Water Purification Comparison: The Benefits & Downsides
Author: Kai Pantano Date Posted: 12 August 2020
Not sure which water filtration or purification device you should choose? Kai walks us through the most popular brands, including Lifestraw, Katadyn, GRAYL and Steripen.
The name says it all. A Lifestraw is literally a large straw – with a filter built into the device. They filter out 99.999999% of parasites, bacteria, dirt, sand and even microplastics. You’ll get 4000 litres out of the membrane filter before you have to replace it. Using a Lifestraw, you can drink straight from creeks or other backcountry water sources. These straws have literally saved peoples lives, so it’s worth considering as an emergency addition to your kit.
A Lifestraw is a personal straw – so it is only really convenient for one person to use. They are more of an emergency device (although several bottle mounted versions are available) so they are not really suited to purifying large amounts of water in one go. There is a 5 litre version available for larger amounts. That said, these aren’t really downsides – more considerations to keep in mind. The basic Lifestraw is only $37 and should be a part of your emergency kit for every trip.
Water Purification Tablets (Katadyn Micropur)
One of these tablets purifies 1 litre of water. Viruses, bacteria and Giardia can be eliminated within hours and due to the silver content of the tablets, You can preserve water for up to 6 months. The tablets have a long shelf life of 5 years and come in packs of 100.
Tablets take time to purify the water – 30 minutes at a bare minimum and several hours of you want to eliminate Giardia. Once again, they work best with water that has been filtered – so you’re best of pairing the tablets with a filter if you’re purifying turbulent water. You may also experience a mild chlorine aftertaste.
GRAYL takes a slightly different approach to filtering water. They use a plunger, which forces the water through the inbuilt filter. You’re then able to drink straight from the bottle on the trail. Similar to Lifestraw, they filter just about anything out of water, including microplastics, heavy metals and particles. Even chemical residue, tastes and odours can be filtered out of the water thanks an inbuilt carbon filter.
Once again, the bottles are squarely aimed at personal use, meaning they’re great for individuals but not ideal for groups or large quantities of water. They also only filter 150L per replaceable cartridge, so you’ll be replacing the filter more often.
Katadyn BeFree Soft Flasks
The BeFree range features soft flasks from Hydrapak, which are BPA-free, collapsible and easy to clean. An inbuilt replaceable hollow fibre filter removes sediment, bacteria and cysts from clear or cloudy water. The 42mm cap also fits onto most Hydrapak collapsible bottles, so you can swap out the bottle for a larger capacity if you have one at home. These bottles are very packable when empty and water can be easily squeezed through the filter into another water bottle.
They don’t filter out viruses. While this isn’t a big deal in Australia or the USA, there are plenty of other countries that carry plenty of nasties in their water sources. If you were really concerned, you’ll want to pair this filter with a purification tablet.
Large Katadyn Filters
The Katadyn Hiker Pro is a transparent pump style water filter. Backcountry water filtration is taken care of by various filters that protect against giardia, protozoa, sediment and chemical aftertastes. It has a much larger capacity and high flow rate (up to 1L/minute), making it suitable for supplying a group for longer trips. The Hiker Pro is a hand-pump style, so it does take some work to operate, though you can share the work around the campsite if you get tired! Katadyn also offer Gravity-fed pumps with similar filters, which you can hang up in a tree for easy access to pure water.
These larger capacity filters trade capacity for weight and portability, and while they're still light (300-700g), they are harder to whip out trailside for a sip of water. You can always fill up your bottles at camp, then bring a smaller filter like a Lifestraw or BeFree if you need to top up on the go.
All methods of water purification have their strengths and weaknesses, and it may be that a combination of a few styles best suits your water needs. Check out the full range of options here.