LifeStraw Mission Water Filter Review
Big groups call for big capacity water filter systems and we were recently offered the chance to test the LifeStraw Mission which is a filter that will easily cope with large capacity filtering. There is a 5 litre Mission available but the one I tested had a whopping 12 litre capacity which proved to be perfect during my recent visit to Vietnam with a willing test group of 14 and some potentially contaminated water..........
The Mission incorporates a dry bag style storage container alongside a filter unit which will, say LifeStraw, make micro biologically contaminated water safe to drink. The bag is very easy to fill due to the large opening at the top and it is then designed to be hung from a structure so the water feeds by gravity to a filter unit which incorporates a tap. It is that simple to use.
Incorporated into the holding bag is a pre-filter which gets rid of particles that could block up the filter and allows the Mission to cope with water from streams or rivers. A long flexible tube connects to the storage bag and runs down to the main filter unit. The bag and tube connect at the bag exit via a simple and secure attachment clip system. The filter has a tap for drinking water and a second tap that allows dirty water to be drained off. The flexible pipe means the position of the filter outlet can be adjusted if it is filling a larger container and the tap that releases fresh water is easy to operate. All in all, it is a very well thought out system which weighs 454 grams and coming with a handy drawstring storage bag.
The Mission, like other models in the LifeStraw range, uses micro filtration hollow fibre technology. Put simply, this means that water flows through super fine tubes which bacteria and viruses can't pass through. It is, I understand, the same kind of technology used in hospital dialysis machines. The tubes are a hard to comprehend 0.02 microns in diameter meaning LifeStraw products can filter out 99.9999% of bacteria, 99.99% of Protozoa and 99.999% of viruses. This, it is reassuring to know, exceeds the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards for clean drinking water.
That's all the technical information but, of course, the question really is about how well it works. Before writing this review the mission was used over a period of 13 days by a group of 14 filtering around 5 litres each a day each. So a quick calculation gives a total filter use for the test of 910 litres. In reality there were more litres filtered because the cook team and local guides started using it too. In total, my estimation would be that about 1000 litres were filtered. This hardly puts a dent in the 18,000 litre life span of the filter but is enough to give a valid opinion on its functionality.
It should also be noted that the water filtered came from various sources. Some came from taps (although it was considered unsafe to drink without treatment) and some came from rivers and streams. The river water was probably the biggest overall test for the filter because the collected water always started with some sediment particles in.
Using the mission is simple. The bag is filled with untreated water and hung from a structure. Then, as water is needed, the tap is turned on with a vessel underneath. The wide opening of the dry bag makes it very simple to fill from any source and the bag is robust. The bags large capacity means it is quite heavy when full, but it coped well with continually being hung up. LifeStraw have also added a transparent water level gauge to the side of the bag which is useful. Inside the bag the pre-filter was really useful when silt or small leaves and twigs were picked up during filling and I was really impressed that this coped with even small particles.
From the bag a tube leads to the filter/tap unit. This is all well constructed and durable. And long enough to adjust the position water is taken from. For a while our cook got in the habit of hanging the bag in the cooking area and then he could fill cooking pots inside while clients could use the tube outside.
Finally, and most importantly, there is the filter unit. Initially this looks a bit complicated but it is actually very simple to use. The filter is a solid plastic tube with the filter contained inside. There are then two taps and a backwash bulb stemming off the main tube. The taps are clearly marked as a drinking water tap and non drinking tap.
Filling a container simply involves putting a container under the tap and turning it on. There is no pumping required because gravity pushes the water through. The flow rate isn't particularly fast but, because you can leave it on for a couple of minutes and then come back once the container was filled, this didn't prove to be a problem at all.
The filter unit has a backwash bulb and a dirty water tap which, it turned out, are vital to the efficiency of the unit. Over time, small sediment particles clog up the filter holes and the flow rate slows or, as happened on one occasion, stops completely. The answer to this is to push pressurised water back through the filter to clear these particles and the backwash bulb allows users to do this quickly and simply. Similarly, when the bag is filled up it is possible for an airlock to stop the water flowing. Lifestraw have added a dirty water tap at the base of the filter unit which allows some water to be drawn through the system. Again, this works extremely well.
The requirements of the group were easily met by the Mission and, although I am in no way competent to say if the unit meets the claimed filtration standards, I have no reason to doubt it and can certainly say that no one got sick during this phase of the trip. I can thoroughly recommend the Mission for anyone looking for an efficient, easy to maintain and effective high capacity filter system. Although on first glance it may seem to be quite expensive, it's long life actually makes it stack up very favourably compared to other systems or chemical purification.
There is also something else very important about LifeStraw which I hope will influence your decision about choosing one of their filters. The company created the innovative 'Follow the Litres' scheme which means that, for every LifeStraw filter sold, a child in an African school will be provided with clean drinking water for a full year. A massive well done LifeStraw. The Mission costs £90 and full details of this. and all the LifeStraw range, are available on their website here.
Posted by Paul
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