Outdoor Gear Reviews

LifeStraw Makes Contaminated Water Safe to Drink

Living in the United States, most people do not worry much about their drinking water. They turn on the tap at the faucet and clean water flows out. We use, on average, 80-100 gallons per day. That’s right: each American uses 80-100 gallons of water per day. If that sounds like a lot, it is. And water filtration isn’t usually an issue for us. But it is for LifeStraw.

Maybe the reason we use so much water is because we can. Clean water is available no matter where you live. Whether it’s city water or well water, clean water is close by, cheap, and seemingly endless.

I would venture to guess that if each citizen had to haul his water from a water source miles – or even yards – away, that insanely high average would fall dramatically and quickly.

I severely decreased my daily average a few years ago when I went on a backcountry hike with my sister. We parked our car in a ranger station parking lot in Utah, received a pass allowing us to hike and camp in the backcountry, and headed away from all signs of modern civilization for the next four days. We had only what we could carry on our backs.

DSC_0450Water, of course, was a big concern. When I say there were no modern facilities, I mean there were no clean water sources. During certain times, the canyons we were hiking through have no water at all, as all possible water sources dry up. We planned our trip for early spring, hoping what snowfall had occurred during the winter was still in the process of melting.

As luck would have it, we did find sources of water along the way. A muddy pond, a spring fed mudhole, and a seasonal stream kept us hydrated.

The key to hydration in the backcountry, along with a water source, is a way to purify the water. Water contains much beyond two hydrogens and an oxygen. Water purifiers can remove any number of bacteria, parasites, protozoa, chemicals, and odors, making the water you drink in the backcountry not only safe, but enjoyable.

First off, you must decide if you need to filter or if you need to purify it. A water filter mechanically pushes water through a filter. This strains out bacteria and protozoa, but not all kill viruses. A purifier eliminates viruses, bacteria, and protozoa and sometimes involves chemicals.

There are several types of filters and purifiers for outdoor use. Things to consider include effectiveness, weight, cost, wait-time before drinking, amount of water being treated, and location of use.

Bottom line: chemical purifiers are lightweight and are the safest, but can take up to 4 hours to become effective; filters are generally the best choice for hikers because they are easy to use and provide safe water quickly; and UV purifiers are effective against all pathogens by messing with the DNA in the organisms.

DSCN8821For my four-day hike, I carried a water bladder filtration system. I found the weight and time to produce clean water acceptable. LifeStraw offers several options in water filtration. Their bladder version is called the LifeStraw Mission. It is a compact roll bag reservoir with a wide mouth, making it easy to fill with water from a stream, river, or lake. The Mission purifies to 0.02 microns, removes 99.9999% of bacteria, 99.99% of protozoa, and 99.999% of viruses that can contaminate water. This exceeds US EPA drinking water standards. It filters water at a rate of 9-12 liters per hour, more than enough for the needs on my hike. Best of all, it requires no batteries, electrical power, or replacement parts.

There is no doubt I would use this reservoir system on a backcountry hike again.

If you are looking for an even more portable, easy-to-use filtration system, the LifeStraw Steel is only 9 inches long and one inch in diameter, so it fits anywhere. It is sturdy, requires no batteries or electrical power, and meets US EPA drinking water standards.

Until you’ve been away from a clean water source for any length of time, you really can’t appreciate the benefits of clean water at your fingertips. But since I have had to rely on whatever water was available in the bottom of a canyon, I feel comfortable using a water filtration system such as those by Lifestraw. They are easy and effective. The hardest part of using these filtration systems (or any for that matter) is mentally getting over the idea of drinking muddy water full of who-knows-what.

And now I come back to the fact that the average American uses 80-100 gallons of water per day. In the backcountry, where you have to filter your own water and carry it on your back, I can assure you the number is severely reduced. We used water sparingly and only out of necessity. I learned how little water I really need to use in a day. And, no kidding, when I came home after that four-day hike, I had become intensely conscious of the water I used. No more running the water while brushing my teeth. It’s a good lesson to learn.

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Marjorie Paulson

Marjorie Paulson began her passion for the outdoors through backpacking in our national parks. Her love for locally grown organic food has brought her into the world of hunting and we will chronicle her passion for living the Hunting Life!

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