum of 1000 litres (264 gallons) of water"align
Miniworks "Filter Element Duration, 528 gallons"
Cost of each filter
Lifestraw ~ $20 dollars
MSR Miniworks ~ $90
Note: It is always a good idea to remove sediment from the water by filtering. Parasites and bacteria carried inside the solid (soil) particles are harder to destroy. The lifestraw filter will slowly get clogged by sediment. Blowing water back out of the filter helps. However, a prefilter would be helpful. While it is possible to drink directly out of the source of water with this straw, we prefer to use a bandana or cloth to remove the larger particles from the water as it enters the water bottle. This is a good idea for several reasons. First, as we mentioned pre-filtering of any type helps remove sediment. Second, although most articles written show the user bending over the water, bending near water is dangerous. Whether you find yourself near cold water in a winter situation or next to a warm body of water filled with dangerous animals, leaning over a body of water is dangerous. We would only do this as a last option. By tying a piece of cordage to the bottle we can lower the bottle into the water and reduce the risk of being attacked near a water source. Carry a water bottle, fill it (use a bandana as a pre-filter) and then drink/filter from the water bottle.
"The protozoan parasites Cryptosporidium and Giardia have been implicated as the causative agents of many outbreaks of waterborne intestinal illness (2, 11). Water appears to be an important vehicle for the transmission of these parasites, along with direct contact with infected persons or animals. Both parasites produce a robust (oo)cyst to be able to endure environmental stress and to make the probability of reaching a new, susceptible host as high as possible. The (oo)cysts are shed by infected persons or animals and enter surface water through direct fecal input, discharge of treated and untreated sewage, and runoff from agricultural lands. Transport of infectious (oo)cysts from the source of surface water contamination to areas where exposure of potentially new hosts to surface water occurs, such as bathing areas, abstraction points for drinking water production, and drenching areas for livestock or wildlife, is governed by several hydrodynamical, chemical, and biological factors, i.e., water flow, attachment of freely suspended (oo)cysts to particles, sedimentation and resuspension of free and attached (oo)cysts, and survival of (oo)cysts." Source: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
We began testing of the straw in winter time. Breaking through a thin layer of ice and drinking directly from a pond. Again, leaning over the edge of the water while getting your hands and knees wet and dirty is not a good idea. It became obvious that filling a water receptacle and drinking from it would simplify the process. Furthermore drinking directly from a cold body of water can drop your core body temperature and cause stomach cramps. The water from the ponds in the area was mostly clear and the taste was insipid. If you have the straw around your neck, be mindful of water dripping after you are done drinking. In a cold weather environment this could cause a chilly surprise.
After using the straw on several hiking trips, we decided to use it in a more demanding environment. Swamps and feeder creeks tend to increase in turbidity after a rain storm so we did just that. We spent a weekend in the swamp and used only the straw to provide our drinking water. Note: The sediment from the marshy environment started to clog the straw, blowing back out of the straw helps but there were times where pulling the water through the straw became a laborious task. We would like to run further testing in high sediment areas to test the longevity of the straw. There are several questions that we wanted to address during this stage of testing. What would be the taste of the high tannin water found in the swamp and how much sediment would pass through the test. The pictures below show the water before and after filtration.
The water had a disting taste, its clear that you are drinking water with a higher level of silt. While the taste would be unpleasant to those used to drinking spring water from the sahara, it was quite bearable. Note: We tested the straw without any type of pre-filter. Using a piece of cloth from a bandana of shemagh should help reduce sediment particles and improve the taste.
Practical Survivor Tip
For an alternate, lightweight water receptacle we use a small boat dry bag or a sealable plastic bag (ziploc). We can wrap the bag around the straw using two rubber bands.
Testing the efficiency of the filter is impossible without the right equipment. This filter has been around for some time so we felt safe to test it. Comments from our facebook page included concerns of stomach rot. We are writing this article after testing the straw in North America. We are planning a trip to South America and we will document testing there. Effectiveness information from the manufacturer:
Per the website
"Antimicroial Efficacy: LifeStraw® was successfully assessed in the same laboratory conditions (EPA 1987 protocol for microbiological water purifiers testing) and showed that LifeStraw® meets the EPA requirements of LOG 6 reduction for bacteria and LOG 3 reduction for protozoan parasites
>7.3 EPA Requirement 6.0
>3.9 EPA Requirement 3.0"
Does not say what the baseline was but:
The number of bacteria represented by log reduction is dependent
upon the number of bacteria present initially (baseline). For example,
if the baseline is 4 logs and the reduction is 3 logs, only 1 log of
bacteria remains which is equal to 10 colony forming units (CFU).
However, if the baseline is 6 logs and the reduction is 3 logs, 3 logs
of bacteria remain which is 1000 CFUs. Source: 3M
After each test we prefer to clean the straw by boiling water and allowing the straw to sit in the water for several minutes. Some may see this as overkill but we feel its better to be cautious. This is a good time to draw clean water into the straw and blow it back out.
The Lifestraw Water filter is a lightweight alternative to other water filtration systems. The option to carry a smaller and lighter filter allows backpackers to have a safe and efficient way to filter water in an emergency. For anyone building a survival or disaster preparedness kit the reduced cost will help with redundancy. For now we will include one of these filters in every one of our bags. Whether you are going for a day hike or a month long trek, this straw could be a life saving item in your pack. For minimal cost you can enjoy your adventure knowing you have a reliable way to quickly without the need of fire. As we always say, do not live paranoid, live prepared.
Special thanks to my beautiful daughter AnnaGrace she is my companion and photographer.
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