LifeStraw has changed the face of survival forever, and in really good ways. There’s something tremendously alluring about the possibility of carrying around a way to drink safely from any body of water you come across, especially if you hike in wet places with plenty of streams and ponds. However, the LifeStraw is not for everyone, and our LifeStraw review is here to help you figure out whether or not this is the perfect water filter for your needs.
In this LifeStraw review, we look closely at the LifeStraw itself, but we also compare it to three other micro-filtration systems you might take with you on the trail. At the end of our LifeStraw review, we hope you’ll feel just as competent to choose the right device for your needs as we did for ours.
What Is the LifeStraw?
LifeStraw is a portable water filtration system designed to fit neatly into your bag or large jacket pocket. With one of these in hand, you can, theoretically, drink from any dirty water source in a pinch. The body of the straw holds a large filter, and by putting one end into water and sucking through the other, the user draws water up through the filter, cleaning it along the way.
LifeStraw Review: Features
Lifestraw weighs just two ounces, and this light weight is one of its biggest draws. It’s made of plastic, comes in one color (sometimes known as “don’t drop me in the dark blue”), and has a 0.2 micron filter. This filter removes as close to 100% of the bacteria and protozoa as you can get, and it can do this for 265 gallons worth of sipping. It’s easy to clean: simply blow through it after you’re finished drinking.
It comes with two caps to keep the top and bottom free of dirt, and a lanyard in case you don’t fancy sticking it in a pocket. All you have to do is stick the business end of your LifeStraw into the water and start sipping. It’s really that simple, and in our LifeStraw review we pretty happy with how easy it was to sip through given everything it’s filtering out.
We loved some things about this product. It is incredibly versatile, lightweight, and does the job. It’s also very reasonably priced, especially considering how much it will filter. We also love the caps that come at both ends. There’s nothing more annoying than dropping your water bottle in the dirt and wondering whether it’s still safe to drink from the end, right?
You never have to worry about that with the LifeStraw. Not all these things will be “cons” to everyone: you might not mind at all, for example, that the LifeStraw has no way to store water for later. If you’re hiking along streams all the time, this won’t be a big deal.
You also might not prefer the LifeStraw if you’re worried about heavy metals or other non-biological contaminants in your water. In the USA, that’s generally not a huge issue for hikers. If you plan on wandering around China, you might need something else.
The various filtering options we looked at for our LifeStraw review run between $ and $$$. The more you spend, the more your filtration system will remove.
How It Compares
For our LifeStraw review, we considered LifeStraw and three other similar choices. All are similarly compact and portable, do the same general job, but do have differing specs and prices. In addition to the LifeStraw, we considered these options:
- Sawyer Mini Water Filtration System
- MSR TrailShot Micro-Filtration System
- SteriPen Ultra
- Award-winning LifeStraw water filter is a must-carry tool for hiking, camping, travel, and emergencies; no disaster kit...
- Filters up to 1,000 gallons (4,000 liters) of contaminated water without iodine, chlorine, or other chemicals; does not...
- Removes minimum 99.9999% of waterborne bacteria, 99.9% of waterborne protozoan parasites, and filters to 0.2 microns;...
Ease of Use
There is no way you’ll find anything easier to use than the LifeStraw, and this is one of its biggest selling points. Pop the cap, stick it in the water, sip, then blow it out and keep going. Easy as pie.
The caps on both ends, the light weight, the versatility, and the price are all enormous advantages to the LifeStraw.
Consider what this thing is doing: making your drinking water safe while remaining portable enough to go anywhere. It’s also doing this for nearly 265 gallons worth of drinking. We have no complaints about design (though we wouldn’t mind some other color choices).
You have 30 days to return your straw if it’s damaged or defective. It does have to be in the original packaging. Other than that, there’s no warranty.
- Ideal for outdoor recreation, hiking, camping, scouting, domestic and International travel, and emergency preparedness
- High-performance 0.1 Micron absolute inline filter fits in the palm of your hand and weighs just 2 ounces; 100% of MINI...
- Attaches to included drinking pouch, standard disposable water bottles, hydration packs, or use the straw to drink...
This is similar to the LifeStraw. The Sawyer Mini weight just 2 ounces, is made of plastic, and kills bacteria and protozoa. This one has a filter that’s even better than the one on the LifeStraw at 0.1 microns. It can also be attached to your water bottle or inline bladder, which is a real plus.
You can get this in four different colors, and when you buy you’ll receive the filter and cap, a water bag that can hold 16oz, and a syringe to backflush and clean your filter. The Sawyer mini is meant to hold up through a lifespan of an amazing 100,000 gallons.
Ease of Use
This is a great little device. It’s lightweight, screws onto all kinds of things, and filters everything from store-bought water to whatever you managed to fill up your inline bladder with, to river water. The only problem we have with it is that it’s harder and less intuitive to clean than the LifeStraw.
The light weight, great filter, and incredible versatility are the reasons you should consider the Sawyer Mini. Attaching this thing to our inline bladder was one of the highlights of our research for this LifeStraw review!
This thing is incredible, and the only complaint we have is that it can’t filter out viruses (though, in fairness, neither can the LifeStraw) and it’s a bit complicated to keep up with maintenance.
It does not get better than a Lifetime Warranty. That’s what you get, and as long as you use it normally and don’t ever let it freeze, your warranty will be good forever.
- Pocket-sized lightweight water filter cleans water on-the-go for hiking, camping, traveling, and emergency preparedness
- Drink directly from the source or fill a water bottle or hydration pack; easy one-handed operation filters one liter in...
- Ultralight (5 ounces) and compact (6x2.4 inches), it fits in a stash pocket for trail runners, hikers, and mountain...
MSR produces a wide range of products, and this one is a great choice for anyone who wants to carry around a water filter with them. The TrailShot is a bit bigger than the filters we’ve already looked at in this LifeStraw review, but it has a hand pump on the filter that makes it a lot easier to fill up a bottle or bladder with freshly-filtered water.
It’s durable, easy to use, and lets you filter without having to have your face within six inches of the water source; though you can just kneel over and sip if you like. Each cartridge lasts for 528 gallons. This filter weighs in at 5.6 ounces.
Ease of Use
We love that you don’t have to be hovering right over a rocky stream, trying to suck through a giant straw. We don’t love that the longer you pump, the harder it gets. We also note that this is nearly three times heavier than the other items we’ve looked at so far, and it’s just a bit too bulky to go throwing in your pocket.
The hand pump is either an advantage or a disadvantage, depending on your perspective. If you want to fill a container quickly, this is a lot better than the LifeStraw. If you want to move fast and light, this is worse.
This is reasonably durable, but while it does last you for well over 500 gallons, as the filter gets full it does get pretty hard to pump. It’s also a bit bulkier than we would prefer.
MSR are slightly cagey about their warranty. They claim to stand by their products, and that’s great. However, they won’t actually come out and state a warranty period, instead urging you to call them if anything happens. This means calling their Seattle repair shop directly.
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This is the most expensive offering in our LifeStraw Review, but it’s also a bit different in that it kills viruses, requires no pumping, and doesn’t need to be backflushed. This powers itself. Simply press the power button one time to fill up a one liter bottle, or twice to do a half liter. It takes about 90 seconds to do a liter, and the bottle’s screen will smile at you sweetly when it’s done.
The whole thing weighs in at just 4.7 ounces, making it more than twice as heavy as a LifeStraw, but not nearly as heavy as the TrailShot. Overall, this was very portable and simple to carry around. The battery lasts for 50 liters on a full charge, and the bulb should do 8,000 treatments before burning out.
Instead of a filter, this unit uses UV rays to destroy the bad stuff in your water; but the downside of that is you won’t get rid of any sediment or murk. You’ll be drinking clear water: but it might still be cloudy and brown, which is hard for some people to deal with.
Ease of Use
This is ultra simple to use. You don’t need to pump anything or even suck water through a straw. There’s nothing to clean or backflush. It literally gets no easier than pressing a button.
Portability, weight, and convenience are the key advantages here. We just loved it: let’s be honest. However, we have to admit that a battery makes us nervous. If you get lost in the woods, your LifeStraw will keep you alive for a year. This one will die in 10 days with just one person using it.
The design is excellent. It’s amazing they managed to get such a good filter into such a small and convenient package. The fact that this is the only one on our list capable of filtering out viruses is also important if there’s any chance you’ll be near water contaminated by human feces. The only problem? A glass bulb can break.
The SteriPen comes with a one-year limited warranty. It’s not bad, but it’s not the best we’ve run across, either. The larger SteriPen offerings get a three-year warranty, so we do have to wonder why these only get a year.
We thoroughly enjoyed our LifeStraw review. There are few things we like better than an excuse to get out into nature and run around seeing if the water sources can be made drinkable. You’ll need to make the decision for yourself about which of these filters is the best for your needs. All we can give you is our thoughts, and we have some:
In most cases in North America, you won’t need to worry about water being contaminated with human feces; so long as you and everyone in your camp relieves yourself far away from a water source. That being said, the SteriPen is the only one on our list that can deal with viruses, so if you’re going where cleanliness is an issue, you might want to consider this.
There’s just something about drinking clear water. Yes, the SteriPen has sterilized the water; but we just had a hard time remembering that when we tipped the cloudy murk up to our lips. Yes, you could filter it once it has been sterilized, but then you have to take a second thing around with you.
We really liked the hand pump on the MSR; but in the end we found the LifeStraw and the Sawyer Mini to be just a bit more convenient for the way we like to roll. If you’re interested in light weight and no bulk, you might not like the MSR.
In the end, this is a LifeStraw Review: so how does it stack up? It’s endlessly portable, easy to carry around, intuitive to use, and simpler to maintain than the Sawyer Mini. Our only real complaint is that you can’t easily attach it to something you’d like to fill up with filtered water. In the end, we award the LifeStraw 4 out of 5 stars.