Water Filters vs. Water Purifiers: Drinking Water Safety

by Ember Hood

Safe drinking water is a basic need for everyone, no matter where you go. But how do you make sure you don’t ingest something harmful while you’re traveling in countries that don’t have the water filtration and purification standards that your body is used to? You could drink bottled water the whole time, or you could even boil your water before you drink it. Perhaps a better and easier alternative to the time and effort that takes is to pick up a water filtration or purification device before your next adventure.

There are four things that water filters and water purifiers will remove from water:

  • Particulates (ie: dirt)
  • Bacteria (such as Escherichia coli, or E. coli, Salmonella, Vibrio cholerae, Yersinia enterocolitica, Leptospira interrogans and many others)
  • Protazoa and cysts (tiny single-cell parasites such as Cryptosporidium parvum, and Giardia lamblia)
  • Viruses (such as hepatitis A, rotavirus, enterovirus, and norovirus)

Water Filters

Water Filters like the LifeStraw prevent the first three of these contaminants. They work by using a semi-porous material that captures larger particles like dirt, bacteria and parasites while letting water pass through. The LifeStraw works on anything larger than 0.2 microns, which is very, very small. But waterborne viruses are even smaller. They are tiny enough to slip through these pores and will NOT be filtered out by the LifeStraw.

Because North American wilderness waters are extremely low in viral contaminates, water filtration with the LifeStraw is considered safe for domestic hiking and camping trips. You can drink straight out of a stream or fill your bottle and use a LifeStraw to drink the water. It is small, lightweight, and compact, and doesn’t require batteries or chemicals. LifeStraw will filter 1,000 liters or 256 gallons of water and has a shelf-life of 3+ years.

Water Purifiers

If you are going to a third-world country, or anywhere where the water could be contaminated with human waste, you will need a water purifier. The SteriPen is a water purifier that uses ultra-violet light to kill 99.9 percent of bacteria, viruses and protozoa. The only drawback is that it does not filter particulates, and it can only be used on clear water. If your water is muddy or murky the UV light cannot do its work to kill contaminants.

But that makes the SteriPen ideal for purifying questionable tap water when you’re in a foreign country. The Steripen is easy-to-use and compact enough to carry in a pocket or travel bag. You can purify a liter of water in 90 seconds, and it can be used in individual glasses at a hotel or restaurant (note: it does not work with ice water). The SteriPen Traveler uses Lithium AA batteries and can purify about 95 liters on a single set of four. The SteriPen Traveler will purify about 1,500 liters of water over the life of its lamp. The Steripen Freedom uses a rechargeable internal lithium ion battery that will purify about 20 liters of water before it needs to be charged again. It will purify about 4,000 liters of water over the life of its lamp.

If you have any questions, feel free to call us 1-800-258-0758.

Steripens LifeStraw