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Hands-on Gear Review

LifeStraw Review

LifeStraw
Price:   $20 List | $19.95 at REI
Compare prices at 4 resellers
Pros:  Lightweight, inexpensive, simple, compact, quick
Cons:  Can't transfer treated water into another vessel (can only drink through), requires you to carry dirty water with you, sometimes sipping through can be difficult
Editors' Rating:     
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Manufacturer:   Vestergaard

Our Verdict

As the least expensive water treatment system in our entire review, tied with the Sawyer Mini, the LifeStraw has some obvious appeal. For around $20 you can get a compact, lightweight, and simple system for treating water. It is chemical free, doesn't have any batteries or moving parts (meaning it is unlikely to break), and can last for 1000 liters. It filters out particulate, so you won't be left drinking dirt and grass bits like you sometimes will with a UV light treatment system and it weighs almost the same (2.7 oz) as the Sawyer Mini, which is far less than any pump filter. It is slightly less expensive and is slightly less versatile than the Sawyer Mini.

Read our full Water Filter Review to see which systems are our favorite.


RELATED REVIEW: The Best Backpacking Water Filter and Treatment Systems

select up to 5 products
Score Product Price Weight (including bag and all things that would be carried) Dimensions Filter Media
88
$120
Editors' Choice Award
12 oz 3 in x 9.5 in Hollow Fiber
86
$120
12.9 oz (Cartridge) 1.9 x 5.7 / (reservoir) 22 x 10 in Hollow Fiber
85
$90
11.5 oz 10 x 6 x 2.4 in Pleated glassfiber/carbon
82
$25
Best Buy Award
1.6 oz for filter alone, 2.5 oz for filter and bottle 5.5 in long 4 in diameter Hollow Fiber
82
$350
Top Pick Award
22 oz 8.2 x 4.7 x 3.5 in Hollow Fiber
78
$140
17 oz 20 x 10 in (per bladder) Hollow Fiber Membrane
77
$90
13.65 oz 2 in wide x7.5 in long Silica Depth
75
$15
Top Pick Award
3 oz with both bottles and mixing caps N/A Chlorine Dioxide
74
$95
19.4 oz 7.5 x 4 in Pleated glassfiber, activated carbon granulate, ceramic pre-filter
73
$20
2.7 oz 9 in long, 4 diameter Hollow Fiber Membrane
73
$85
14.3 oz 3 x 6.5 x 2.4 in AntiClogTM pleated cartridge made with 0.3 micron glassfiber. Includes activated carbon granules
71
$13
0.2 oz for 30 tablets N/A Sodium dichloroisocyanurate
68
$100
6 oz 7.5 x 2.5 UV light
67
$90
18 oz 2.75 in wide x 7.5 in long Ceramic Plus Carbon
51
$145
16 oz 15 x 7 x 3.5 Hollow fiber membrane ultra filtration

Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
Jessica Haist
Review Editor
OutdoorGearLab

Last Updated:
Wednesday
August 10, 2016

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Originally designed to provide easy access to clean drinking water for people in Third World countries, this contender is an emergency water treatment method that can also work in the backcountry. It is a lightweight straw that includes a filter. It cannot treat large quantities of water, but does allow fast and easy access to clean water if you have a questionable source.

Performance Comparison


A lightweight personal filter that allows you to drink from virtually anywhere.
A lightweight personal filter that allows you to drink from virtually anywhere.

Reliability / Effectiveness


It effectively strains out bacteria and protozoa, including Cryptosporidium, through its hollow fiber membrane, but it does not treat for viruses. It makes a handy water treatment system for international travel, but be aware that you will still be vulnerable to viral diseases. This filter is reported to last around 1000 liters; for the same price you can purchase the Sawyer Mini, which lasts 100,000 gallons. There is not way to troubleshoot this water filter, other than blowing out the water you just sucked in to back flush.
When this contender gets difficult to drink out of  you can blow back out all the debris to clean it.
When this contender gets difficult to drink out of, you can blow back out all the debris to clean it.

Ease of Use


This straw-style filter is incredibly easy to operate. You dip the filter into the water and drink out of the top like you would out of a straw. It can be tricky to suck through the filter if the water is especially murky, and there is a delay as the water goes through the filter before it reaches your mouth (you have to try hard). Once it starts moving through, it is easy enough to drink your fill.

One thing we did not anticipate with using this model is that it can be difficult to reach the water if you are trying to drink directly from a water source like a stream or pond. The straw is not particularly long and if the banks are high you have to really down to get your face close enough, or if the bank is muddy, this poses another problem. In these situations, a gravity filter like the Katadyn Gravity Camp 6L or a pump like the Katadyn Vario, could be a better choice. It seems like it's best to use this filter like a straw out of a container you've filled from the source.
Mick Pearson drinking out of a muddy pond with the Lifestraw. Because it is so short it makes it difficult to drink out of places that are hard to reach because of mud or high banks.
Mick Pearson drinking out of a muddy pond with the Lifestraw. Because it is so short it makes it difficult to drink out of places that are hard to reach because of mud or high banks.
The mouthpiece.
The mouthpiece.

Treatment Capacity


The main downside to this filter is that you can't treat water with it and then transfer the water to another vessel like a cook pot or a CamelBak. So you can't use it to treat water for cooking, for groups, or for situations like alpine climbing where you want to bring clean water with you and leave the filter on the ground with your bivy gear. You can only drink through the filter. If you are backpacking and need to bring water with you between sources, you will need to carry a bottle of dirty water with you and drink through the Straw whenever you are thirsty. Keep in mind that doing this contaminates your vessel, and you will need to drink through the filter out of it every time until it has been properly sterilized.

This model can also be used to drink from a bottle  allowing you to collect water at the source and carry it with you  and then you can drink it later.
This model can also be used to drink from a bottle, allowing you to collect water at the source and carry it with you, and then you can drink it later.

Time Before Drinking


Since this is a filter straw, drinking through it is almost instantaneous. It does not require pumping or an incubation period like chemical treatments do. It is noticeably more difficult to drink through than the Sawyer Mini, which is also a straw-style filter, but this only causes a delay of several seconds.

Weight


At 2.7 ounces, this is one of the lightest water treatment methods you could bring with you into the backcountry. However, our favorite light and small filter for personal use if the Best Buy winning Sawyer Mini, which functions the same, is smaller, and only weighs 1.4 ounces.

The Sawyer Mini (and its included straw) next to the LifeStraw (top) for size comparison. The Mini is much lighter and more compact than the LifeStraw  and in our opinion  more versatile as well.
The Sawyer Mini (and its included straw) next to the LifeStraw (top) for size comparison. The Mini is much lighter and more compact than the LifeStraw, and in our opinion, more versatile as well.

Best Application


This filter works well for short backpacking trips or for emergency water treatment, but is not the most ideal treatment method for extended periods in the backcountry or for treating water for more than one person. This seems like more of a novelty treatment than anything else and is fun to have along to drink out of puddles.
Little puddles in granite pockets are a perfect place to get water while alpine climbing with this model.
Little puddles in granite pockets are a perfect place to get water while alpine climbing with this model.

Value


For around $20, the value of this simple filter is hard to beat, as most pumps cost around $100. However, the very similar Sawyer Mini manages to do this. It costs only $5 more, lasts far longer, is smaller and lighter, and more versatile. With this in mind, we recommend the Sawyer Mini filter straw over this one, but we don't think that the LifeStraw is a bad buy.

Conclusion


This is a unique product with a rather specialized use. It is inexpensive and lightweight, and works fairly well for personal use, but it won't treat large quantities of water or water for groups.
You really have to get low to drink out of sources with high banks.
You really have to get low to drink out of sources with high banks.

Other Versions & Accessories


Lifestraw  Steel Version
Lifestraw Steel
  • $55
  • Steel version

LifeStraw Go
LifeStraw Go
  • LifeStraw placed inside a water bottle to carry water with you
  • $35

LifeStraw Family
LifeStraw Family 1.0
  • 1 and 2 liter options
  • Front country, gravity fed water filter
  • $90
Jessica Haist

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: December 14, 2016
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
  • 1
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  • 5
 (4.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
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  • 5
 (4.0)

100% of 1 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
2 Total Ratings
5 star: 0%  (0)
4 star: 100%  (2)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)
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   Dec 14, 2016 - 12:41pm
Wyatt · Hunter · North Carolina
I honestly believe that everyone should have these. This straw can purify anything to clean fresh water. It's very small so it's great for storage. This is good for people who like to travel in the woods or something I don't know. Maybe you just like drinking water from strange and unusual places, whatever the case is get you one of these! I've tested it on so many things and it really can extract any water out of almost everything. The only problem is it is really hard to use, you will pretty much will feel like you're sucking the soul out of a tree when you use it. But nonetheless you still get fresh water. Just don't try it on seawater it doesn't work on that. It has no aftertaste, and doesn't require any source of electrical power. It only removes bacteria and waterborne parasites not chemicals. Though most definitely this is still a great product compared to any homemade filter this is most definitely the safer alternative and you should probably get yourself one.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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