LifeStraw Family 1.0 filter Review


A few weeks ago I did a review on the LifeStraw personal water filter.

I found it to be a fantastic addition to my bug-out bag and highly recommend it.

This week I had the chance to test the latest product from the makers of the LifeStraw — the LifeStraw Family 1.0 filter.

When I first saw pictures of the LifeStraw Family water filter, I thought it was just the original lifestraw with an added hose and container. Since the personal LifeStraw is only around $20 on Amazon, I was a bit taken aback when I saw the Family version selling for around $75.

“$50 more for the same filter, a bucket, and a straw!?”

However, when I got it in the mail and actually unboxed the thing, I realized it’s quite a bit more filter than I originally thought.

Here’s my review:

LifeStraw Family Filter 1.0 Form and Function

Size

The LifeStraw Family water filter is actually considerably larger than the personal LifeStraw that I reviewed not too long ago. You can see in the picture below, it is about 1 1/2 times longer and noticeably thicker than the personal one:

As you’ll read in the “Performance” section, the larger size is not just for looks. It accounts for an exponential increase in both capacity AND effectiveness compared to the LifeStraw personal filter (and that’s saying a lot since I think the personal LifeStraw is a great performing filter).

Design

The design of the filter is, well…unique. Most gravity fed filters out there that I’m used to are similar in design to the Big-Berkey and Propur style filters — basically an upper reservoir that contains the filter element(s) sitting atop a lower reservoir that collects the filtered water.

The LifeStraw Family filter on the other hand is quite a bit different looking. It comes with a container (capable of holding around 2 liters) that feeds the filter via an attached rubber tube. In the container is a removable/cleanable “pre-filter” that I particularly like since it filters out all the bigger elements like leaf litter, dirt, mud and other nasties. This happens before they can contact the main filter which can do a number on shortening a water filter’s lifespan:

I also appreciate the color-coded taps. The blue tap is where the filtered water is drawn from and on the bottom, you’ll find a red tap for purging and cleaning. The bright red color is a reminder not to drink from that tap.

Finally, you’ll find a squeezable red bulb that’s used to help clean and purge the filter. This last component I really don’t like. Although it’s made from sturdy rubber, it seems like it could split over the years (especially if left outside in the sun).

To their credit, the LifeStraw manufacturers have put the bulb and other components through durability testing by simulation of its lifetime use. Still, it would be great if they offered replacement parts of the bulb and tube to stock up on just in case (perhaps they do, I just didn’t see any listed on their site).

Filter Use

This filter is not as easy or straightforward to use as other gravity-fed filters like the Big Berkey — especially for the initial use. Personally it was a bit of a pain to get it going the first time (I had to go through the troubleshooting guide in the manual) and I consider myself to be rather mechanically inclined.

Basically, the process involves closing the taps, filling the container, opening one of the taps for a few seconds, closing it, opening the other tap and sometimes waiting a bit until the water comes out so you can finally fill your drinking container. Then the cleaning process is a whole other set of procedures.

Fortunately they do show simple-to-follow pictures in their manual and on the packaging that you can reference.

I’m sure if you were using this on a regular basis, this whole process would become second nature. However, if you (like me) will be storing this for future use, you want to MAKE SURE you attach the manual or some other instruction sheet to the filter before storing it away

If you’re the visual type, here’s a quick video overview of me putting the filter to use: LifeStraw Family Review

LifeStraw Family 1.0 Filter Performance

Filter Capacity

I thought for such a small filter, the personal LifeStraw was amazing in that it could filter almost 400 gallons (~1500 liters). This filter — although slightly larger — can filter far more at 18,000 liters. In fact, independent testers have even tested it to 20,000 liters. That’s around 5300 gallons!

For a family of four, each drinking/using the recommended one gallon a day, 5300 gallons would last close to 4 years! Not bad at all.

Filter Effectiveness

Similar to the personal LifeStraw, the LifeStraw Family filter has gone through extensive testing to ensure it meets (and in many cases exceeds) expectations outlined by the EPA.

Here are the test results as reported by the Department of Soil, Water and Environmental Science of the University of Arizona:

  • BACTERIA (i.e. Escherichia coli): Removes 99.9999% of bacteria. It was measured at an average of LOG 7.3 (this is higher than the required EPA standard of LOG 6)
  • VIRUSES: The LifeStraw removes a minimum >LOG 4 (99.99%) of viruses. This meets EPA standards.
  • PROTOZOA (tested against *Cryptosporidium oocysts): Removal of LOG 3.9 (99.9%) of protozoan parasites. This is higher than the U.S. EPA requirement of LOG 3.

*Note: Keep in mind that Cryptosporidium oocysts are much smaller than Giardia cysts (8-12µm vs 3-5µm) so if it’s able to remove Crypto it will have no issues with Giardia. (many testers by the way will test against Giardia and not Cryptosporidium).

From the above studies, we can see that the LifeStraw easily meets or exceeds filtration expectations from the EPA. Also, it’s worthwhile to note that the LifeStraw Family DOES filter out viruses (unlike the personal LifeStraw).

Price

The LifeStraw Family water filter can currently be purchased from many distributors (including Amazon) for around $75. Here’s a link to Amazon.

$75, while not cheap, is not a bad deal when you look at it in terms of performance and capacity. As a quick comparison, the personal LifeStraw at $25 will filter around 400 gallons, while the Family model at 3 times the price filters around 5300 gallons — more than 13 times the capacity!…and, it filters out viruses.

The only other filter out there that competes would be the British Berkefield ones (which I also own and recommend). However, comparing these again in terms of gallons filtered vs price you get the following:

Big Berkey LifeStraw Family 1.0
Price: $258 $75
Capacity: 6000 gal 5300 gal
Cost/Gal: .04 .01

From a pure price perspective, the LifeStraw is around 4 times cheaper than the Berkey. Of course there are other things besides price that people look for so it’s not a complete comparison, but if price is a major factor for you, you’re not going to get much better than the LifeStraw Family. It’s a great deal when you’re looking at the price to performance ratio.

Final Thoughts

For the most part, I really like the LifeStraw Family 1.0 filter and have no qualms about recommending it. It’s very effective, the price is right, it can filter a lot of water before needing replacement, and it’s a whole lot more mobile than lugging along a Big Berkey or other similar performing gravity-fed filters if you needed to take it on the road.

If they do decide to make a 2.0 version someday, there are a few things I’d like to see different:

  • A better string hanger: I know this is a minor flaw, but the string they provide to hang the filter quickly came apart and unwound, making it useless. I know. Not a big deal. I just replaced it with some paracord, but if that’s all I had, it would have been an added headache.
  • Make it simpler: Their personal LifeStraw filter is so easy to operate. Suck the dirty water in when you want to drink. Blow it out, to clean it. I get that with the Family filter gravity is doing the “sucking” and that silly red bulb is doing the cleaning but having two different taps, and a somewhat complicated procedure to get the whole thing going could be problematic if the manual was lost.
  • Make parts available: As a prepper, having ways of fixing/replacing things that wear out is a normal part of life for me. Since I worry a bit about the hose and bulb on the Family filter, that’s something I’d normally buy replacement parts for — just in case. Sure, I could buy a second filter, but why spend another $75 when I could just spend $10 for a few extra parts ya know? Again, not a huge deal but a nice to have.

A Chance to Win Your Own!

If you liked this review and specifically the LifeStraw Family, I have a LifeStraw Family filter that I would love to give away to one lucky winner this month.

To enter the drawing here are the requirements:

  1. Leave a meaningful comment here about anything related to water filtration, or your struggles with water preparations, your experiences with this or another filter, or even why you’d like to have the filter.
  2. In the email field (it’s not displayed to anyone but me), leave your best email so that I can contact you if you win.

Using a random number generator, I’ll choose one commenter to win a LifeStraw Famly filter ($90 value). More than one comment will not improve your chances.

This Saturday, November 2nd I’ll then contact the winner through that email from #2 above to get the address you’d like me to send it to.

That’s it!