LifeStraw Personal Water Filter Review
Recently, I got my hands on one of the LifeStraw personal water filter “straws”. If you haven’t yet heard of a water filter straw, they are basically an oversized “straw” with a water filtration element inside. These straws allow you to simply place one end into a contaminated water source and suck through the other end — drawing up filtered, clean drinking water.
There are a few other filters on the market like this LifeStraw; most notably, the Seychelle Advanced Water Straw and the Aquamira Frontier Filter Straw. In this article I’ll be reviewing the LifeStraw, and since I own both the Seychelle Advanced and the Aquamira Frontier I’ll also be comparing it with these other ones as I go along:
LifeStraw Water Filter Form and Function
Since I own both the Seychelle and the Aquamira “straw style” water filters, what I noticed immediately is that the LifeStraw is a bit bulkier than the other straws. You can check out the comparison between the three here:
The size may or may not be an issue for you depending on how you intend to use it. For a larger bug-out bag or if on an extended hike, this would obviously not be an issue since it will easily fit in your backpack. If you’re looking to pack some type of water filter for a small Get-Home Bag or to fit in your pocket for every-day carry, the Aquamira (the smallest of the above three) would be a better choice.
As for other components, the filter has a built-in lanyard for easy carry around the neck as well as two caps to cover both the nipple end and the base (which is inserted in your water source):
I do think the covers are an important feature for these types of filters. This is something that the Seychelle does have but the Aquamira lacks. I think not having some type of protectent cover could potentially lead to cross contamination with the water-source end (depending on how you store it).
The filter is easy to use. Like the other water filter straws, there is no need for electricity, special pumps, or even a separate container. You simply insert one end of the straw into your water source and from the other end, you draw (or suck) the water through the filter element — giving you get instant, clean drinking water.
I really like the design of the LifeStraw in this aspect since the drawing/sucking end is clearly distinguishable from the water-source end. The Aquamira (when assembled correctly) is also pretty clear. However, the Seychelle can be confusing as to which end is up or down — potentially causing cross contamination if you stick the wrong end in your water source.
Another pretty nifty feature (or requirement) of the LifeStraw is that you should regularly blow through the LifeStraw to prevent clogging and to clean the element. As a side note, this feature may account for the huge difference in filter capacity (read below) compared with the Seychelle or Aquamira (although I’m sure the size is also a reason).
You can see a video review of its use by me here:
LifeStraw Filter Performance
From a filter performance standpoint, the LifeStraw is markedly better than the other two. Let’s compare…
The LifeStraw is rated to be able to effectively filter around 1000 liters (~264 gallons) of water. I think this number is actually conservative since tests run by the Department of Soil, Water and Environmental Science of the University of Arizona have shown effective treatment up to 1500 liters (~396 gallons)!
Compare this with 75 liters (~20 gallons) of the Aquamira and 95 liters (~25 gallons) of the Seychelle. Yes, I think the size difference has something to do with it, however, it does not account for everything (It’s not 10x the size of the others). Again, it is probably due to the ability to flush the filter by blowing air out through the water-source end.
I’ve effectively used all three water-filter straws with various outdoor water sources and have not had an issue with any as far as water-borne sickness. However if I were to choose which one I’d PREFER to have with me, it would have to be the LifeStraw. Here’s why:
The LifeStraw has been tested by the Department of Soil, Water and Environmental Science of University of Arizona to meet (and in some cases EXCEED) the filtration standards set by the U.S. EPA in the following categories:
- BACTERIA (i.e. Escherichia coli): Removes 99.9999% of bacteria. It was measured at > LOG 6 reduction (this is higher than the required EPA standard of LOG 6)
- PROTOZOA (tested against *Cryptosporidium oocysts): > LOG 3 reduction (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 (8-12 µm 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 meets or exceeds filtration expectations from the EPA.
As a comparison, how do the others stack up? Let’s see here:
Aquamira Frontier Filter Straw
This comes directly from the Aquamira website:
“Although the Frontier Filter does reduce bacteria and virus, it is not certified to remove >99.9999% of bacteria and >99.99% of virus required by the US EPA water purifier standard. For maximum protection, use in conjunction with Aquamira Water Treatment Drops or Aquamira Water Purifier Tablets.”
Seychelle Water Filter Straw
The Seychelle website says that their straw is “proven effective against bacteria and virus to six logs reduction (99.9999%)”. My antennae always go up whenever I hear something like “effective to” or “up to”. I think that this is a slick marketing way of hiding that only the smallest hole in their filtration element will filter out the “six logs reduction” of bacteria and virus — implying that the larger holes in their element won’t. Since it really doesn’t matter how small the smallest holes in a filter is; a filter can only be as effective as the weakest link (or largest holes in this case).
Not sure if this is the case with Seychelle, but I couldn’t find any worthwhile studies to prove me otherwise. In addition, they make no mention of their filter being effective against protozoan parasites like Giardia or Crypto — not a good sign.
The LifeStraw can currently be bought from many distributors (including Amazon) for around $20. Here’s a link to Amazon.
In comparison to the other filter straws, the LifeStraw is more than double in price. The Seychelle goes for around $12 and the Aquamira is the cheapest, running about $8 at Amazon.
Although more expensive, the price is justified since I believe LifeStraw is a superior filter compared with the Seychelle Advanced and the Aquamira Frontier; It can filter out more biological nasties, making your water safer to drink and its longevity (in terms of how much water it can filter over its lifetime) is more than 10x the amount of the others!
A clear winner in those terms.
However, I do still feel the others have their place — especially the Aquamira. I’m not a huge fan of the Seychelle for reasons that I can’t find their filtration studies; and the fact that they indicate “up to” in their marketing messages is not comforting in my mind.
The Aquamira is my go-to filter for my Get-Home Bag since the LifeStraw is a bit too big for that application. However, for other applications like my Bug-Out Bag and for filters that I take camping or on a hike, the LifeStraw is my top choice.
Final Note: In response to the video above: after two weeks of drinking water from a few water sources near my property using the LifeStraw, I did not feel any ill effects. Given the transparent studies and my personal experience, I highly recommend the LifeStraw.
A Chance to Win Your Own!
If you liked this review and specifically the LifeStraw, I have three LifeStraw filters that I would love to give away to three lucky winners this month.
To get in the running here are the requirements:
- Leave a comment telling me your favorite water filtration/purification method and why.
- 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 three commentors to win a LifeStraw filter (more than one comment will not improve your chances). I’ll then contact the three winners through that email from #2 above to get the address you’d like me to send it to.