Popular LifeStraw Competitors and the $1 DIY Water Filter Alternative

How, why and what: Lifestraw, Sawyer, Big Berkey and the $1 water filter

Water filters are rated by survivalists as the priority item in their survival kits, and for good reason too, without clean drinking water your survival expectancy is limited to three days. With such a simple, necessary, cheap addition to your kit you are able to drink clean filtered water. So which one will you choose?

My first experience with filtering water came when I was a boy scout drinking muddy water through a filter paper with small activated carbon rocks. Since then, innovations in filters have come a long way to provide clean drinking water not only to survivalists, preppers, and hikers who read The Prepping Guide, but also to underdeveloped communities that need to purify diseased water. To be able to give an underdeveloped community clean, disease bacteria-free drinking water is much more important than my first steps drinking unmuddied water.

Three Most Popular Water Filters And The $1 DIY Filter

 LifeStrawSawyerBerkey$1 DIY
TypeStrawStrawHome FilterDIY Filter

The filters I have chosen are ones that have been tested and worked with in the field, the home and in emergency events. They are also the best-selling of their kind online so there is no option of being a faulty product, except for the DIY filter as it may depend on the materials you use and the way you make it.

Why you need to use water filters

For many people in the world, access to clean drinking water is an issue. But clean drinking water is not just an issue in poor nations, it is also something that happens in civilized western nations. How? When water purification plants shut down, in flood emergencies or other natural disasters, there is limited access to clean drinking water. With unclean water comes the chance of encountering nasty germs such as cholera and typhoid. Any other bacteria that hides in water can cause anything from diarrhea to vomiting and can place extreme stress on the body possibly resulting in death.

You want to avoid this at all costs, especially if you are outdoors in a survival environment, or in a flood disaster where clean water is scarce and only available where you have previously stored it.

The primary reason for using a water filter is that they have been made to be cheap and affordable for everyone. They are not fancy contraptions that cost heaps of dollars. For the simplest personal filters such as the Lifestraw and the Sawyer filter, they are generally around the $20 point.

So let’s take a look at our four filters.

The LifeStraw

LifeStraw Water Filter: Top Water Filters

The LifeStraw has got to be one of my favorite products because of its simple use and good functional design. The work done by the LifeStraw company is great too. With every LifeStraw sold a school child in a developing community receives safe drinking water for an entire school year. Isn’t that worth the buy alone?

The LifeStraw filters 99.9999% of waterborne bacteria and protozoa. The bacteria it removes are also:

  • Escherichia coli
  • Campylobacter
  • Vibrio cholerae
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa
  • Shigella
  • Salmonella

The LifeStraw’s Mission product goes a step further to remove viruses from water as well, so there’s a level to which item you might need. For the purpose of this review and because I have used it myself, I am recommending the LifeStraw as it is designed for survivalists and outdoors regulars to ensure they are drinking clean, filtered water, while also being a small (9″) and light item.

So how does this specific straw work? Easy, when you come across a body of water, being a river, creek or stream, you use the straw to drink the natural water. When you are drinking through the straw, the water is filtered by a particle-catching filter small enough to catch the tiny bacteria as the water passes through.

The downside to the LifeStraw that I use? I can’t store filtered water with it. So if I wanted to take water with me I would have to carry a container of unfiltered water and drink it through the LifeStraw. This can be a set back for some of you as it is more convenient to have pre-filtered water. For this, you would need the LifeStraw Go Water Filter Bottle.

Sawyer Filter


Sawyer Water Filter: Top Water Filters

The Sawyer Mini Water Filtration System is the closest competitor to the LifeStraw. The difference between the two is that the Sawyer is able to attach directly to standard disposable water bottles and the Sawyer’s attached drinking pouch or camelback hydration packs.

Because of the features of the Sawyer and its added accessories, I would say that for functional purposes the Sawyer is the best unit for survivalists, hikers, and preppers to use as a personal filter. This unit also has a filter lifespan that is 370 times longer than the LifeStraw, so there is a very competitive advantage that the Sawyer has over the LifeStraw in its functionality and lifespan.

Don’t get me wrong, the LifeStraw is good, but the Sawyer’s features are far more beneficial to what I want in a backup item.

Big Berkey Countertop Water Filter

For those that are filtering massive amounts of water for not just themselves but their family as well, a personal water filter is not going to do the job quite as well as a countertop water filter. This is a real item for prepping families and is priced as such being just under $300. Big Berkey: Top Water Filters

I chose the Big Berkey as it is the counter top water filter that I have and is the biggest seller online for home filter systems and very popular with preppers. If you are in a flood or disaster, this is the sort of item you are going to be after as it holds a good amount of water depending upon the type that you purchase.

For me, I use the two gallon Berkey, but you can also get a 4.5 or 6-gallon unit depending on your family size. For the speed, it can have an output of about 3.5-4 gallons an hour. The Berkey filters remove 100% of pathogens in water and can be used outdoors as well as indoors, although I would not call it a ‘personal’ filter because of its size.

For tap filters, the Berkey also makes an impact on local drinking water. I managed to find one review that tested tapwater from Southern California where the unfiltered and filtered tapwater was tested in a professional laboratory. The unfiltered tapwater had:

  • Arsenic: 2.5 parts per billion (ppb) – lab considered this reason for “caution”
  • Uranium 238: 3.1 ppb – also “caution”
  • Aluminum: 94 ppb – caution
  • Fluoride: 0.8 parts per million (ppm)

When the tapwater was filtered through the Berkey, the results were:

  • Arsenic: less than 1 ppb – lab considers “acceptable”
  • Uranium 238: less than 1 ppb – acceptable
  • Aluminum: 19 ppb – acceptable
  • Fluoride: 0.4 ppm

These results were very surprising which just goes to show the power of this filter unit. It should be noted that this test was conducted in 2014, so Southern California tapwater results may have changed since then.

The $1 DIY alternative

Okay, I will admit, as a boy scout this was pretty fun when I first did it. For myself now I would not be using a DIY filter unless I was left with no resources except a pile of activated carbon (not the easiest thing to come across in the wild) and a filter. It would be much more advisable to use one of the recommended filters above.

With that pre-warning in mind, here is how you can make your own water filter at home:

  1. Get some materials:
    • Get a plastic water bottle
    • A needle or nail to puncture the bottle
    • Activated carbon (small grainy type)
    • Paper filter, cloth, kitchen towel
    • Paper clip
  2. Heat the needle over a flame and puncture small holes in the plastic bottle. You only need several holes. The more you have the faster the water flows, therefore, less filtration.
  3. Use the activated carbon and fill the bottle with it up until it is about a third full.
  4. You should pre-filter the water
  5. Get your filter paper/cloth and make a cone with it and use the paperclip to close off that cone end
  6. You then pour the dirty water through the cone filter you have made
  7. This initial paper will remove the particles from the water
  8. Eventually, the activated carbon will filter the water and you will have clean water drop from the bottom of the bottle
  9. To speed up that process, blow into the top of the bottle adding pressure to the water and forcing it through the carbon

You can see a video walkthrough of the same process below:

My choice of water filter

For my circumstances, I choose to use the Sawyer mini filter system. It is small and efficient in its ability to connect to my Camelback or to any plastic bottles I take outdoors with me. In an emergency situation such as a flood, there is no problem in keeping this with an emergency kit for each family member to have as their own personal filter. This may be suitable for you, however, if you are after stronger filtration you should be looking at the Berkey unit or the Lifestraw Mission Purifier.

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If you are looking at one of these water filters, make sure you have a supply of food and an emergency bug-out bag.

1 thought on “Popular LifeStraw Competitors and the $1 DIY Water Filter Alternative”

  1. >I would not be using a DIY filter unless I was left with no resources except a pile of activated carbon (not the easiest thing to come across in the wild)

    Would regular charcoal achieve a similar level of filtration (or at least SOME level of filtration) as activated carbon? If so, charcoal would obviously be much easier to come by in the wild.


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