Gear Review: Aquamira and LifeStraw Water Filter Bottles
Water Filter Bottles
Aquamira Frontier Flow Filtered Water Bottle
$50, 7 oz.
20 oz./0.6L bottle capacity (with filter)
$35, 8 oz.
22 oz./0.65L bottle capacity (with filter)
Treating water in the backcountry has always been time-consuming—until now. From long dayhikes on and off-trail in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains and Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness to a four-day, 34-mile backpacking trip on the Rockwall Trail in Kootenay National Park in the Canadian Rockies, I used both of these bottles to obtain treated, drinkable water by simply bending down, filling the bottle in a creek, screwing the cap back on, and then immediately sipping from a straw—that’s it.
The Aquamira Frontier Flow Filtered Water Bottle and LifeStraw Go bottle differ only slightly. With both, you draw, or suck, on the bite valve—no moving parts and no batteries needed. At the outset, it takes a few seconds to get water flowing up through the filter, but then the flow rate with both bottles is basically as fast as sucking on any straw. The filter in each is rated to remove virtually all bacteria, giardia and cryptosporidium; the Aquamira filter also treats water for viruses. Both filters are easily detachable from their bite valve-bottle cap unit for cleaning or replacing.
The Aquamira bottle’s RED Line Series II activated coconut shell carbon filter will treat 454 liters (120 gallons) of water—or more than 760 refills of the bottle. Miraguard antimicrobial treatment inhibits the growth of bacteria, algae, fungus, mold and mildew inside the filter. A plastic cap protects the bite valve, and the bottle has a carrying loop for clipping with a carabiner. Unlike with the hard-sided LifeStraw Go, the Aquamira bottle’s flexible plastic allows you to squeeze the bottle to draw water through the straw faster.
The LifeStraw Go’s hollow-fiber membrane will filter 1,000 liters (264 gallons) before needing a replacement—that’s more than 1,500 refills of the bottle. The bite valve flips up for drinking and rotates back into the cap to protect it in transit. After each session of drinking from the bottle, LifeStraw recommends unscrewing the lid and blowing through the LifeStraw to back-flush dirty water. I chose the Go bottle instead of the basic Personal LifeStraw ($20, 2 oz.) because I’d prefer to be able to drink from a bottle, whereas with the Personal LifeStraw, you have to get on the ground to drink directly from the water source; ground can be wet, muddy, cold, covered with poison ivy, thorny plants, or sharp rocks, or otherwise not an enticing place to lie down whenever I need to drink. The LifeStraw Go bottle comes with a small carabiner on a strap, for hanging it from your pack or elsewhere. For every LifeStraw product purchased, the company’s Follow the Liters program provides one African child with safe drinking water for a year.
There are few drawbacks to these bottles: They’re not as instantly convenient as a bladder and hose (you have to pull a bottle from a pack’s side pocket—not hugely inconvenient, either); and you can’t use one of these bottles to filter water into another vessel (like a bladder).
But if you need to carry more water than one or two of these bottles can hold, you can use extra, standard bottles or a dromedary bag. Plus, in any place where you’ll encounter frequent water sources, the convenience of these bottles means you will tend to carry less water weight than if you have to stop to pump or otherwise filter water manually, a time demand that prompts many hikers to treat a liter or two of water each time. The speed and ease of use makes these bottles appealing to dayhikers and others heading into the backcountry for hours instead of multiple days, who would normally start out with all the water they’ll need for the day instead of bothering to carry a filter; now they can carry less water and replenish quickly when needed. And for most, occasional backcountry users, each of these bottles has a filter that will last for years, maybe a user’s lifetime.
For most situations that I can think of, these water filter bottles are effective and the most convenient way available of treating backcountry water.
See also my stories “The Simple Equation of Ultralight Backpacking: Less Weight = More Fun,” “Buying Gear? Read This First,” “5 Tips For Spending Less on Hiking and Backpacking Gear,” and “Ask Me: How Do We Begin Lightening Up Our Backpacking Gear?”
NOTE: I’ve been testing gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See all of my reviews by clicking on the Gear Reviews category at left or in the main menu.
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