Clean drinking water is a non-negotiable. But even though it’s critical to our survival, millions of people around the world don’t have access to it on a temporary or permanent basis. LifeStraw and sustainable living retailer Eartheasy are on a mission to change that with transportable personal water filtering systems that started with what is otherwise a bane on the environment in its basic varieties: the straw. After significantly contributing to the near eradication of disease caused by guinea worm larvae water contamination, Vestergaard introduced the original LifeStraw in 2005. The device was designed for people in developing countries and those without access to clean water after a disaster, but its use has since spread much farther. The original straw is a sustainable solution for travelers, hikers, and nearly everyone who goes anywhere with unsafe drinking water, and LifeStraw’s subsequent filtration systems like the LifeStraw Go and the LifeStraw Family are no different. With our own mission to empower health and sustainability for travelers and the world we explore, the company’s and its products’ merits have earned a spot in our Ultimate Eco-Friendly Gear Guide, so it made perfect sense for us to thoroughly test and review the LifeStraw when offered the opportunity.
Travel Well received one LifeStraw sample from Eartheasy for testing purposes but received no compensation for this review. All opinions are our own.
How it Works
As water is pulled through the straw, a hollow fiber membrane with a 0.2 micron pore size filters microorganisms and traps them in even smaller pores. This membrane can filter up to 1000 liters of water and remove 99.9999% of bacteria and 99.9% of protozoa, but it does not remove contaminants that dissolve in water, including chemicals, salt, and heavy metals, nor does it filter viruses. Once the LifeStraw reaches the end of its life (one year or longer depending on how often it is used) it will stop pulling water through. Here on Hatteras Island, all of our outdoor water is partially saltwater, so we were unable to test the straw in a natural freshwater source. However, being surrounded by seawater did give us one advantage for testing: our tap drinking water can be notoriously hard to swallow–and we’re no water snobs–so detecting a change in taste when using the straw would be easy. For the past three weeks, we have been the LifeStraw from faucets and drinking glasses throughout the day as a traveler would use it. Here’s what we found.
The LifeStraw’s purpose is its best asset. The straw’s filtering mechanism removes 99.9999% of waterborne bacteria and 99.9% of protozoa, making nearly any freshwater meet EPA drinking water standards. While I shouldn’t have been concerned about contaminants in the island’s tap water, I could tell the filter was doing its job by the taste.
Though the straw is plastic, it’s compact, durable, and BPA free. The device also requires no energy or replacement parts and can last far longer than a year for the traveler using it occasionally, making it a great option for the eco-conscious on the go.
Corporate Mission and Model
LifeStraw lives its clean water mission by providing safe drinking water to a school child for an entire school year for every single straw purchased and by offering of carbon credits to reduce your carbon footprint and provide safe drinking water to families in Kenya. To date, their clean water for students program has helped 361,000 students, and their carbon for water program has provided over 800,000 families with a LifeStraw Family water system. Travel Well loves companies that give back.
LifeStraw’s ultra-light 2-ounce weight and 9″ by 1″ dimensions make it easy to toss into a hiking bag or process through airport security. The straw also comes with a lanyard to wear around your neck, toss over your shoulder or tie onto a backpack for quick access.
Without the straw, our tap water tastes just like you’d imagine purified seawater would, but with it, it tastes faintly like garden hose water. Some might not find this appealing, but it reminds me of summer days as a kid drinking water from the actual garden hose and is much preferred to the taste of stale ocean.
One LifeStraw is just $19.95 on eartheasy.com. With the product’s longevity, the donations LifeStraw makes with every purchase, and Eartheasy’s own sustainable living mission, the cost is more than worth it.
While it’s certainly not indestructible, LifeStraw stands up to the rigors of travel and the jostling of day to day activity.
Somewhat Difficult to Drink
You can’t be in a hurry for water when you’re using the LifeStraw. Filtering by nature slows the flow of water, and with this particular tehcnology, your first few sips must be relatively strong to get the water flowing through the straw. Once saturated, drinking becomes easier, though it’s still not as thirst-quenching as a regular straw or open spout. I also experienced a couple stoppages that required me to fully clear the straw before being able to use it again.
Doesn’t Filter Everything
The LifeStraw doesn’t filter viruses, heavy metals or chemicals, negating its purpose. When the only water available is saltwater or sewage-contaminated, the straw is useless.
Only Works With Water in Container/Source
Just like any other straw, the LifeStraw must be placed into water to work, meaning it can only be used with a body of water like a lake or river or with a container of some kind, such as a bottle or glass. If all you have access to is a tap or water fountain, it’s ineffective, and if you want to use it with a travel water bottle, you have to undo the bottle top, uncap the straw, insert the straw and pull water through it, expel the water when you’re done, and recap both the straw and bottle. Not a life-threatening inconvenience, but a cumbersome process in daily applications.
Although the LifeStraw isn’t perfect, all in all it makes a solid addition to a hiker’s backpack and a traveler’s carryon. If the original model doesn’t sound like your ideal filtering system, consider the LifeStraw Go for a more traditional travel water bottle experience or the LifeStraw Mission for portable high capacity needs. We also recommend considering purchasing carbon credits through LifeStraw to reduce your carbon footprint. No matter which of their products you choose, you’ll be taking an active role in the mission to provide clean drinking water to families in need, and that is a non negotiable.