I could see the pebbles on the bottom of the reed-lined lake through water that was a bit murky. I dipped my cup and peered down into the brownish water with little things swirling on the surface. A few seconds later the cup was empty and my thirst safely quenched!
Oh, did I mention that I was testing a water filter straw at the time?
Most seasoned outdoor enthusiasts are familiar with the water filtration pumps and mini-bottle filters available to ensure safe drinking water while in the field. The large and relatively slow pump-action models do a fantastic job and are great for keeping a large supply of water on hand. Smaller filters are usually incorporated into a bottle that houses the filter and provides an immediate reservoir of water to be treated and consumed — all in one container.
Even smaller and quicker at providing a safe gulp of water are the pocket-sized “straws” that enable the user to literally drink clean water right from a pond! They are limited to less total uses than are the larger filters, and may not last as long as bigger units with replaceable filters and other internal workings. Still, for a quick and safe emergency thirst-quenching drink, a water filter straw is a vital piece of outdoor equipment.
The smallest, most basic water straws are designed to produce about 20- to 25 gallons of safe drinking water during their useful life. At an average cost of about $15 to $20, that means for about 30 cents/day, it will provide you with an average daily minimum water need (about 3 liters for men; 2.2 for women) for two months. Since they fit easily into flap pockets or even tackle boxes, they can be stowed for those times where a drink of safe water might help stave off dehydration.
Most water straw filters are capable of removing all sorts of organisms including E. Coli, giardia, cryptosporidia, algae, and fungi (down to two microns in size) as well as heavy metals such as iron, lead, mercury, and other mineral nasties.
Using the straws is direct and simple. First, find a container (that Sierra cup hanging tethered to your backpack, maybe?); scoop up a cupful of water; insert the straw and sip away. I’ve dipped into a marshy lake and tasted water as good as any that comes out of the faucet. A blast of air back down through the straw is usually enough to purge it of water and make it ready for use again later. Particularly nasty water can first be strained through a makeshift filter to remove larger pieces of foreign matter (insects, leaf bits, etc.) and then sucked through a straw to filter out the micro-sized bad guys.
There are several mini, straw-like water filters on the market including: LifeStraw. Frontier Water Filter Straw and Seychelle Pure Water straw. They are an affordable, perhaps life-saving piece of gear that fits into your pocket.
Shop Sportsman’s Guide for a fine assortment of Water Filtration Products!