Lifestraw Peak Series Filter Review: Clean Water Anywhere, BYO Bottle
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All you'll need is a standard-sized water bottle for this filter to work its magic.
You enjoy filtered water at home, so why not at camp? Depending on the type of camping you're into, you may have the space or means to bring along gallons of filtered water for a weekend in the woods. But whether you're just getting into backpacking, want to familiarize yourself with the gear you'll need in case of emergency or like the idea of relying on the elements rather than lugging around supplies, it's never a bad time to get into the habit of filtering your water in the wild.
There are gravity filters that can clean up water for big groups, straws that allow you to suck your hydration straight from the source, or handy gadgets like Lifestraw's newest filter, the Peak Series Solo.
Made to provide H2O for one person and designed to be used with a standard water bottle, the little filter makes it easy to access clean and safe water wherever you may be. And with the capability of filtering out pathogens and viruses, as well as parasites and other nasties, this wee filter seems like it would be worth its weight in gold. I decided to try one out — and determine just how effective this pint-sized filter really is.
As far as water filters go, this is the easiest and most convenient I've ever used. The Peak Series Solo is small but mighty — I easily filtered drinking water, no matter how dirty and gross, and successfully kept my filter in working order thanks to its handy cleansing system. Although I don't love the fact that I had to use a disposable water bottle to use the filter, for ounce counters and backpackers that need easily accessible water on the go, this is more of a pro than con. If you're interested in water filtration but don't know where to start, this thing is for you.
Setting up this water filter is as easy as opening the box and taking it out. Apart from screwing off the bottom cap and flipping open the straw cover, there's really not any setup required for this pocket-sized wonder.
You'll need to purchase a standard water bottle with a 28mm threaded mouth (I chose Carlsbad Alkaline Water, but SmartWater or any other standard water bottle will do) — but you can get one of those just about anywhere, and with the Peak Series Solo, you can actually re-use it. Sustainability!
While I was testing this water filter and talking to other outdoorsy folks about its benefits, I learned that in the backpacking scene, it's common to bring a single-use plastic water bottle (since they're lightweight and tough), crush it when it's not in use, and refill it when you get the chance. By adding the Peak Series Solo into your backpacking kit, you could indeed extend the life of that plastic water bottle far longer than its manufacturers intended.
But, there's no getting around the fact: you have to use an inherently unsustainable product to get this little straw to work. For some people, that's going to be a deal breaker.
Once you've got the filter screwed onto your water bottle nice and tight, you have two options for accessing water: you can drink it straight from the filter's straw end, or you can squeeze clean water through it into another vessel. I tried both.
Drinking it straight from the filter was fine, but I liked squeezing it into another container more for two reasons: one, I could easily filter someone else's water after mine without having to worry about sharing a bottle; and two, it was fun to watch dirty water turn clean right in front of my eyes.
One annoying aspect of filtration is that there's no air outlet or intake, so the water bottle will cave in on itself more and more as the water exits the filter, creating a vacuum and slowing progress. You have to unscrew the straw to let air back in to continue filtering; it's not the end of the world, just mildly annoying.
Many of us think if you’re not using your water filter, it can sit around in your camping bin and be ready to go at a moment’s notice. Not so, according to the Peak Series instructions. While maintenance isn’t normally talked about with filters — more emphasis is placed on their performance, because that’s what someone who doesn’t have one wants to know about before buying — maintaining your new filter is just as important, unless you want to be shelling out 30 bucks every time you’re heading out on a backpacking trip (which we don’t recommend from both an economic standpoint and an environmental one).
There are three types of maintenance to consider for the Peak Series Solo: regular, monthly and long-term. Regular maintenance, aka backwashing, is key for optimizing your filter’s performance, and should be performed after each day's use. To backwash your filter, you'll unscrew the mouthpiece (straw end) completely, and thread on the included backwash syringe. Remove the bottom plug cap, put the exposed end of the filter into clean water and pull the syringe upward to fill it with clean water. Then push the syringe down to flush the filter. You only need to do that a few times, and then you're good to go for the next day's filtering.
According to the instructions that came with the Peak Series Solo, you'll want to avoid drying out the filter if you plan on storing it long-term — a completely dried out filter is difficult to get water through again. (An aside: Thank you, Lifestraw, for not including a QR code or link to a website. Paper instructions are underrated and extremely valuable, especially when you’re in a situation without cell service.)
To prevent drying or mold growth, you'll forst clean the filter with a diluted bleach solution, and then store it in a salt solution bath. Pay close attention to the long-term instructions that come with your filter so you can use it for many camping trips to come.