There are two versions of LifeStraw: one called LifeStraw® and the other called LifeStraw® Family. The latter will be available on the commercial market in the U.S. in August of 2012. This article reviews LifeStraw®, also called ‘LifeStraw Personal’.
The product was purchased by Prep-Blog from Green Beetle Gear, through Amazon.com. The manufacturer, Vestergaard Frandsen, has a page listing companies that offer LifeStraw as a commercial product. But the company mainly sells is products to international aid organizations and governments.
BTW: None of our product reviews are based on products given as free gifts by some company promoting its wares. We purchase items for our own use, or we purchase items because we want to review an interesting survival or prepping item. Our product reviews are each author’s own personal opinion, unbiased by a free gift from a manufacturer.
LifeStraw arrived sealed in a thick plastic bag. The contents include an instruction pamphlet in several languages and the LifeStraw. The first thing to know about LifeStraw, is that it is a VERY BIG straw. It is about 8.5 inches long, and 1.25 inches in diameter. When it is brand-new, the LifeStraw weighs only 1.75 ounces. But, after usage, it will retain some moisture and be somewhat heavier.
The diameter of the main tube narrows at the top, to a convenient size for drinking, which is a half-moon shape and about one third the size of a dime. The sipping tube has a cap, to protect the clean end of the Straw from contamination. The other end is not narrowed, but also has a cap. This ‘dirty end’ of the Straw goes into the contaminated water.
How to use LifeStraw. Remove the large bottom cap. Insert into a glass or bowl of water, or even into an open body of water, such as a river, stream, or lake. Remove the small top cap. Drink by sipping the water. It takes some effort to pull the water up through the Straw for the first sip. After that, it is not too different from drinking through an ordinary straw.
When you are done drinking, you are supposed to blow into the LifeStraw, to expel any water, particulate matter, or contaminants out the lower end of the Straw. Some moisture remains, leaving the LifeStraw about an ounce or so heavier, but still under 3 ounces in weight.
The LifeStraw includes a cord, so that you can wear it around your neck while drinking. This prevents the Straw from being dropped into contaminated water, which might then contaminate the clean end of the Straw (the drinking end). But if the top cap is securely fastened, the device should remain uncontaminated, even if it is dropped.
LifeStraw removes bacteria to over 7 logs; in other words, it removes over 99.99999% of bacteria. This performance level exceeds the EPA requirement of 6 logs for bacteria. LifeStraw removes parasites and cysts to 3.9 logs, i.e. over 99.9% of bacteria. This performance level exceeds the EPA requirements of 3 logs for parasites. LifeStraw is one of the most effective, inexpensive water purification units you can buy. (We paid $24.95 with free shipping.)
LifeStraw Personal Water Filter will last 3 years on the shelf, as long as it is protected from freezing and excessive heat. Also, as is the case with many similar devices, dropping the device (especially on a hard surface) can damage the filter. The manufacturer has tested LifeStraw up to 1600 liters of water purification. But the stated longevity of the device is 1000 liters. As the device reaches the end of its lifespan, it becomes increasingly difficult to pull water through the straw. When it is too difficult, the filter is at the end of its useful life. This might occur sooner or later than the 1000 liter mark, depending on how clean/dirty the water is.
LifeStraw personal does not filter out viruses. The filter pores are not fine enough for the small size of viruses. However, that limitation is common on smaller and less expensive filters. The least expensive filter fine enough to remove all viruses (to EPA standards), as far as I know, is the LifeSaver Bottle 4000 (a 4000 liter capacity), which is currently $149.99 at Amazon. (All prices for all items are subject to change, and are not under our control.) So for a $24.95 item, the LifeStraw does as much as can be reasonably expected.
What is the main drawback of this device? The taste of the water is nowhere near as good as with bottled water. If you are prepping for your water needs, stored bottled water has the best taste. Water drawn through LifeStraw has a strong plastic taste. But I’ve also read that complaint about more expensive water filters as well. If you are out camping, or if there is an emergency situation, perhaps taste is one of your lesser concerns.
The main limiting factor, in my view, is that LifeStraw is in fact a type of straw. It cannot be used to purify water for cooking. It cannot be used to purify and then store water for later use. It is best to use it only for one person, to prevent cross-contamination from someone else’s mouth. LifeStraw is a point-of-use water filter. It can be used by kids, but adult supervision is needed if the water is very contaminated, so that the Straw does not become contaminated also.
In summary, I’m glad that I purchased LifeStraw, and I recommend it. The disadvantages are outweighed by two factors: low cost and excellent filtration of bacteria and parasites. LifeStraw is also lightweight, small, and easy to use.
Vestergaard Frandsen has an interesting business model, which they term “profit for a purpose“. They are motivated by humanitarian responsibility, to provide emergency response and disease control products. But they are also a for-profit company, not a non-profit aid organization. They see commercial enterprise and humanitarian concern as mutually compatible, not mutually exclusive. It is a compelling approach for an international corporation to take. Kudos.