Lifestraw Go with 2-stage filtration
Review by Coy Starnes
Product provided by Lifestraw for review purposes.
Over the next few months I will be reviewing the Lifestraw Go with 2-stage filtration. For simplicity, I’ll refer to it as my filter or the Go. In this initial report I’ll try to cover the basics of how it works. But first, a look at the Go in comparison to a 32 oz (1000 ml) Nalgene, which is not a lot bigger. And for the record, the bottle holds about 800 ml without putting the filter in but the maximum capacity is shown at 650 ml. (23 oz). I’m not sure why because I could put 700 ml in and still get the lid on. Interestingly, the lid screws on my Nalgene bottle just fine but the filter was barely touching the bottom of the bottle. I see no reason I couldn’t use it on the Nalgene.
The Go is a pretty nifty concept. Take a water bottle and add a filter inside a straw that you then drink from. The filter is made of a cluster of small straw like tubes which are caped at the end but let water inside through very small holes all up and down and around each tube. They call it hollow fiber membrane technology. Think of a small handful of spaghetti strands with thousands of tiny holes (0.2 microns to be exact) in them. This is small enough to filter out 99.9999% of waterborne bacteria (like E-Coli) and 99.9% of waterborne protozoan parasites (like Giardia and Cryptosporidium). After the water passes through the first stage of filtering (the straw) it passes through a carbon filter which will reduce chemical like chlorine and also help remove any taste. Notice it didn’t not say 100% removal. There is also no mention of removing viruses. After reading the FAQ section I saw that the filter would need to be 0.02 microns or ten times smaller than the 0.2 microns used in the Go to effectively remove viruses. They do sell filters that will remove viruses but they are more expensive and are gravity filters. I imagine holes this small would be harder to drink out of like a straw. The Go filter also does not remove dissolved chemicals like salt. So, in other words, it should be great for someone like me who drinks from fairly clean backcountry streams. The filter says it will filter 1000 liters or 26 gallons of water. They mention this should be enough for about 3 months of daily use but when I’m hiking I go through a lot of water. I drink at least a gallon a day in hot weather and sometime more. But 26 gallons is still enough to get me through an extended hike considering I’ve never been longer then 4 nights on any one trip. The hollow membrane fibers and the carbon cartridge are both rated for the same 1000 L (26 gal) which is good.
The bottle is made form a hard plastic and is BPA-Free. The whole thing is pretty light at 5.9 oz. The lid screws on and has a flip up mouth piece to drink from. There is a soft plastic covering over the mouth piece that can be removed and washed. The bottle and lid is dishwater safe but the filter itself is not. They can be separated and in fact, they are replaceable, both the hollow fiber membrane and the carbon cartridge. One other note to keep in mind, freezing weather could damage the hollow fiber membrane so precautions must be taken to avoid freezing it.
I’ll just mention the basics of how the Go is to be used and cared for. When getting ready to use they say to rinse the carbon filter, preferably with clean tap water. Then when using in the field, allow the water to soak into the hollow membrane tubes for about 30 seconds before attempting to drink. Also, it may be slow at first but should be easy after a few sips. The filter should be back flushed after each use. I assume this means after getting a good drink. Just blow on the mouth piece (I assume gently but it don’t say). This forces any particles trapped in the small openings back out into the container. Then, after each trip filter a little clean water and do the same backwash procedure. After flushing with the clean water blow it out one last time outside the container to remove most of the moisture. Store with the carbon cartridge off until it and the hollow membrane has complete dried. They say 24 hours should do it.
I’ll have more to say when I actually use the Go but I though I’d share a little about my style of camping as it pertains to securing water for drinking. First of all, I’m extremely lazy. The last thing I want to do after a long hard hike is go filter water. As a matter of fact, when I’m far enough into the backcountry, I have just said to heck with filtering and drank from small springs. I have also used chemical treatment where you add it to the water and have to wait about 30 minutes before drinking and longer if the water is cold, which it usually is in the mountains. But I also realize that I was taking a risk drinking from the springs. I can imagine having a case of the trots in the backcountry is no fun. I was lucky. But that’s one reason I’m really excited about the Go. I can just dip up some water and drink it right then. No waiting on a chemical to disinfect the water or the slow process of pumping my water into a bottle using a normal backpacking filter.
There are a couple of downsides I foresee using the Go. The first I see is there is no way to treat additional water. So, if I will be hiking long distances between water sources I’ll need to haul some water with me in a spare container which I could then pour over into the Go. This will potentially contaminate the spare container. I also use a bladder occasionally. I definitely don’t want to haul untreated water in it when I could be drinking from the bladder in route. So I’ll still probably take my Aqua Mira to treat that water on long hikes. The other downside is that while one filter can work for a group of hikers, the Go is basically a one person show. But, I would still not be sharing my personal drinking bottle so it just means each person will need their own Go or whatever water treatment method they prefer.
There are of course positives for the Go as well. With no moving parts there is nothing to wear out. The life of the filter is pretty much determined by when it stops letting water through. And did I mention, I hate running a pump to filter water….with the Go I have no excuse not to filter my water.
I usually like to do a little testing for the first report but I haven’t had a chance. Ok, have been riding my bike in the cool of morning and being lazy in the afternoon when it has been in the upper 90s. All I’ve managed so far is to see how easy it is to drink faucet water from it. It was easy but did take a little more effort than drinking a soda from a straw at Burger King. The water also had a little plastic taste but I did not wash the container first. After a few sips it got better. I also did the back flush thing. I had to blow hard to get any water and eventually air to come back out. But I got it dry. It is now sitting on the counter waiting for my first real test.
Lifestraw Go Update: November 8, 2016
I have mostly used the Lifestraw Go on long day hikes with a waist pack. It has allowed me to stay out longer while carrying less weight in my pack. My trips were usually 3 or 4 miles and took anywhere from 2 to 3 hours. It has worked very well on the type water I have used it for. Namely, the creek that flows through the holler behind my house. This water is clear and cold but does have some runoff from surrounding farms. The possibility of contacting a virus is there but so far I have not felt any signs of getting sick. I estimate I drank at least 2 gallons of water using the Lifestraw Go by filling it twice on each trip.
It has been hot and dry so far this fall and that means I got thirsty while out hiking. I would begins each hike down to the creek without any water. I would stop and fill the Lifestraw Go at the creek and continue hiking up to the top of the mountain on the other side, slowly emptying the Go. I don’t hike fast because I have bad knees but would stil work up a good sweat. I would then turn around and hike back down to the creek and refill. I was usually out of water by the time I got home.
I found that drinking from the Lifestraw Go was a little more difficult than drinking from the sports bottle I use on my bike. However, it was not hard to drink from the Go and I knew I would be able to get a drink no matter how long I stayed in the woods. Well, as long as I was able to find water which is not difficult. We have had almost 4 months of drought conditions and are 16 inches below our normal rainfall right now but the creek is still flowing as of this week. It is comforting to know that I could get lost (not likely here but possible elsewhere) or injured (knock on wood) and still be able to drink water without having to worry about it making me sick.
After each hike I rinsed the bottle with faucet water from my kitchen sink. I then filled it and drank a few sups, then blew water back into the bottle. I would finish by removing the straw (filter part) and blowing air back through it. I would then leave it sitting on the counter at least a day to completely dry. This seems to work and I have not noticed any thing like mold or mildew growing on or in the straw. I have washed the mouthpiece with dish soap a couple of times but did not do so after each trip.
I plan to continue using the Lifestraw Go on my hikes but more importantly, I like having it handy in case some catastrophe interrupted our water supply. I’ll post one more update on my findings but so far I’m very impressed with this water filtering device.
Final Update: January 25, 2017
I don’t have a lot of new information on the Lifestraw Go so I will relate how I used it on my last hiking trip. The trip was for 3 days and 2 nights along the Pinhoti Trail in east central Alabama. The weather was unseasonably warm for January with highs near 70 F and lows near 50 F. It was also stormy so we cut our planed mileage down. It was still strenuous hiking on steep and slick trails so I worked up a good sweat several times and a thirst to match.
I started the trip with the Go filled with city water from home. It rode in a side pocket on my pack. In addition to that I had a 3L bladder inside my pack and a 1L bottle in the outside pocket on the opposite side of the pack. I drank from the hydration bladder while hiking because it is difficult to remove and replace bottles from the side pockets of my pack, especially when it is stuffed tight with gear, which it was. I drank the clean water from the bottle at camp the first night and it rode empty for most of the next day. I filled it as we crossed a creek near our campsite and got a drink then. I topped it off and continued on to our campsite where I drank the rest over the next hour or so. I used my other bottle for water as well since my hiking partner had a sweet gravity filter setup and it is easier to drink water that way. I also notice that I had a tendency to turn the Go up when getting a drink and it would let air in the filter (straw) and make a whistling noise. Here are a couple of photos using the Lifestraw Go.
The Lifestraw Go with stage-2 filtration is an easy way to go out on a long day hike without having to carry a lot of water. It is reassuring to know that as long as I can find a little water I will have clean water to drink. The Lifestraw Go is also easier to use than just about any filter system out there so it doesn’t require an elaborate setup with clean and dirty water containers. It is a good item to carry in the field but also a good item to keep handy around the house or in the car for emergencies.